Exclusive Interview: Mads Mikkelson on Hannibal
Last week at Del Frisco’s Steak House in New York, admittedly a much more intimate setting than usual, Dread Central had the opportunity to sit and dine with the latest and possibly greatest incarnation of iconic psychopath Hannibal Lecter to date, now in the form of Danish actor Mads Mikkelson (Casino Royale).
In between bites of juicy, sautéed sirloin, Mikkelson regaled us with tales of head cheese and pig intestine, so be warned if you’re snacking on something while reading.
DC: How long did it take you to perfect your style of eating on the show?
MM: To be honest, it comes from the character. But after a while, I take notice that my own way... if I forget myself in character, I tend to go like this a lot (wraps both fists around his knife and fork). But then I look in the mirror and see the three-piece suit, and that brings me back into character. But the food is a story all on its own.
DC: Do you feel like you’re more cultured now because of the role?
MM: I hope so! Because I’m not that cultured to begin with. Yeah, we pick up things down the line, but it’s the drama that’s still the focus for all of us. But we do pick up little things.
DC: How did you get in the mindset? As a character you have to almost believe that you’re eating human, no?
MM: Well, not necessarily. I do think that when you play something that is horrific or just not understandable for us, you’ll have to put something else out there that you imagine. So, when I eat something that is apparently a foot or a liver, well, I just treat it like something I love. So I often tend to find myself placing other things in my imagination instead of the real thing. I guess if you’re playing Hitler... and I guess I can compare Hannibal to that because he’s up there, right?... you have to imagine how anyone can hate so much and you will find the hate and then you replace it. That’s been my way of working always.
DC: You seem to look at people on the show with so much interest and respect. What people are “pigs,” and what people, to Hannibal, are actually just people he’s interested in as humans?
MM: Well, it can be small things that trigger him, I guess. But, yes, people who are rude definitely have a big chance of ending up on his table. He doesn’t like rudeness. Anything that’s banal he can either just avoid, or they also have a good chance ending up on his dinner table. But anything that’s beautiful or refined or strange in a fascinating way, he finds interesting. So he’s divided the world up into banal and not banal, and people who are rude are standing a very bad chance.
DC: This is a hugely iconic character for a lot of people. Are you hesitant about coming into this role, and if so, what convinced you to do it?
MM: I was extremely reluctant doing it. I read it. I liked it. But, as you say, these are huge shoes to step into. What convinced me was Bryan [Fuller]. He was pitching the story to me for ten minutes, but then after two hours he was still hacking away. And also the fact this is taking place before the films and he’s not captured so we will have a chance to show something else. This is a man who needs to make friends; he cannot play all his cards. Anthony Hopkins could do that. I cannot do that. So he’s an actor. He’s quite emotional, but he can control his emotions as opposed to Will. If I want to be sad, I will be sad, but it won’t surprise me. The emotions will never surprise me. So that is taking place before for that reason. I think we have a chance to shoot something slightly different. Of course, he’s still Hannibal. As you can see, he’s still elaborate, a three-piece suit man. So that’s all there; it’s just a different setting.