Mikkelsen rising: Mega-stardom beckons with ‘Hannibal’ role

Country’s most famous actor set to become one of the biggest names around

Many predicted that Mads Mikkelsen would climb another rung on the Hollywood ladder following his acceptance of the best actor award at Cannes, but few would have guessed he would have jumped right to the top by landing the lead part in a TV series that could easily become the decade's biggest.

Mikkelsen learned this week that he has beaten off extremely tough competition to play Dr Hannibal Lecter in the upcoming NBC series ‘Hannibal’. It is one of the most coveted roles of 2013.

Following in the footsteps of other successful TV series in which the main character is a serial killer (‘The Sopranos’, ‘Dexter’), it features arguably the most popular cinematic antihero of the last 30 years.

During that time, the Lithuanian-born doctor has been one of the central characters in five films: ‘Manhunter’ (1986), ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991), ‘Hannibal’ (2001), ‘Red Dragon’ (2002) and ‘Hannibal Rising’ (2007). The most successful of these, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, became only the third film in history to win the four main Oscar awards (film, director, actor and actress). Anthony Hopkins won the best actor award for playing Lecter, despite only having 16 minutes on screen. And in 2003, Lecter was named the best villain of all time on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest screen characters.

The series will be filmed over the summer and is expected to debut in the US in November and run for 13 episodes. Should it be successful, it is likely to run for another six seasons. Hugh Dancy (‘The Big C’) has signed up to play FBI agent Will Graham, the main character in Thomas Harris’s book that introduced the character of Lecter, ‘Red Dragon’ (1981).

The series creator is Bryan Fuller (‘Heroes’, ‘Pushing Daisies’), and the executive producer list reads like a who’s who of US primetime television, including Sarah Colleton (‘Dexter’) and Jesse Alexander (‘Lost’). David Slade (‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse') will direct the pilot.

The casting caps a fantastic couple of months for an actor who until recently was Denmark’s most successful movie star, but a character actor in Hollywood at best – despite his outing as the main Bond villain in ‘Casino Royale’ (2006). Indeed, it was only last year that a journalist noticed he had recently appeared in no less than four films playing a man with a disfigured or missing eye.

But winning the Cannes prize for best actor for his role in Thomas Vinterberg’s ‘The Hunt’ clearly opened the world’s eyes to his talent, and his role in ‘Hannibal’ could see him leave the monocular moniker of One-eyed Mads well and truly behind him.