'Hannibal' creator: 'I wanted to be sure we had an ending for the story'
Tonight, Bryan Fuller and company gave us the end of "Hannibal" as we know it. Even if the money and logistics can ever be worked out for some kind of movie or miniseries featuring Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, and this creative team, the show's time as an ongoing TV series is done, and it ended in a way that functions as a conclusion to the story, even if it's one that may outrage some fans. (My finale review is here.)
Earlier this week, I spoke with Fuller about that ending, potential ways he could continue the franchise, the challenges of finally doing a direct adaptation of "Red Dragon," and a lot more — including me having a very different interpretation of the post-credits scene than what Fuller intended — coming up just as soon as you take the key from around my neck...
At what point in the season did you realize that this is how you were going to end it?
Bryan Fuller: Probably about halfway through the season. We're always looking for a way to end a season in a way we could end the series. We never knew we were coming back. At the beginning of season 3, NBC was talking to me about new development, and that was a pretty big indicator to me that they weren't planning on picking up a season 4. So I wanted to be sure we had an ending for the story we were telling, but also leave room for a continuation of the tale of Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham should we get the option to tell more of it.
So you have an idea in mind in the event of something more where this is not the end of the story?
Bryan Fuller: Right. In my mind, the most interesting chapter of Will Graham's story has yet to be told.
Once NBC made their decision official and you couldn't find a buyer elsewhere for a fourth season, were you at peace with the idea that this is it?
Bryan Fuller: I knew the writing was on the wall. I knew that we had gotten ridiculously preferential treatment on this show by the network. The fact that they allowed us to tell the tales we were telling, and in a manner that was much more suited to a cable audience than a broadcast network audience. They were bending over backwards to accommodate us, and I knew they could only bend so far with ratings as bad as we had! (laughs)
Where do things stand now? What are the options?
Bryan Fuller: Martha De Laurentiis is looking into financing for a feature film. The season 4 that we were going to tell is such a restart and reimagining that I still hope in some way that we get to tell a version of that, if not "Silence of the Lambs" itself, as a miniseries. I would love to return this cast to the big screen from whence they came, and Hannibal Lecter to the big screen, from whence he came. It seems perfectly symmetrical.
Last time we talked, you put the odds on a fourth season at 50-50. What would you say the odds are now for any kind of filmed continuation?
Bryan Fuller: Oh, God. I have no idea. I think they're less than 50/50, and not in our favor. But I'm curious to see how folks respond to the finale, and then also if that satisfies them? If that feels like "We got a conclusion to our story and it's wrapped up in a bow, and we don't need anymore," then the audience will dictate. But if the audience is still there for the show and still wants a continuation of that story, I'll continue looking for ways to give it to them.
Why does Will, to your mind, pull Hannibal off the cliff. Is it what Bedelia said about how he can't live with him or without him, so they have to go down together?
Bryan Fuller: Essentially, the conclusion of the season really started very early in the Italian chapter of the story, where Will is admitting if he doesn't kill Hannibal Lecter, he has the potential to become him. Then he escapes that trajectory with Hannibal being institutionalized, and finding a family, and once being exposed to the heroin needle again, as it were, he's realizing how much of an addict he actually is, but is aware enough to know, and to start making moves toward his previous goal of ending Hannibal. And he's willing to do what it takes. Bedelia says, "Can't live with him, can't live without him." It's not necessary for him to survive this, in order to accomplish what he needs to accomplish. There's something so fated about that final act of Will's. And also, the awareness of this is perhaps the best solution for both of them.
Hannibal looks so happy when Will is embracing him. Does he know what's going to happen next, or is he thrown for a loop when they go over the cliff?
Bryan Fuller: I think Hannibal is thrown for a loop when they go over. In that final scene between them, it was Hugh Dancy and I talking about what those last moments that we see of Hannibal and Will in the series on NBC, how they need to connect, and yet Will can't totally surrender to Hannibal, because he's still Will Graham and still a human being, but he also knows that it's going to be very difficult to go back to his family life, seeing his wife murdered over and over again in his mind every time that he looks at her. Any possibility of a relationship that could save him from Hannibal Lecter seems dimmer and dimmer in his mind, that it is acceptable to him that he not survive.
You've talked about this relationship in romantic terms. Bedelia makes that even more explicit in some of her conversations with both men this season. Was there any thought given to having them do more than embrace at the end, or would that in some way be diminishing the very unique and strange nature of their relationship?
Bryan Fuller: Mads and Hugh, there were a lot of takes where they got very intimate, and lips were hovering over lips. I definitely had the footage to go there, because Mads and Hugh were so game. They called me and warned me: "We really went for it!" And then I saw the dailies, I thought there was a fine line from that #Hannigraham fan fiction motive to give the hardcore audience exactly what they want in terms of this actually being a homosexual relationship between these two men, and what is authentic for the characters in that final moment. I mean, it's not "Brokeback Mountain." Mads isn't gonna be spitting on his hand and getting to work. (laughs) We felt we had to keep it genuine to the tone of the relationship as we've been telling it in the series, and even in that moment when Will asks if Hannibal is in love with him, and Bedelia says, "Of course he is, ya big queen!" Even in that moment, it's not quite dipping into the physical passions that would be the case if they were both homosexual. But I feel one is ominisexual and one is heterosexual and there's a lot of influence going back and forth, who knows with a six pack of beer what would happen.