Hannibal may have aired its series finale on NBC tonight, but that doesn’t mean executive producer Bryan Fuller is done telling the story of the cannibalistic Dr. Lecter and his friends, frenemies and potential “dinner dates.”
“It’s not over until I’m dead, as far as I’m concerned,” Fuller says of his dream to continue this particular yarn — either through a fourth season on a new network, or (more likely) via a big-screen spinoff.
“The fans are going to have to be very patient. It’s going to be at least a year,” before anything gets green-lit, he continues, but series stars Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy are “excited” about Fuller’s vision and EP Martha De Laurentis is currently trying to find financing for a film.
To recap, Season 3 ended with Hannibal and Will Graham teaming up to brutally slay Francis Dolarhyde (aka The Red Dragon), and then, after the bloody “consummation” of their union, embracing and plummeting off a cliff into the roiling waters below — all to the tune of Siouxie Sioux’s “Love Crime.” Following the credits, we saw Lecter’s twisted therapist/”wife” Bedelia du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) in a sedated haze, seated at a dinner table, and waiting with a concealed fork for an unseen presence to serve her dinner — the centerpiece of which happened to be her own succulent, roasted leg. (Beforehand, Dolarhyde spared Reba’s life, Will realized he’d never be able to return to his wife and stepson, and Alana fled the country — as well as Hannibal’s murderous wrath — with Margot and their son at her side.)
TVLine caught up with Fuller to dish the increasingly overt romance between Will and Hannibal in Season 3, the details of Dolarhyde’s violent end, and Bedelia’s grim fate.
TVLINE | I barely know where to begin after watching that finale, but let’s start by talking about that climactic battle: Hannibal and Will versus the Red Dragon. Where did you film it? Was any of it CGI?
The house is real and the cliffs are real. We just had to put them together with the visual effects. We found a location in the woods, about an hour and a half outside of Toronto, for Hannibal’s get-away house — where he kept Miriam Lass and Abigail Hobbs, and prepared with Bedelia to flee the country. But we couldn’t find the right kind of cinematic cliffs to give us the stature that we needed for the finale. So, our second unit director Chris Byrne, the man who shoots all of those beautiful inserts with water dripping in slow motion and all of those crazy inner workings of machines that we use to spice up the editing, he went up to Newfoundland and shot the cliffs up there. And then we edited it together to give the appearance of a house on a precipice collapsing into the sea, which seemed very symbolic for Will and Hannibal’s relationship.
TVLINE | How long did it take and how difficult a shoot was it?
It was one of those things that was very rushed. We didn’t have enough time to shoot it, and we couldn’t afford to shoot it in the manner in which we wanted to shoot it. It took about 10 hours to shoot, and that’s shocking when you consider it took us maybe 22 hours of actual filming for the fight scene with Mads and Laurence [in Hannibal’s kitchen] at the beginning of Season 2 — plus, three additional days of second-unit shooting. The Hannibal-Will-Dolarhyde fight took 10 hours, plus six hours of second unit, so it was much smaller in scale, which is why we had to really build out the sequence with a lot of strategic inserts. We simply didn’t have the footage to pull it off. We didn’t have close-ups of Richard Armitage, for example, because he had to go do a movie. So I used footage from the scene of him burning down his ritual to give us an opportunity to see his face plainly. That was originally supposed to be shown during the fire sequence, but I pulled all of that stuff out and moved it to the end, so we could actually see the actor’s face. It was an episode that was rife with all sorts of production problems. It took the longest time of any episode in the history of the series to cut together.
TVLINE | Were you happy with how the finished scene turned out, or were you thinking, “Jeez, I wish I had another day to…”?
I always, always wish I had more time, and always I wish I could do things better. Always, always, always, always. [Laughs] That’s the bane of my existence, but for me, really, what pulled it all together were the visual effects of Richard Armitage sprouting dragon wings and Will Graham seeing that in his delirious blood-loss state. All of that was added in post[-production] to try to spice up the sequence because we just weren’t able to pull it off, given the restrictions that we had during shooting.
And then, the Siouxsie Sioux song came in and was so majestic and felt so appropriate. I was like, “We have to use this in the finale — it’s just the right thing to buoy it above and beyond what we were able to produce, to give it a sweeping sense of poetry and finality and loss in that moment.” We were skin-of-our-teeth, trying to pull it off in post, and like I said, it’s the longest I’ve ever spent on any single episode, probably in my entire career. We had no money left, and they were not giving us any more money, and we were just, as Tim Gunn would say, “making it work.”
