Exclusive | Bryan Fuller Describes The ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Season of ‘Hannibal’

“This is all I ever wanted for you, Will. For both of us.” So spoke Hannibal Lecter in last night’s series finale of Hannibal, Bryan Fuller’s acclaimed adaptation of Thomas Harris’s best-selling novels. But the series lasted only three seasons, and Fuller definitely wanted more for his TV show. Hannibal adapted the events of the novels Red DragonHannibal and (somewhat) Hannibal Rising, but the rights to Harris’s most famous Hannibal Lecter novel, The Silence of the Lambs, have been consistently unavailable to the makers of the popular show.

So with Hannibal cancelled (for now), and the proposed movie taking place in what Fuller calls “a pocket in one of the novels,” it seems unlikely that fans will see the Hannibal version of The Silence of the Lambs anytime soon. And thus, the morning after the series finale aired on NBC, I called Bryan Fuller up to ask what might have been.

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In this exclusive interview, we talked about the Fuller’s dream cast, the scope of the season-long Silence of the Lambs story arc, and what the introduction of the “real” Clarice Starling would mean for the show’s existing, alternate version of her character, Miriam Lass, played by Anna Chlumsky. Bon appétit.

MGM Home Entertainment

MGM Home Entertainment

Crave: One of the things a lot of the fans wanted to see in Hannibal was The Silence of the Lambs. Obviously it never panned out in time. Do you still have any hope that you can adapt it someday, down the road, or will your plans lead you elsewhere?

Bryan Fuller: I absolutely do hope and would love to tell Silence of the Lambs with this cast. I love that novel and I think there’s fantastic ways to reimagine it for thirty years later, and… yes. Period. [Laughs.]

How would that have worked? You introduced Miriam Lass [in Season One]. Would you have brought her back in or would there just be a new character, a lot like Miriam Lass, named “Clarice Starling?”

I adore Anna Chlumsky, and we talked about where Miriam Lass is now and what she would be doing, so yes, Miriam Lass would be – depending on Anna’s availability – as big a part as Anna’s availability would allow in a Silence of the Lambs arc.

Hannibal Anna Chlumsky Miriam Lass

NBC

But she would be separate from Clarice Starling?

Yes.

I imagine, since you adapted Red Dragon by tweaking it and shifting certain plot points around, you would have to do the same with The Silence of the Lambs. What are your initial thoughts on how The Silence of the Lambs would work in a serialized format, since everyone knows the story already?

I am imagining a parallel structure of Hannibal in the institution, with a severely scarred Chilton, now having returned to his post, and juxtaposing that, back in the heyday of Hannibal as a psychiatrist, perhaps even earlier than we met him the first time, when he had Benjamin Raspail as a patient, and weave that story in and around the modern day Silence of the Lambs tale as we know it.

We saw a dark version of Barney [Lecter’s guard] in Season Two. Would there be other plans for Barney’s character?

If we got Silence of the Lambs we would be hitting Barney, we would be hitting Benjamin Raspail, we would be hitting Buffalo Bill… there would be the same kind of voracious need to fan fictionalize all of those characters [laughs] and reimagine certain specific scenarios that caused them to cross paths, or uncross paths as their stories were unfolding.

What about Ardelia Mapp [Clarice Starling’s roommate]? Would she have a role as well?

Major. Major.

You’ve made excellent casting decisions so far… what would you have looked for in a Buffalo Bill?

I would love to cast Lee Pace as Buffalo Bill. His first, most notable, award-winning career move was playing a transgendered person [in 2003’s A Soldier’s Girl], and I think it would be fascinating to return him to that side of his acting skill.

Lee Pace Pushing Daisies

ABC

You’ve worked with him before [in Pushing Daisies]. Had Lee Pace ever come close to being in Hannibal before, in another capacity, or would you have reserved that role for him?

Many, many, many times. Every season. We constantly asked Lee but he was always so busy, because he was making Guardians of the Galaxy and Halt and Catch Fire and the Hobbit films. So his dance card was full but we kept on asking. We had talked about him playing Francis Dolarhyde, and it was something that we were sort of hanging in the balance, to see if Halt and Catch Fire would have another season. So he wasn’t available. But I think it worked out amazingly well for us. [Laughs.]

What about Clarice? Do you have any dream casting for Clarice Starling in your version of The Silence of the Lambs?

Well, there’s a couple of ways to go. There’s the Ellen Page way, which I think would be fantastic and more kind of in line with the Clarice that we all know. But I know I would also like to explore who Clarice would be from a different racial background. There’s something about being poor and white in the South but there’s something else about being poor and black in the South, and I think it could be the necessary gateway into the character, to make Clarice as much our own signature character as we tried to make Will Graham.

In The Silence of the Lambs and throughout the other books, Hannibal’s interest in Clarice becomes romantic. You’ve already done that with Will Graham in the show. Would Will be in that season or would Hannibal be moving on to a new romantic conquest?

Well, I think that all depends on how Season 4 would have ended. [Laughs.]

Top Image via NBC

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.