While several actors have portrayed the iconic serial killer Hannibal Lecter, one of the most inarguably notable portrayals has been from actor Anthony Hopkins who first played the character in The Silence of the Lambs. He returned to play the role in the films Hannibal as well as Red Dragon, and won an Oscar for his initial appearance as the character. But as it turns out, another actor was nearly cast as Hannibal Lecter instead. In fact, as it turns out, actor John Lithgow nearly played Hannibal Lecter.
John Lithgow explained how he almost got the role of Hannibal Lecter in a new interview with Deadline.
“If Anthony Hopkins had turned it down they were coming straight for me,” Lithgow told Deadline. “I even went in to meet with (director) Jonathan Demme and he said ‘I have to tell you we’ve offered it this morning to Anthony Hopkins,’ and I said ‘Then what am I doing here?’ And I just crossed my fingers that he would turn it down, and he didn’t. On the other hand, I don’t think I could have done it as well as Anthony Hopkins….I would have been much taller, that’s the main difference.”
Apparently there were still a few other actors that made it into the running, like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Dustin Hoffman. But John Lithgow appears to have gotten the closest to getting the role besides Anthony Hopkins.
Of course, things probably worked out for the best, as Hopkins didn’t only win an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance. But he also received a BAFTA Film Award, a Saturn Award, and a Fangoria Chainsaw Award.
The role has most recently been played by actor Mads Mikkelsen, who portrayed the character of Hannibal Lecter on the NBC TV series titled Hannibal.