In the entertainment industry, the term “visionary” is frequently used to describe creators who appealed to a wide audience rather than breaking new territory. Few would disagree, however, that Bryan Fuller is best described by the word. In addition to working on cult favorites like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Heroes, Fuller also produced some adored oddballs, such as Pushing Daisies, which is beautifully macabre, and Hannibal, an adventurous adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novels.
Fuller has made a name for himself as a great team player despite the eccentric nature of his work, as evidenced by his propensity to collaborate on numerous films with actresses like Caroline Dhavernas and Lee Pace.
However, with the revelation of Dust Bunny’s casting, Fuller will finally be reuniting with his greatest partner, the Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, for his upcoming feature film directing debut.
Despite Anthony Hopkins’ Academy Award-winning portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, Mikkelsen and Fuller already accomplished the unthinkable by making him the undisputed Hannibal Lecter. In the Ridley Scott sequel Hannibal, Hopkins portrayed Lecter as a reptile predator who stared wide-eyed at his prey and even lectured on Dante. Mikkelsen, though, gave the infamous cannibal a humorous and even romantic side.
This is demonstrated in a scene from Hannibal season three, episode twelve, in which Jack Crawford, the FBI’s chief of behavioral science, is questioning a detained Hannibal (Laurence Fishburne). Crawford holds out a dish containing a lip that was previously attached to asylum director Frederick Chilton as we observe from his perspective (Ra l Esparza).
Haunting chords intrude into the soundtrack as Crawford’s intense gaze comes into focus, highlighting how serious the situation is. Where is the second one? Crawford directs his question at the missing other lip, which Hannibal had a chance to inspect.
Hannibal does not respond, but viewers discover the truth as a sharp cut shows Hannibal gulping down spaghetti like a young child. Instead, Hannibal tells Crawford they can get all the information they need about Chilton’s whereabouts from the one lip that is still attached, and then grinned silly at psychiatrist Alana Bloom (Dhavernas). Hannibal apologizes to Jack and smiles again at Crawford. “The tragedy of what’s happened to Frederick has put me in an excellent humor.”
This small exchange captures the obvious highlights of Mikkelsen’s performance. The scene is scary and disgusting as befitting a story about a man-eating the body parts of a human who has been kidnapped by a serial killer. And of course, it’s funny, not only because the dignified Lecter happily gobbles the lip but because he’s being playful with his captors.
But more importantly, Mikkelsen plays Hannibal with genuine warmth. Although he is a murderous cannibal being held by an angry law enforcement officer and a disturbed doctor, he also considers Crawford and Bloom to be his friends.
He has real respect for them, treating the interrogation as a game between pals. That’s even more pronounced in the show’s overall arc, which begins as a cat-and-mouse game between Hannibal and FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and slowly becomes a grand, doomed romance.
Mikkelsen needs to bring so many layers to the scene because Fuller has the challenge of creating something new for audiences. The interrogation scene concerns the hunt for killer Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage), the focus of Harris’s novel Dragon.
That story has already been portrayed twice in live action, first in the excellent Michael Mann film Manhunterand then in the less-than-excellent Brett Ratner film Dragon. Fuller differentiates himself in part by changing plot points (eg., Dolarhyde kidnaps reporter Freddy Lounds, not Chilton, in most versions of the story), but he relies on Mikkelsen to uncover new aspects.
It’s this willingness to go in new directions that make Mikkelsen so important for Fuller. In his most ambitious moments, Fuller put his own unique stamp on a known property and pushed it into surprising directions. Just recall the long Klingon-language dialogue scenes in the first season of Stahr Trek: Discovery or the sometimes sweet and sometimes horrifying sex scenes in his adaptation of Neil’s Gaiman’sAmerican Gods.
Fuller needs a collaborator who is not only willing to go with him to these areas but has the ability to play several different emotions at once. Few actors embody those qualities better than Mikkelsen.
At this point, we only have a brief plot synopsis first Bunny. The horror film follows a little girl who entreats her neighbor to kill the monster under her bed. But even with such a bare-bones description, the mind already reels thinking about the unexpected places Fuller will take his film. It’s a good thing that he’s bringing along Mikkelsen, an ideal actor to work with such a truly visionary creator.