Ability over Appearance: In the novel, Hannibal has undergone extensive plastic surgery to disguise himself. For the film, the decision was made not to alter Anthony Hopkins' famously recognizable visage, both for the sake of the audience and for character reasons; Hopkins and director Ridley Scott thought Lecter was playing a game by hiding in plain sight, as if he was saying "catch me if you can."
Awesome, Dear Boy: Zeljko Ivanek accepted his role because he wanted to work with Ray Liotta. Ivanek introduced himself to Liotta but Liotta reminded him that they worked together before on The Rat Pack. Ivanek was embarrassed that he had not remembered that.
B-Team Sequel: The original creative team behind The Silence of the Lambs (primarily director Jonathan Demme and actress Jodie Foster) was enthusiastic about working on a potential sequel... right up until the book they would be adapting was finally published. Demme declined to helm the film early on in pre-production, finding the source material excessively "lurid". Lambs screenwriter Ted Tally (who hadn't been as vocal in his enthusiasm for working on a sequel, but had worked well with Demme and did subsequently adapt Red Dragon) also took a pass, simply deeming it "excessive". Foster was more equivocal initially, but finally declined to return as well, officially citing scheduling conflicts (with her film Flora Plum). Some years later, she also revealed that she was displeased with Clarice's character arc in the novel, as was Demme.note The fact that the modified ending wasnt enough to sway Foster suggests she had other issues with Clarices characterisation. Demme and Foster turned down massive paychecks, with talks of a $15 million salary for Foster (and Hopkins), and as much as a $20 million director's fee for Demme. Obviously that was enough to entice Hopkins, who (as noted below) subsequently expressed misgivings about the finished film anyway. Had Harris written a more... "acceptable" version of Hannibal, it does seem much likelier that Demme, Foster and Tally might have all returned alongside Hopkins.
Backed by the Pentagon: Actual North Carolina State Troopers were used for the filming. They can be seen both in the search of the Verger home and driving their cruisers.
Creator Backlash: Anthony Hopkins has expressed reservations about the film, feeling Hannibal's imprisonment was an essential part of his appeal, and setting him free distilled the character's scariness.
Old Shame: Anthony Hopkins admitted in 2016 that he has misgivings about appearing in both this film and Red Dragon, stating that "I made the mistake of doing two more and I should have only done one".
Orphaned Reference: When Clarice is listening to audiotapes of her meetings with Hannibal that Dr. Chilton secretly recorded, some of the dialogue is taken from the novel The Silence of the Lambs and not the film, though the lines were shot but wound up cut (for example, during their second meeting, Hannibal says that Jack Crawford is dangling Clarice in front of him for temptation, and muses that Crawford might wonder if Hannibal fantasizes about how good Clarice would taste).
Paul Krendler was recast with Ray Liotta after his predecessor Ron Vawter's death in 1994.
Averted with Jack Crawford. Rather than recast three major characters, the filmmakers cut Crawford from the script after Scott Glenn bowed out and expanded Clint Pearsall's role. (The part would be recast with Harvey Keitel for 2002's Red Dragon, however, where Jack Crawford was indispensable.)
Referenced by...: Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold, of all things, referenced Paul Krendler's death with a food item in Arkham Asylum's cafeteria called "Hanni-bowls", which is a salad in a head-shaped bowl with the opening at the tope of the head, much like how the top of Krendler's head was opened so Lecter could slice off pieces of his brain and cook them.
Sequel Gap: The film came out ten years after The Silence of the Lambs.
As previously mentioned, the controversy of the novel resulted in key players from The Silence of the Lambs (Demme, Tally and Foster) withdrawing from the project, which initially cast doubt on whether or not the film would even get made. Some executives were wary of proceeding without Demme's budget-conscious involvement, and feared the price tag might spiral out of control with the notoriously temperamental De Laurentiis in control. Media scrutiny was intense.
Also complicating things were convoluted legal matters regarding rights to the material and characters, which resulted in a lawsuit between producer De Laurentiis and Universal Pictures (which ultimately was settled, with both parties remaining involved). However, MGM had to be brought into the mix due to their ownership of Clarice Starling, which they obtained after acquiring the assets of Orion Pictures. Further negotiation resulted in MGM acquiring U.S. distribution rights, while Universal would distribute the film internationally.
Once Ridley Scott was selected as director, the process turned to the screenplay. David Mamet wrote the original draft but was not available for rewrites, causing Steven Zaillian to be brought on. Adapting the novel was a long and arduous process, and Scott was heavily involved. Harris' ending for the novel was deemed far too controversial and implausible to put on film, so concepts for new endings had to be discussed.
