If you've never seen Dino De Laurentiis in person, you're really missing something. The legendary 87-year old producer commanded the stage at this week's junket for Hannibal Rising, arriving at the table with his younger, blonde wife beside him, and eventually getting as many questions from the press as the stars of the film. When he told the assembled journalists that this film was his idea, and that he called author Thomas Harris and wore him down until Harris agreed to write it, it seemed entirely believable. This is the fourth Hannibal Lecter adventure, and instead of being sheepish about that, De Laurentiis went on at length about how this is only the beginning. He views the Lecter franchise as one that can be as durable as James Bond, with new actors taking over as it goes on from year to year. Whether that happens, of course, will depend entirely on how Hannibal Rising does at the box office.
Also on hand for the press day were director Peter Webber, of Girl With the Pearl Earring, and the film's stars, French newcomer Gaspar Ulliel, who plays the young Hannibal Lecter, and Chinese star Gong Li, who listened to and answered questions entirely through a Chinese-English translator who sat beside her. Here's a sampling of what went on during the brief press conference:
Dino De Laurentiis
Cinematical: Dino, did this project begin with Anthony Hopkins saying no to doing a fourth Hannibal film? "Not at all. I can tell you the story. When I did the promotion all around the world for Hannibal and Red Dragon, everybody asked me 'Dino, we need to know when and where Hannibal Lecter started.' I don't give it much attention. But then I receive so much mail in a few years, with the same question, and I come to the conclusion that the audience wants to see the beginning of life for Hannibal Lecter. Anthony Hopkins, seventeen years old? We need a boy, nineteen years old. Ha! Now, I start to say 'maybe this is an idea, to create a new franchise, with a new story, and tell the audience how Hannibal Lecter started. It was not so easy a problem. My first call to Tom Harris, he said 'Dino, really, I don't know...' To make the story short, little by little, I convinced Tom Harris to create a new story. He says 'okay, Dino, I can put down a twenty page outline. If you like it and we are in sync, then I do a book and a script.' He sends me the twenty page outline and it was fantastic. I said 'Tom, let's proceed.' Then he started to do the book and the script -- sometimes he had to stop the book and go to the script, because of priorities and vice-versa -- this is the way the picture started.