Deadline are reporting that Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter novels are heading to the small screen once again. Unfortunately for fans of Bryan Fuller's Hannibal, though, they won't be coming as a part of Hannibal Season 4, a long demanded continuation of the NBC series that starred Mads Mikkelsen as the titular serial killer.
This new show, called Clarice, is being optioned by Star Trek: Into Darkness' Alex Kurtzman along with Jenny Lumet and will take place after the events of Silence of the Lambs, where Agent Starling is pitted against "serial murderers and sexual predators while navigating the high stakes political world of Washington, D.C." The change in network is down to the fact that the MGM-owned CBS has the rights to the Silence of the Lambs film and novel, whereas NBC only has access to Red Dragon and Hannibal, among other elements of Harris' work.
Hannibal fans (or Fannibals, which this author counts unashamedly counts himself one of) have been left repeatedly disappointed in their efforts to revive the series since it was cancelled in 2015, and news of CBS proceeding with a pilot for a Silence of the Lambs spin-off won't be encouraging. Fuller has spoken previously how he and Martha De Laurentiis tried to negotiate a deal with MGM to include Agent Starling in a proposed fourth season, but those discussions never led to anything, which is doubly frustrating given the showrunner's pitch to feature the character on Hannibal was, unsurprisingly, really clever.
Fans will no doubt be aware that Fuller had optioned Ellen Page as an ideal candidate to play the character in a modern setting, but his other pitch sounded much more compelling, in that it would reimagine Clarice as a black woman and how her lived experiences, presumably, would influence her time in the FBI.
"There’s a couple of ways to go [when casting Clarice Starling]. There’s the Ellen Page way, which I think would be fantastic and more kind of in line with the Clarice that we all know. But I know I would also like to explore who Clarice would be from a different racial background. There’s something about being poor and white in the South but there’s something else about being poor and black in the South, and I think it could be the necessary gateway into the character, to make Clarice as much our own signature character as we tried to make Will Graham.”
In a way, it's a natural evolution for the character. Jonathan Demme's film showed Jodie Foster's Starling coming into a male-dominated environment, and that dynamic would change again if, like Fuller pitched, you made Clarice a working class black woman from the South.
For those inevitably dismayed by CBS' continuation of Silence of the Lambs however, fret not. Though Fuller had pitched a fourth season of Hannibal with Clarice in mind, NBC never had the rights to the character, and so this new series will have no bearing on whether or not Hannibal Season 4 ever gets the green light - as he mentioned on Twitter yesterday.
Just got to keep ringing that dinner bell, I guess.