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The role Hannibal's Bryan Fuller offered to David Bowie

"It's the freakiest show," indeed

Image credit: Warner Bros., NBC Universal

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As a massive David Bowie fan, I've always wanted to take a trip to the universe in which Bowie was cast as Elrond in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies. (Ee almost was, look it up!) But recently, I've learned that I needed to add another stop on my multiversal roadtrip - Bowie was also once up for a role in one of my favorite crime dramas: Hannibal. But who was he to play? Here's what I found.

According to an E! news report, Fuller reached out to Bowie in the summer of 2013. At the time, Hannibal's second season was in production, and while teasing what was to come, Fuller revealed what role he had in mind for one of the greatest musical artists of our time.

"We have reached out to David Bowie to see if he's interested and available," said Fuller. "We would love for him to play Hannibal's uncle, who is a character from the literature and in the books."

Waitaminute, asks the casual Hannibal fan, Hannibal Lecter had an uncle? The answer is of course yes, as the more involved Hannibal fan will tell you. Even though we never meet the elder Lecter in the course of the show, he was mentioned in the third season, when Will explored the cannibalistic killer's origins. To be fair to those that don't remember, his name is given as "Robertus," not the more common "Robert," as he is known in the books.

Robert Lecter first appears in the novel Hannibal Rising, a prequel story from which many elements of the show's third season derive. In it, Lecter's creator Thomas Harris reveals Robert acted as kind of father figure for Hannibal and his sister Mishka, and there are some fans that even speculate it was Robert who was responsible for Hannibal's eventual cannibalism.


Related: Hannibal's Mads Mikkelsen & Hugh Dancy want more for Hannibal and Will - here's what we know about season 4


As you and I both know, here in the far-flung future of 2024, David Bowie did not take the role of Robert Lecter. But that didn't stop Hannibal's showrunner from trying. In 2015, Fuller told Den of Geek that he was in communications with Bowie's people, but that a scheduling conflict prevented him from nabbing a role. "He’s got a new musical that he’s plotting," Fuller said, "he’s got new albums that he’s plotting, so he’s simply not available right now."

(The musical he's talking about is likely Lazarus, which debuted in New York in November of 2015, just three months before Bowie's death.)

Despite the sad fact that we'll never know what Bowie would have been like as Hannibal's father figure, rumor has it that there's still a role for Robertus Lecter in a possible Hannibal revival. Speaking with podcast The Dinner Party very shortly after the Hannibal finale aired, Fuller claimed that "There was so much in Season 4 that was going to include Robertus, and Lady Murasaki and Chiyoh was going to return."

(Lady Murasaki, as you'll no doubt remember, is Hannibal's aunt, and Chiyoh is a loyal Lecter family bodyguard.)

Still, even if we did get to eventually meet Robertus Lecter in the Hannibal universe, which itself is predicated on whether more Hannibal is made, it would be a bittersweet moment for fans like myself, fans who will always wonder what a once-in-a-lifetime artist like David Bowie could have meant to a once-in-a-lifetime show like Hannibal.

At least, until somebody makes me my multiverse machine.


Hannibal stars Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy just did a panel at C2E2 '24, and Popverse members can watch it right here. Not a member? You can either become one, or check out the Hannibal liveblog.

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