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Feature: Red Dragon

He's Back -- s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter Million-dollar screenwriter Ted Tally on why nothing was going to stop him from working on the new Hannibal Lecter movie…

"“I really feel that Red Dragon would be a fitting end to the series... it feels like a sequel, a continuation."

Hannibal Lecter is having some friends for dinner, the board members of the Baltimore Philharmonic, whose last performance, particularly that of one of the flautists, offended Lecter so deeply that he’s serving the board members up a very special dinner – that same, sorry flautist.

This is the first scene in Ted Tally’s script for Red Dragon, an adaptation of Thomas Harris’s 1981 novel, which itself was adapted by director Michael Mann in 1986 as Manhunter. Times have changed. Hannibal Lecter is now a cultural icon, and if there’s one man who is an expert on the Hannibal Lecter legend, it’s Tally, whose screenplay for The Silence of the Lambs earned him an Academy Award in 1991.

Red Dragon marks Tally’s return to the series after a decade-long absence. For Tally, the reasons why he’s returning for Red Dragon are the same as why he passed on Hannibal – artistic vision. “It was a tough decision from a financial standpoint, but Jonathan Demme and I basically felt that we wouldn’t be able to outdo ourselves,” says Tally.

“We didn’t want to end up in sequel hell so we thought that someone else should take a fresh approach to it. Red Dragon is a different story for me because this is a book that I’ve always loved. My love for Red Dragon led to the Silence of the Lambs assignment. The tough part is that you already have a film that was made out of the book in Manhunter which everyone thinks is one of the greatest thrillers of its era. I liked Manhunter but I felt that Red Dragon could be better, because there was a lot of stuff from the novel left out of Manhunter that we could use. More importantly, Thomas Harris felt like a better film could be made, a more faithful version. It also seems quite fitting to have Anthony Hopkins complete the trilogy. I look at Red Dragon as the end of a trilogy.”

For Tally, a chance meeting with Red Dragon’s ultra-reclusive author Thomas Harris was a life-changing experience. “I had just finished White Palace which was my first feature credit when I became aware of the manuscript for The Silence of the Lambs,” recalls Tally. “I knew Thomas Harris a little bit… and he let me have a look at Silence. I thought it was the kind of book that came along once in a decade. I was blown away. Gene Hackman controlled the film rights and he hired me. He was thinking of maybe playing Lecter or Jack Crawford. He dropped out and then Jonathan Demme took over. The whole process was depressing and ruthless. I didn’t even know him, but after a meeting he smiled and assured me that I was going to be the only writer who would work on Silence of the Lambs. Shooting began a few months later.”

by David Grove

Find out the full story, and read an interview with the first Hannibal Lecter, Brian Cox, in:
Shivers #99

© Orion Pictures Corporation
Feature © Visual Imagination 2002. Not for reproduction

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Shivers #99
October 2002
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