Not to mix my fandoms here, but choosing your favorite Hannibal is about as easy as choosing your favorite Doctor (Who). Our gut response is the first we ever experienced or the one we experienced the most. Sitting down and really sinking our teeth into our favorite Hannibal can be tough, but that’s what I’ve done for you. Because I care. Also, did you see that sentence full food puns?
Third Course: Anthony Hopkins
I know, right?! Easily one of the most recognized actors who has portrayed our favorite cannibal, Anthony Hopkins, has gotten too cold for comfort in the Hannibal smorgasbord. I was first introduced to Hopkins as Hannibal in The Silence of the Lambs. I enjoyed the posh intelligence he seemed to bring to life in the character. When I devoured the book, I heard Hopkins’ voice and was pleasantly surprised with his characterization. My enjoyment of Hopkins began to slip away while watching Red Dragon. The uncanny valley effect of a de-aged Hopkins was like looking at fake fruit and feeling uneasy about the desire to eat it. The final nail in the coffin was Hannibal. Hopkins’ portrayal of Lecter just seemed sloppy and amateurish, like powdered mashed potatoes.
Second Course: Mads Mikkelsen
Scathing, I know. Mads is a main course for many a Honey. #MadspoitationMonday, am I right? But alas, while I love the poised elegance that Mads brings to Hannibal, from his suits to his food preparation to the fluidity of his movements, Mads just isn’t enough to fill me up. Perhaps it was the mush-mouth effect that occurred as he wrapped his accent around the weighty dialogue. I think it was probably more that Mads never seemed complete as Hannibal without Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham by his side. This is by no means a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s quite spectacular and unique to have created these two autonomous, and yet codependent, characters who simultaneous rely on and repel each other. For that singular reason, Mads must make room for my main course.
Main Course: Brian Cox
I admit it: Brian Cox was my first Hannibal. I was a fan of Manhunter long before I ever knew that Silence of the Lambs was related and Brian Cox’s Hannibal was a fleeting character with a huge impact. Cox’s time on screen as Hannibal is short-lived but brilliant. For me, the quiet, calm arrogance and charisma that Cox exudes as Hannibal is exactly who Hannibal is. Mads manages this quite a few times throughout Hannibal as well, but Cox stole my heart many years ago. Plus, Cox’s Hannibal is just more likable than Mads’, and I think that’s an important distinction when considering the psychopathy of serial killers.
Each portrayal of Doctor Lecter is intelligent, elegant, and so calm it’s scary. Choosing a favorite, when you start to dissect the actor’s characterization, becomes tedious. To be fair, I have not seen Hannibal Rising so I cannot judge Aaron Thomas or Gaspard Ulliel. But, as a bonus...
Encourse: Francis Dolarhyde
My favorite Dolarhyde is none other than Tom Noonan. Ralph Fiennes was fantastic as the awkward, self-secluded killer but Noonan brought a sense of vulnerability to the role that was eerie. Fiennes’ Dolarhyde, while socially inept, seemed far too self-aware before transitioning to the beast. I feel like Dolarhyde should be split in two and Noonan seemed to better embrace both aspects of the character.
Palate Cleanser: Will Graham
I adore William Peterson playing William Peterson. And, clearly, I adore all things Manhunter. But hands down Hugh Dancy’s Will takes the top position here. Dancy manages to make you feel as uncomfortable as he is when he enters the mind of a killer; that takes some real acting chops, since there is no mind and no killer. And, unlike Mads’ Hannibal, who seemingly knows he is only part of a person without Will, Hugh’s Will is blissfully ignorant to the other half of himself. It makes for a riveting viewing experience. I’m not even going to talk about Edward Norton. Because.
Side Dish: Jack Crawford
Laurence Fishburne. There will always be a place in my heart for Scott Glenn but ol’ Larry won me over during the run of Hannibal and I won’t bother to complain about it. Regarding Dennis Farina and Harvey Keitel, I think they were miscast but did their job well. Just not Larry well.
There you have it. My favorite Hannibal and my favorite Hannibal side dishes.
So… what’s for dinner?