Hannibal Lecter might be one of Anthony Hopkins’ most famous roles, but here’s where he regrets reprising the cannibal for Hannibal and Red Dragon. Before Anthony Hopkins, Brian Cox had played Hannibal Lecter (or “Lecktor”) in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, which was based on Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon. That 1986 thriller eventually became a cult favorite, but it quickly sank without trace upon release. The Silence Of The Lambs adapted Harris’ second Lecter novel, where he aids FBI agent Clarice Starling as she seeks a serial killer named Buffalo Bill.
The Silence Of The Lambs is a rare horror film beloved by both movie critics and viewers, and even won the “Big Five” at the Oscars, consisting of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay categories. Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lecter was greeted with acclaim, and the character has since become a horror icon. Hopkins would reprise the role for 2001’s Hannibal and Red Dragon, while Gaspard Ulliel inherited the role for prequel Hannibal Rising. Most recently, Mads Mikkelsen played the titular role in NBC’s much-missed Hannibal TV series.
Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter was an instant audience favorite when he hit screens in 1991 – but they had to wait a decade for his return. Harris’ Hannibal novel had itself received mixed notices upon publication in 1999, and the 2001 adaptation from Ridley Scott was no different. The film ignored the book’s controversial ending but retained its other shocking passages like the brain-eating scene. The movie, like the book, met with mixed reviews, but Hopkins soon returned for 2002’s Red Dragon – which has been adapted three times – and this prequel was another success. However, Hopkins has since confused he feels both movies were a mistake.
Jodie Foster’s decision to pass on the Hannibal movie had already somewhat spoiled the adaptation for those excited for a Silence Of The Lambs union. Julianne Moore took on the role, but while the movie is in itself a highly enjoyable and somewhat campy thriller, it’s far from the sleek classiness of Silence Of The Lambs. Red Dragon is also an inferior adaptation of Harris’ novel, despite a cast that includes Hopkins, Ed Norton, and Ralph Fiennes. During a 2016 interview with The Wrap, Hopkins stated of his Hannibal Lecter follow-ups “I did it once. Made the mistake of doing it twice — three times.”
He also ruled out playing the Lecter role again. While Anthony Hopkins penned a Hannibal sequel that went unmade, he’s since distanced himself from the role. While Hannibal and Red Dragon were both successes, neither came close to the critical or cultural impact of The Silence Of The Lambs. While the actor has many great performances to this name, he’s inextricably tied to Hannibal, so Hopkins likely regrets Hannibal and Red Dragon as being needless extensions that were produced to cash in on the character’s popularity. He’s a lot of fun in both sequels, but it may have been better to leave Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal alone after the ending of The Silence Of The Lambs.