NBC Wanted Either John Cusack or Hugh Grant to Play 'Hannibal' Instead of Mads Mikkelsen

Hannibal is one of the best shows of the 21st century. A daring, strange, artistic blend of horror, lust, and fine dining, the Bryan Fuller series inspired by the books of Thomas Harris was so good that it was almost hard to believe it was a real network show. On top of all that, the series version of Hannibal Lecter, as played memorably by Mads Mikkelsen, became just as striking as Anthony Hopkins’ take on the character.

But according to Fuller, Mikkelsen’s take on the cannibal psychiatrist almost didn’t happen, as NBC wanted either John Cusack or Hugh Grant to play the role.

I love Hannibal. I had my doubts when the show was announced – “A prequel series about Hannibal’s early days? No thanks!” I thought, like a real asshole. But the minute I sat down to give the series a chance I was hooked. This was no mere cash-grab on the Hannibal Lecter brand. It was a brilliant, disturbing, sexy, and altogether weird series that took the type of wild risks that other network shows wouldn’t dream of. Despite a loyal fanbase, the Hannibal ratings were never what you’d call great, but the series did manage to stick around for three excellent seasons.

Part of what made Hannibal so memorable was Mads Mikkelsen’s otherworldly take on Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. I love Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning take on the character, and Brian Cox’s portrayal in Mindhunter is memorable as well. But Mikkelsen managed to really make the character his own, so much so that I’d dare say his is the best on-screen version of the character to date. And yet, as fantastic as Mikkelsen was on the series, NBC had serious doubts.

Speaking with Collider, Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller revealed it took him a long time to convince NBC to cast Mikkelsen, primarily because Mikkelsen was “too European.” Describing the casting process, Fuller said:

“It was an interesting dance because I’d say, ‘Mads Mikkelsen!’ and they’d say, ‘No, how about Hugh Grant?’ I’d say, ‘Great, make an offer, he’s gonna say no,’ then they’d make an offer and he’d say no, and I’d be like, ‘What about Mads Mikkelsen?’ and they’d be like, ‘Well what about John Cusack?’”

Now, while I can’t imagine anyone other than Mikkelsen in the role at this point, I have to admit I’m very curious to see Hugh Grant as Hannibal Lecter. Grant’s performance would no doubt be wildly different than Mikkelsen’s, and I think he might’ve brought something interesting to the role. As for Cusack, well…I like John Cusack, but I can’t imagine him as Hannibal Lecter. At all.

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