Anthony Hopkins’ unmade Hannibal sequel would have ended with the horror icon’s death. The character of Hannibal Lecter has had a long, storied history on the big screen and small screen. He was first portrayed by Brian Cox in 1986 thriller Manhunter, an adaptation of Red Dragon by author Thomas Harris. Cox’s charming, lowkey turn was both mesmerizing and eerie, but sadly, the movie proved to be a box-office disappointment.
Hannibal made a triumphant return with 1991’s The Silence Of The Lambs, which cast Anthony Hopkins in the role and Jodie Foster as FBI rookie Clarice Starling. From its taut direction, fantastic screenplay and incredible performances, The Silence Of The Lambs is regarded as one of the best thrillers of the 1990s. Despite appearing for about fifteen minutes of screentime in total, Hopkins’ turn as Hannibal was instantly iconic and had viewers clamoring for the character’s return.
Anthony Hopkins would return to the part a further two times, with 2001’s Hannibal and then Red Dragon the following year. While both movies were big hits, their critical receptions were far more mixed than The Silence Of The Lambs. Hopkins would later turn down a cameo appearance in 2007 prequel Hannibal Rising, which detailed the title character’s origin and cast Gaspard Ulliel as the young Hannibal. Hopkins has since ruled out any kind of return to his most popular role, but in 2002, he revealed he had penned a screenplay following on from the events of Hannibal.
The 2001’s Hannibal movie eschewed the novel’s controversial ending, and instead had Hopkins’ Lecter escape custody and going back on the run – but losing a hand in the process. During a chat with USA Today after Red Dragon, the veteran actor stated “I did write a screenplay of my own, just as an exercise, that would follow Hannibal.” Details on the story are scarce, but Hopkins revealed it took place in San Francisco and followed Clarice as she’s suffering a nervous breakdown. She suffers from nightmares and thinks she sees Hannibal on street corners, only to wake one night handcuffed to her bed while the cannibal smokes a cigar in the corner, and greets her with ‘Hello, Clarice …‘
The final scene would have seen him gunned down by Clarice, but while Anthony Hopkins showed this script to his agent and the studio, he also claimed it was just “an exercise.” It seems there was no real progress on Hopkins’ Hannibal script, with the next entry being the critically drubbed Hannibal Rising. While Hopkins’ proposed sequel would have brought closure to his take on the character, maybe it was for the best it didn’t happen. Neither of his follow-ups reached the high standard of Silence Of The Lambs and without Jodie Foster’s involvement, this finale probably would have proved disappointing too.