TVLINE | Let’s talk about that Siouxsie Sioux song, “Love Crime.” Was that written specifically for this climactic scene?
It was written specifically for the show, and when I heard it, I was like, “We have to put it in the finale.” I have seen Siouxsie and the Banshees more times in concert than I have seen any other artist. She is an inspiration, and was pivotal to my musical development. I can’t articulate what an incredible honor it was to have Siouxsie Sioux step out of retirement — she hasn’t released a single in eight years — to write a song for “Hannibal.” She said she hasn’t been inspired to write in a long time. But Hannibal inspired her to write. It may an all-time high for my career.
TVLINE | So, your final shot of Will and Hannibal is the two of them embracing and going over the cliff together. In the first two seasons, their relationship — or the possible romance between them — was mostly between the lines. In the last few episodes of Season 3, though, it started to feel a little more like, “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Sociopaths in Love.” We’ve had Bedelia asking Will if he aches for Dr. Lecter. Will and Hannibal’s “goodbye chat” felt like a breakup. To me, it’s all seemed more overtly romantic, and I just wonder if that’s what you’ve been trying to project.
It felt like we had to s–t or get off the pot, ultimately, because there had been so much going on between these two men that when Will asks, “Is Hannibal Lecter in love with me?” it is very much about death and the romance between these two men. There is a quality to connections that go above and beyond sexuality. You can have this intimate connection with somebody that then causes you to wonder where the lines of your own sexuality are. And we didn’t quite broach the sexuality. It was certainly suggested, but the love is absolutely on the table. There is love between these two men, and confusion between these two men. We had to articulate it, and the idea for a [potential] Season 4 was an interesting continuation of that, as well as a subversion of it at the same time. So it’s strange to look at [this week’s episode] as a finale, because part of me believes that the most interesting chapter of Will Graham’s story is yet to be told.
TVLINE | Do you envision a continuation in which Will and Hannibal somehow go on the run together, start a family of sorts?
Something a little more unexpected.
TVLINE | Are you reluctant to say more about your vision — on the chance that you can somehow create a Season 4 or a big-screen adaptation?
Yeah. You know, there is a plot point in the [Thomas Harris] novel Hannibal that has not been in any of the [filmed] adaptations. And so, it’s important for me to protect that and hopefully be able to tell it one day. Of course, the “Fannibals” are so smart and know the books so well that I’m sure it won’t be too big of a stretch to figure out exactly what it would be.
TVLINE | Circling back to the Will/Hannibal/Dolarhyde showdown — I felt like we didn’t really know 100 percent what way it was going to go. Will actually says to Hannibal that he intends to see him “changed” by Dolarhyde. And then, at one point, when Hannibal is looking at Will pulling out the knife, I wondered, is he signaling to Dolarhyde with his eyes or is he signaling Will? How did you view the scene? Do you feel like Will and Hannibal were always planning to end the Red Dragon, or was it unclear even to them?
I feel like Will was going there knowing that he very likely would not be able to finish Hannibal himself, because of his feelings for him, and that he needed Francis Dolarhyde to do it for him. And he knew that he may not survive it; it’s something he says several times through the episode. Bedelia says early in the scene with Will, “You can’t live with him, you can’t live without him.” That’s exactly what this is about. Will can’t live without Hannibal, and he knows that in that moment, once they’d experienced a murder together — a vicious, brutal murder where they hack a guy up with a knife and a hatchet — he’s like, “That was kind of fun. That was a good time. In fact, it was beautiful.” There’s a realization of his mind being able to process that experience as a thing of beauty. With that, he knows there is very little chance of him being able to return to humanity, so off they go.
TVLINE | Right. Over the cliff. It felt a little Thelma and Louise to me.
TVLINE | Shifting gears, some of my favorite scenes this season were Will in “therapy” with Bedelia — every word between them just dripping with subtext. I loved, when he comes to her for the last time, and it’s clear that he has this plot to let Hannibal escape, the terror that Gillian Anderson brought to the scene. It was so completely different from this cool and collected and sexual aura that we’d gotten used to from Bedelia.
