Mads Mikkelsen: “Hannibal Lecter is as close as you can come to the devil”

"Other serial killers have reasons to do what they do... he is not like other serial killers," says the Danish star of Hannibal

Danish star Mads Mikkelsen, 49, is best known for playing Le Chiffre in the James Bond film, Casino Royale. He won a Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012 for his role in The Hunt, and currently stars as Dr Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal on Sky Living. 


Hannibal, the flesh-eating serial killer, has been played before, by Brian Cox in Manhunter, and Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of Lambs. How are you making the role your own?

Those two performances, and especially Anthony Hopkins’s, were iconic. He played Hannibal to perfection, and we are not trying to copy that. Luckily, we are starting in a different situation, where my Hannibal is not captured, but still free. He is a practising psychiatrist, and so he has to behave a little differently.

Your Hannibal still has a love for the finer things in life, though, doesn’t he?

Yes, he’s still a man in a three-piece suit who loves fine arts and fine cooking. Everything banal, he hates; everything refined, he loves.

How are you coping with the gruesome and gory aspects of what Dr Lecter devours?

I have never been afraid of eating strange things. Every time I travel to a foreign country, I try the local speciality. There are a lot of intestines going on in this show, but our food stylist hasn’t made a dish I’ve had to say I won’t eat — yet. There was one dish, though, called “head cheese”, which I realised later had nothing at all to do with cheese. It smelled for a different reason — I still tried it though. It was good!

Did you have to do much research into serial killers to prepare for the role?

I am a little ashamed to say I knew quite a lot about that before, because I find the subject so fascinating. I also have a tendency towards biographies of people like Stalin, Hitler, and Genghis Khan.

Your Hannibal co-star, Laurence Fishburne, said that you lend a new sexiness to the character — do you agree?

Well, there is a sexiness to the devil. And I think he is as close as you can come to the devil, in the sense that the devil has no reasons. Other serial killers have reasons to do what they do — their childhood, something their mother did. But he is not like that; he is not like other serial killers.

The second series of Hannibal will premiere on Sky Living this spring.