After the film was finally on track and Julianne Moore chosen as the new Clarice, De Laurentiis added more fuel to the fire by making unflattering comments about Foster - mainly his opinions about her lack of sex appeal compared to Moore.
Uncredited Role: Gary Oldman demanded to share star billing alongside Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore. When the producers denied him this, he threatened to quit the film but later angrily demanded to have no billing at all. His name was added to the end credits for home video releases.
Christopher Reeve was offered the part of Mason Verger, and was initially excited about the opportunity. Until he read the book, that is, and discovered the character was a disfigured former child molester. Then he turned the role down in disgust.
Early drafts of the script featured Jack Crawford. One version actually had him and Clarice forming their own private detective agency in Florida as the ending. The character was subsequently written out after Scott Glenn declined the offer to return.
The ending was originally going to have a shootout.
In the alternate ending, Clarice never interrupts the kiss Hannibal gives her by handcuffing him, but lets him escape, implying she is sacrificing herself for him.
In addition to the two endings shot, a third was considered where Hannibal remains handcuffed to Clarice and drags her onto Krendler's boat. As the police swarm in and aim their weapons, he takes Clarice overboard and it appears the two of them will drown. At the last minute, the key appears, and Lecter frees Clarice to return to the surface while he sinks away below, smiling at her. This would've been the last time Lecter was seen, implying his death. Ridley Scott ultimately decided against shooting it, fearing it was too James Bond-esque.
Scott considered disguising Lecter. In the book, he's had plastic surgery. He decided that he didn't want Sir Anthony Hopkins to be unrecognizable.
Hopkins wrote a screenplay for a sequel to this film, most likely titled Hannibal Ending, which would've involved Starling killing Lecter. However, this was never used.
Word of God: According to Ridley Scott, Barney would take things out of Lecter's cell while he was taking a walk outside.
For the series
Acclaimed Flop: The show was widely praised by critics and adored by its devoted fanbase as one of the best horror series out there, but it fared poorly in terms of ratings, indicating that it simply couldn't find a mass audience. NBC decided to take a chance and stick with it anyways for a total of three seasons, but couldn't justify any more than that and ended up cancelling it.
Channel Hop: KSL-TV (owned by a for-profit subsidiary of the Mormon Church) in Salt Lake City, Utah pulled the series after 4 episodes, declaring it to be too violent for broadcast television, which was later picked up by KUCW (the local CW affiliate serving the market), and moved its time slot from prime time to midnight.
California Doubling: The majority of the series takes place in and around the Baltimore area but was filmed in Toronto. Averted in the third season which shot some of the Florence scenes on location in Italy.
Fuller actually wanted Zachary Quinto to play Anthony Dimmond, though this proved impossible due to Quinto's schedule. Another actor was briefly cast as Dimmond before Tom Wisdom took the role. Quinto's schedule and desire to work with Gillian Anderson led to the role of Bedelia's patient being written for him.
Diagnosis of God: In something of an inversion, Bryan Fullerstates that his version of Hannibal Lecter is not a psychopath; although he certainly displays psychopathic traits (sadism, manipulation of others, and of the course the whole "killing and eating people" thing) he's not a "true" psychopath in the sense that he can experience genuine empathy, regret and deep emotion, particularly when it comes to his relationships with others, and he strongly desires companionship. Mads Mikkelsen has stated he plays Hannibal more like a twisted fallen angel with a bizarre sense of right and wrong, which closely matches Fuller's own views.
Distanced from Current Events: Double Subverted with the 4th episode of the series, Oeuf. It has been reported that the episode was was believed to be due to Boston Marathon bombing the day it was pulled from the schedule (which was in fact pulled prior to the bombings taking place), but rather the fact that episode's Children Forced to Kill plot seemed to have too much in common with Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which happened 4 months prior. The episode was later made available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital platforms.
Lifetime began developing their own series based on Clarice Starling's early career around the same time as Hannibal. Since this would require the television rights to The Silence of the Lambs — something highly coveted by the producers of Hannibal — it createed the unique circumstances of two shows dueling before one has even gone into production. This was ultimately rendered a moot point due to the Clarice Starling series spending so long in development hell that Hannibal had been cancelled for years by the time it actually aired (under CBS instead of Lifetime).