As much as I love, love, love the scenes between Hannibal and Bedelia, I am over the moon for the scenes with Will Graham and Bedelia, because there is a certain bitchiness between them. I was just like, “Are we watching Noel Coward? Is this The Women? They’re sniping at each other and it’s hilarious.” Gillian, I think, of all the actors on the show, is the one who dips into the Victorian Grand Guignol style, with a little bit of camp. Of all the actors, she knew what movie she was in. Mads and Hugh, of course, were — and have been throughout the series — absolutely brilliant. But they were always authentically grounding the work in an emotional reality for those characters. That was really relatable. Gillian was the one who was like, “I’m going to camp it up for this one.” But all done in that very Victorian, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? style.
TVLINE | You gave Bedelia resolution, of sorts, at the dinner table — where her leg is what’s for dinner. Knowing while you edited the hour that it was a real possibility this might be the series finale, was that absolutely where you wanted to end? And why put it after the credits?
Well, you know, I love post-credits sequence. I mean, you see Sherlock and Moriarty go over Reichenbach Falls, and you don’t know what fate befell those characters. By coming back in and seeing Bedelia at a dinner table being served her own leg, grabbing a fork and hiding it under the table and preparing to stab it in the neck of the next person who comes into the room, that’s a great way to tell the audience, “Yes, we have told you completion to this story, but who is serving Bedelia that leg? Is it Hannibal? Did he survive? Is it Uncle Robert is, and is David Bowie behind that curtain? Who’s serving her the leg?”
TVLINE | I’m so glad I got caught up in the Siouxie song and didn’t wind up missing that Bedelia scene. Because I honestly wasn’t expecting something after the credits, even though I should have. That was a nice little treat, so to speak.
Good. Good. So how would you compare it to last year’s finale?
TVLINE | I loved last year’s finale, but I feel like it wouldn’t have been as satisfying a series finale. This time around, with Will and Hannibal over the cliff, if you don’t come back for Season 4 somewhere else, or if you don’t do a movie adaptation years down the road, I feel like…
We told you a complete story.
TVLINE | Exactly. And everybody got some resolution, even if it’s grim or iffy. I mean, we see Alana take off by helicopter, but I don’t think she’s ever going to feel safe, you know?
No, but that’s the closest thing that any of our characters get to a happy ending.
TVLINE | Chilton, on the other hand, does not get a happy ending. How much of his horrifyingly burned face and exposed teeth did you bring to life in post-production versus doing it with makeup?
That’s all real. That’s all Raul Esparza along with Francois Dagenais’s makeup, and the highlight of the gag reels for this season is Raul in that makeup, doing crazy voices and comedy schtick and cracking everybody up.
TVLINE | I will admit I had a hard time watching Chilton after the Red Dragon did his damage. Did you ever have a moment where you considered not going there?
It was too tempting to not do. I mean, when you have Raul Esparza mugging it up in horrific burn makeup, I can’t say no to that. Also, what I loved in the book is that Freddie Lounds lived for a short time after the burn, after being burned alive. And I felt like, “well, let’s do that with Chilton. Let’s just keep him alive, so if we ever do Silence of the Lambs years from now, with the success of skin grafts, we’ll see a Dr. Chilton that is still as feisty as ever. He was always one of my favorite characters, particularly when we cast Raul in the role, because I thought, “He’s just such a douchebag in the novel, and it would be great to make him a pivotal player in all of this, and also not a dummy. He was on the “Hannibal the Cannibal” train before, it was Will and then it was Chilton, and then everybody else was like, “Oops.” So, he’s always been a favorite character, and Raul’s one of my favorite actors that I ever worked with.
TVLINE | Well, in any event, from everything you’ve said in recent weeks, it sounds like all the key players are willing to revisit this material. It’s now more logistics rather than willingness.
Yes. With Mads and Hugh, it was one of the most spectacular collaborations that I’ve ever had with actors. I can’t tell you how many times that Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen saved my ass in storytelling by coming to me with an insight where I was like, “Oh my God, that’s perfect. That’s exactly what we need to put this over the edge.” That last scene [in the finale] was written essentially by myself and Hugh Dancy. I was on the phone talking him through the scene, and he had some ideas, and I thought they were great. I feel like that last exchange between Hannibal and Will was really an example of the wonderful relationship that I had with Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen, and crafting this show and this friendship/bromance/romance between these two characters. That’s the thing I’m going to miss the most, is that collaboration with those two brilliant actors.