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'Hannibal': Bryan Fuller talks the horror drama's cult castings

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Hannibal - the new televisual take on Thomas Harris's cannibal killer Hannibal Lecter - premieres in the UK tonight courtesy of Sky Living, and to mark the show's launch, you lucky lot are being treated to a very special Week in Geek blog.

Below, Bryan Fuller - the cult genius behind Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me - speaks to WiG about the show's ludicrously exciting pieces of cult casting and why he decided to hire the likes of Gillian Anderson, Eddie Izzard and Lance Henriksen for guest roles on Hannibal...

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Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal S01E06: Sorbet

© NBC Universal / Brooke Palmer

Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal



"A lot of it is just my wish fulfilment - my checklist!" Fuller laughed. "It was kind of about being near great minds and great talents that I'd admired, so it was like... who inspires me as a writer? All these people have been very influential on my entertainment experience.

"So the casting on the show has been a lot of fun, just to see people that are intrigued by the world and the character of Hannibal Lecter... because it can be divisive. People can be like, 'Oh, Hannibal Lecter, there's been so many movies…' and what's been great is, people get that we're trying to approach... each of the episodes as an elegant horror movie.

"I think these actors responded to what we're trying to do and just got it, in a way that not everybody has. I am a geek at heart and I love all of the movies and the television shows that these people have been in, so I just wanted to access what they can bring to the table."

First up in our look at Hannibal's cult castings is Gillian Anderson, who plays Lecter's "icy" psychiatrist, one Dr Bedelia Du Maurier...

Gillian Anderson
The X-Files Movie - I want to Believe

© 20th Century Fox

Gillian Anderson in The X-Files



"Of course, I was an X-Files fan!" Fuller enthused. "It was all I could do not to pull out my camera to get a picture with her because I wanted to maintain some modicum of professionalism!

"Gillian comes with such a pedigree of quality genre television and is a fantastic actress. What I loved about her is she has this icy sexiness to her and Mads Mikkelsen [who plays Hannibal] has this icy sexiness to him, so to have these two icy, sexy people in a psychological setting where they're talking about very intimate things… it just vibrates!"

Eddie Izzard
Eddie Izzard as Dr. Abel Gideon in Hannibal S01E05: Entrée

© NBC Universal / Brooke Palmer

Eddie Izzard in Hannibal



"Eddie Izzard is, I think, one of the most brilliant minds of our generation," Fuller said. "He's less of a stand-up comedian and more of a philosopher - he doesn't tell jokes, he talks about ideas and explores concepts… he is like Socrates on the street corner, espousing his ideas to whoever will listen."

English comedian and actor Izzard - who previously teamed with Fuller on the Munsters reboot Mockingbird Lane - appears on Hannibal as Abel Gideon, an inmate at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane - the very same facility where Lecter himself is eventually incarcerated...

Lance Henriksen
Lance Henriksen

© Rex Features

Cult veteran Lance Henriksen

Laurence J. Fishburne III as Jack Crawford, Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal S01E07: Fromage

© NBC Universal / Brooke Palmer

Laurence Fishburne & Mads Mikkelsen in Hannibal



Another cult vet signed for a Hannibal guest stint is Lance Henriksen - the 72-year-old's past credits include such sci-fi and horror classics as Aliens and The Terminator, but it was his performance in 1987's offbeat vampire movie Near Dark that made the strongest impression on the mind of a young Bryan Fuller...

"I'd seen Near Dark dozens of times, so I wanted to work with Lance Henriksen," he explained. "He's Bishop in Aliens, he's Jesse in Near Dark - he has this fantastic genre CV that was all the staples of my adolescent obsessions!"

The details of Henriken's character on Hannibal are being kept tightly under wraps, but in closing, Fuller did provide the Week in Geek with a few hints as to what we can expect...

"He's fantastic and creepy!" the showrunner promised. "It's like if Jesse from Near Dark got older!"

Hannibal launches on Sky Living in the UK tonight (May 7) at 10pm.

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