Executive Meddling: There were a few instances where the crew had to get creative in order to make the murders palatable for Network television. Bryan Fuller told an amusing anecdote about the "angels" from Coquilles:
"NBC said, 'we cannot show that shot' - which was this great, kind of cinematic shot - and I said, 'Why? Because of the exposed spine and muscle tissue and ribs and flayed skin?' and they were, like, 'No, we see their butt cracks.' And I said, 'What if we filled the butt cracks with blood so you didn't see the crack?' and they said 'Okay!'"
NBC is very skittish about including homosexual material when the show got to Margot Verger, leading to the show being bafflingly oblique about her orientation. A line from the books that used the euphemism "muff-diving" wasn't allowed because it referenced lesbian oral sex, so the writers made do with "button-stitching". Though come Season 3, depictions of her in an open lesbian relationship with Alana, including a sex scene showing quite a lot of skin, were allowed.
In the Red Dragon arc of Season 3, Alana and Margot are married and have a son and Hannibal is explicitly revealed as being in love with Will. It's safe to say the executive meddling about this particular subject was greatly reduced.
In an odd example of meddling from a different network, the reason for Miriam Lass's rather truncated arc in Season 2 was because HBO only allowed them to use Anna Chlumsky for two episodes, and would only let her speak in one.
Missing Episode: The fourth episode from the first season was pulled from the schedule, and the character-important segments were later adapted into a webseries designed to fill in the gaps. But then iTunes subverted this by putting up the uncut episode.
Name's the Same: Abigail Hobbs was the name of a fourteen-year-old girl convicted of witchcraft as a result of the Salem Witch Trials.
One-Take Wonder: At one point Hannibal Lecter is seen performing an elaborate cooking trick where he throws an egg in the air, cracks it over the narrow edge of a spatula as it falls and catches the yolk inside a small bowl. The crew were convinced the trick was too difficult and prepared several dozen eggs as well as three chefs to act as hand doubles. Mads Mikkelsen performed the trick perfectly on the first take with no rehearsals. Turns out Mikkelsen was a juggler in his youth which he credited for being able to pull off the trick.
Chris Diamontopolous, none other than the voice of Mickey Mouse, plays Clark Ingram, a misogynistic serial killer in season 2.
Production Posse: Both Ellen Greene and Raúl Esparza have worked with Fuller before on Pushing Daisies, and Eddie Izzard appeared as Grandpa in Fuller's failed-pilot-turned-TV-movie reboot of The Munsters, Mockingbird Lane.
Promoted Fanboy: Bryan Fuller is fan of Siouxsie Sioux's music, and he managed to convince her to compose a song (which ended up being called "Love Crime") for the Season 3 finale even though she hadn't released a single in 8 years.
Reality Subtext: According to the first season's DVD, many of the therapy scenes between Hannibal and Franklyn are taken nearly verbatim from Fuller's own experiences in therapy, including the line: "If you were not neurotic, Franklyn, you would be something much worse."
Recycled Story Arc: Almost ten years after the cancellation of Wonderfalls, Bryan Fuller finally gets a chance to properly play out his storyline of a protagonist being sent to an insane asylum by their psychiatrist.
Spin-Off Cookbook: Feeding Hannibal: a Connoisseur's Cookbook, written by the show's food stylist Janice Poon. It contains behind-the-scenes stories behind the creation of the show's Food Porn / Food Gorn as well as recipes to create (human-free) variations of Hannibal Lecter's dishes.
Technology Marches On: The original Francis Dolarhyde found his victims by getting a job as a home video developer, and the 2002 Red Dragon film was even made into a period piece to accommodate this. It is not explicitly stated in the show, but according to Fuller (and a hypothesis from Hannibal), this incarnation of Dolarhyde finds his victims through social media. When Dolarhyde shows Chilton slides of the families, it seems to resemble photos that may be taken on social media.
Interestingly, Dolarhyde's original job from the books of film development is restored in this show, but is not even slightly related to how he picks his victims or how his identity is discovered.
Throw It In!: Raúl Esparza ad-libbed Chilton's "Hannibal, Hannibal, Hannibal!" remark about how Will never shuts up about him. Laurence Fishburne likes to shout his lines unprompted in some takes (as can be seen in the blooper reel for the first season). His bellowed delivery of the line "USE THE LADIES' ROOM!" in Aperitif was not scripted.
