Bryan Fuller Breaks Down Homoerotic Charge of “Hannibal”

Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh DancyWhat kind of treatment is Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) giving to Will (Hugh Dancy)?

If there’s one thing that’s true in the television landscape, the worlds created by Bryan Fuller are never boring.

His early writing career includes writing credits on Star Trek: Voyager before he went on to create and produce his own quirky shows like Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me and, of course, Pushing Daisies. And, now, there’s Hannibal, which, looking at Fuller’s previous work, makes perfect sense with its intoxicating blend of crime, horror, humor, romance and, of course, sexuality.

Yes, as you know or can guess, Hannibal is a modern-day prequel telling the story of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who we know primarily from Anthony Hopkins’ Academy Award-wining portrayal in the film, The Silence Of The Lambs. In this TV version, which was developed from the Red Dragon novel by Thomas Harris, Lechter is younger, a much respected psychiatrist and is played brilliantly by Mads Mikkelsen. In keeping with the Lecter lore, he also happens to be a cannibal who often makes lavish meals out of his victims and delights in having unsuspecting guests dine with him.

The series also stars Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, a troubled former FBI agent who connected with Lecter in the show’s first season to help solve cases. The two men grew closer and closer on a psychological level– and have shared a healthy dose of homoerotic intimacy– but the relationship has become strained (to put it mildly) since Graham discovered the grisly truth about his friend and Lecter framed Graham for his crimes.

I had the pleasure of talking to Bryan Fuller about where we are at this point in the series, the homoerotic nature of the show and whether he and his creative team ever frighten themselves with some of the gruesome murders and human tableaus they dream up for the series.

TheBacklot: I’ve said to you before that I sometimes expect Hannibal and Will to just start kissing. The scenes are often so intimate. Can you talk about the homoeroticism between these two characters that are not gay?

Bryan Fuller: I’m not sure about Hannibal. I think Hannibal is a very broadly spectrumed human being/fallen angel, who probably is capable and interested in everything humanity has to offer. Whereas Will Graham is very definitely heterosexual, but that does not necessarily prevent us from a homoerotic subtext. It’s practically text in a couple of episodes just because we really want to explore the intimacy of these two men in an unexpected way without sexualizing them, but including a perception of sexuality that the cinema is actually portraying to the audience more than the characters are.

There’s a scene at dinner where we were tackling in the edit bay because it was so transparently homoerotic. They were doing something that was not sex or anywhere near sex, but it was shot so suggestively that they may as well have been. I think that’s the fun of this show, is that particularly at the end of episode eight, which is a very intimate moment between Will and Hannibal where Will crosses a line of sorts, with his own psyche. And Hannibal is there to welcome him on the other side with open arms. And it is, once again, not sexual in any way, shape or context, but the intimacy of the performances and the enthusiasm of Hannibal, and pride of Hannibal as he looks at Will, there is hard to deny an attraction between these men.

And, to be absolutely clear, it is not sexual, but it’s beyond sexual. It is pure intimacy in a non-physical way. But it is that intimacy between heterosexual men that I’m fascinated with because it does go beyond physical parameters to this very primal basic male bonding place. That, as a gay man, I am outside of, because it is unique. Because it is free of a sexuality and/or intimation of sexuality. Yet anyone in the audience who is attracted to either of the men will feel that energy.

fuller-hannibalAt January’s TCA panel: (l-r) Caroline Dhavernas, Laurence Fishburne,
Bryan Fuller, Dancy & Mikkelsen (Getty Images)

I wonder if as gay men, we want to encourage that intimacy in straight men in way. Kind of like, ‘well don’t you want to kiss him? How could you not want to kiss him or sleep with him or something?’

BF: [laughs] Well to me, I’ve never been one of those who is attracted to straight men. Like I always said, ‘you’re straight, so there’s no point’ and I have friends who are pursuers of the heterosexual men. They see it as conquests, which I think is a different thing and a more narcissistic thing. And not necessarily a healthy thing.

But I’ve never been one of those to kind of like, ‘I want somebody to do something against their nature to titillate me.’ That never holds any interest. And I always want people to be who they are and if they’re being not who they are I feel like it’s false and, therefore, less easy to connect to. I don’t need them to kiss or to display physical intimacy. I think that almost becomes too obvious. I love playing in the suggestive.

Jonathan Tucker, Mads MikkelsenHannibal gets a taste of his own medicine from Matthew Brown (Jonathan Tucker) (NBC)

When Will comes back to Hannibal as a patient in episode 2.7, Hannibal says, ‘our friendship is over.’ Is that true? What is their friendship after so much has happened?

BF: You know, I think the friendship isn’t over, it is evolving. And so, the friendship that they had, where Will was blinded by Hannibal’s influence and now sees him clearly is the distinction between the friendship that died and the new friendship that is emerging between them and the new intimacy that is emerging between them, because Will is opening up about himself in a way that is very much a seduction.

And also has to have elements of honesty and genuine searching for the true Will Graham after so much has happened to him to affect his identity. Does it affect how he sees himself? Is it just like how the world sees him? So, I think what is powerful and what is interesting, is that he almost needs Hannibal Lecter as his true north, because he needs to know where he has to travel based on that compass.


Next page… 3rd season plans and dreaming up those grisly murders.

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