Trolling Creator: Bryan Fuller gets off on this, as made apparent following Yakimono in Season 2. Chilton is shot in the face despite being a key character in the book/film plots, yet numerous fans noticed that, while the bullet exits Chilton's neck, an entry wound can only be seen on his cheek, making it possible that the bullet missed his neck and brain. Fuller then proceeded to stir up the fandom with ambiguous Twitter posts like this (SPOILERS) and a teasing response during his AV Club episode review (SPOILERS). To top it off, the next episode Su-zakana has zero mention of it, meaning it is still unknown if it's true, or if Fuller is just trying to rub salt into the wound.
AV Club: Chilton, correct me if I'm wrong, is the first character from the literature that you've killed who's still alive in later books. Do you feel that shakes things up, or do you worry about not having that character to play later? Bryan Fuller: [Frank] Serpicosurvived a bullet to the face. AV Club: Okay. Bryan Fuller: [Laughs.]
Bryan Fuller originally planned seven seasons for the series. The first three seasons would have original material, showing the relationship between Graham and Hannibal before his arrest; the fourth season would be an adaptation of Red Dragon; the fifth season would be an adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs; the sixth season would be an adaptation of Hannibal; and the seventh and final season would be the end of the story, again with original material. However, after Season 2, Fuller changed his plans and decided to adapt the Hannibal and Red Dragon events in Season 3, adding also Hannibal Rising material. In subsequent interviews, Fuller suggested that both books did not need as many episodes to be adapted, and stated that the series would now only have six seasons (which ended up not happening).
David Tennant tried out for the part of Hannibal. He didn't get it (obviously), but Bryan Fuller was so impressed by his audition that he expressed the desire to write him a part as a psychopathic serial killer later in the series.
Fuller initially considered Lee Pace as Will Graham (The Pie Maker as a profiler?) and as Mason Verger but did not cast him either role.
Bryan Fuller originally wrote Bedelia Du Maurier as an older woman and hoped to cast Angela Lansbury. When scheduling conflicts made this impossible, NBC recommended Gillian Anderson. This modified the storyline slightly; instead of being retired due to age, she left her practice for other reasons.
Fuller stated multiple times (and extended an offer) that he'd like the incomparable David Bowie to play Hannibal's artist uncle Robert, the only stable parental figure in Hannibal's life after his parents were slain by Nazis. Who can tell in what capacity Robert might appear in the show? In any case, it would've been terrific to see Bowie interacting with Mikkelsen... However, all attempts soon ended when Bowie passed away in January 2016, months after the series finale.
Fuller has mentioned that, assuming everything lined up properly, Chi McBride would be his top choice for the role of BarneyMatthews. He has expressed interest in working with a number of actors with whom he has past experience, specifically naming Anna Friel and Kristin Chenoweth. Fuller wanted Friel to appear in Season 2 (likely as Margot Verger), but she had already signed onto an adaptation of The Odyssey at the time.
Tobias Budge was originally intended to be Jame Gumb, a.k.a Buffalo Bill (much as Franklin was supposed to be Benjamin Raspail), but when they couldn't get the rights to the character, they decided to rework him into somebody completely original.
Fuller originally intended Beverly Katz to die at the end of Season 1 instead of Abigail Hobbs, but was so impressed by her actress that he changed the script and story to give her more time for Character Development.
The role of Peter Bernadone was originally offered to Patton Oswalt.
A relatively minor example, but occasionally minor bits of the script that are missing from the final cuts of the episodes show up in the closed captions.
After being impressed with her performance in The Wolverine, Fuller cast Tao Okamoto as Lady Murasaki from the novels. He changed the character to Chiyoh after becoming worried that Tao was too young to be believable as Mads Mikkelsen's aunt.
After the release of the Season 3 finale, Fuller laid out his ideas on his hypothetical version of Silence of the Lambs. It would have paralleled Hannibal in the Baltimore Hospital under the heavily-scarred Chilton with flashbacks to Hannibal at his psychiatrist prime, possibly with Benjamin Raspail as his patient. Pushing Daisies alum Lee Pace would have been the top choice to play Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb as well as bringing back Clarice Starling expy Miriam Lass. Clarice herself would either have been Elliot Page or a woman of color.
In addition to explaining how Will and Hannibal might have survived their fall, Hannibal's fourth season would have further explored the effect that Hannibal's cannibalistic lifestyle had on Bedelia. Fans would have seen the payoff of Hannibal's promise to Alana, with the latter then working with Margot to dismantle all of the Verger slaughterhouses and turn them humane.
In a 2020 interview with Collider, Fuller mentioned that both John Cusack and Hugh Grant had been approached by NBC to play Lecter. A Rolling Stone interview released in October 2020 indicated that NBC had also made an offer to Paul Bettany.