Richard Armitage’s Hannibal Experience: A Conversation in Three Acts – Act II

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Originally posted in All Film website as
Richard Armitage di Serial Hannibal: Perbincangan Tiga Babak – Babak II.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Hannibal S3.

Actor Richard Armitage speaks to All Film magazine about his character, Francis Dolarhyde, in Hannibal TV series. Continued from Act I.

Act II: Finding the Beauty Behind the Beast

This show is distinctively about Hannibal Lecter’s and Will Graham’s relationship with each other. Francis Dolarhyde is said to be trapped between Hannibal wanting to corrupt him further and Will wanting to kind of save his soul. How do you find this dynamic, and is this something that you feel is true to the original Thomas Harris story?

No… that’s the new element. That, in a way, suspends Dolarhyde appropriately in the existing Hannibal TV series universe. In the book, Dolarhyde is a very standalone character and Hannibal isn’t really… they never really meet, they don’t have very much to do with each other, and of course you can’t play that character in a series that’s called Hannibal [in which] Will Graham is such a featured character. So that is a construct that is designed to place Dolarhyde in a part of the story whereby he can engage with Hannibal Lecter and play against Will Graham.

And it becomes a very dangerous triangle, whereby Will Graham is trying to prevent the next murder happening, and in a way saves Francis Dolarhyde, and Hannibal is pushing him towards the edge. He wants him to become the dragon. He wants to see this kind of extraordinary experiment, this extraordinary becoming that Dolarhyde is attempting. So Hannibal cares less about his violent crime and more about what he’s going to become. And unfortunately the next target is Will Graham’s family, which is actually directly taken from the book. So it’s all informed by the book but that is actually a new construct.

The series have a very specific style of having the characters speak slowly and in layers of meanings. What were Francis Dolarhyde’s dialogues like?

Well, actually, you know, one of the great things about this was that there was very little that was invented outside of Thomas Harris’ novel. Most of the dialogue that I speak is lifted directly from the writing, so I knew what he sounded like and I knew what words he would say. And Harris gives us such great lines. Bryan has a real respect for the writer in this instance, so he takes everything from the novel, really. One of the most difficult things for me was that Harris has Dolarhyde avoiding certain words because of the difficulties that he has [with] speaking the ‘S’ sound as a cleft palate sufferer. So when those words would come into the script, I would have to sort of navigate them. But again it was as the character – he was tripping on those words as obstacles because you can’t avoid the ‘S’ sound all the time, you know?

How did you make this character your own? And what do you say to those who insist on drawing comparisons between you and the previous two actors?

Well, I… I didn’t really study anything that the other people had done. I took everything from the Thomas Harris material and from the script, really, and try to give it my own… to put my own ideas into it, my own ideas about abuse, about the cleft palate, I went in search of examples of children that speak like this and the physical manifestation of the character. It’s my body and it’s my mind creating the character. I don’t know yet whether… until the series has been shown, I would imagine it’s not possible to make the comparison because no one’s actually seen what has happened with that character yet. I mean, it’s interesting how we do jump to conclusions a little bit about character before we’ve actually seen them. So maybe that question will be more relevant… I don’t know if it’s going to be similar to the other characters because I haven’t seen them and I don’t know how it’s going to manifest itself. I haven’t seen the final edit and I haven’t seen the final cut, so it’s all a bit of a mystery to me as well.

Did you follow Hannibal before you joined the cast?

I really didn’t and it’s because I’m a little bit squeamish.

(He chuckles sheepishly a little, rather sheepishly, at this confession.)

I remember being terrified of The Silence Of The Lambs. But I didn’t really follow the television series, [although] I was really aware of it because of the mask thing in the artwork, which I found wonderful. Every season they would produce this extraordinary artwork and I remember it turning my head and thinking, “I really must watch that.” But then coming to it, I’m actually a little bit frightened to do that. When I was going to come into the show, obviously I sat down and watched back to back every episode. There were certain moments that I really had to turn my face away from. As an actor, you open your soul to experiences and I’m a very sensitive person by design – it’s the whole point of being an actor: you feel things, and certain things I just don’t want in my head. There are certain images that, once they play into your mind, I find very difficult to get rid of. I still have images from films that I’ve seen from the past that I wish I’d never looked at.

Now one of the things that come into my mind, that I wish I’d never looked at, is that scene – and I think it’s in the first series but I may be wrong – where all of those bodies are stitched together and one of the men is alive and he pulls himself away [in the opening scene in Hannibal episode 2.02: “Sakizuki”]… it’s like, it’s so horrific that even now as I think about it, my toes and my hands are clenching. I sort of wish I never had that in my head. But ironically at some point in my career I’m going to use that feeling again. I’m going to recall that memory because it’s useful to sort of think that the most horrific thing that makes you tremble is useful. But I prefer to choose how I program my mind…

Continued in Act III.

* Francis Dolarhyde’s story starts on Hannibal episode 8, “The Great Red Dragon”, on Sunday, 26 July 2015 and will last until the end of season 3. In Asia, Hannibal is on every Sunday, 9 PM (JKT/BKK) on AXN Asia.


I posted the English version of this unabridged interview with Richard Armitage for the sake of international readers who don’t read Indonesian. You may post this interview and its subsequent parts in your website, but it is necessary to credit me as “Amanda Aayusya/All Film Magazine” and link to All Film’s version (Act 1 in Indonesian | Act 2 in Indonesian | Act 3 in Indonesian) when you post the interview. Otherwise, you can simply link back here (Act 1 in English | Act 2 in English | Act 3 in English).

Apologies in advance; I do not want any translation into another language without permission. Please ask for permission first. Linking back is not enough in a translated article.

19 thoughts on “Richard Armitage’s Hannibal Experience: A Conversation in Three Acts – Act II

  1. Pingback: Becoming the “Red Dragon” – Tweets and Articles | Richard Armitage Blog

  2. Pingback: Here’s the second piece of the interview with Ma Vie en l’Air | Me + Richard Armitage

  3. That squeamishness – ahem, I think many viewers (especially among Armitage’s fans) can sympathize *very* much with that. I wonder how he reconciled that reservation with actually taking on the role. Compartmentalizing, I suppose – or as he said, making it a tool to go back to in future roles.
    Once again, very interesting questions, Amanda. Also, your decision to post the interview verbatim, including ellipses, works really well. There’s meaning in the parantheses, unfinished sentences, too.

    • Believe me, I get where he and his fans are coming from. Hannibal is NOT an easy show to watch. But that’s why he’s such a great actor, I think. A brave one, too, for accepting these roles (he’s played quite a lot of villains too). He’s definitely “the real deal”.

      And thank you for your feedback on the presentation of this interview. This means a lot to me as a writer. I decided to go for this verbatim version because I didn’t want it to be like any other article on him and Francis Dolarhyde in the show. He also gave great answers (Mads Mikkelsen didn’t get to be as eloquent during my interview session with him due to the uninteresting questions posed to him) so I really wanted to give him a chance to shine in his own words, without ‘interference’ from my part.

      • Brave for taking on a challenging role against one’s own convictions and preferences, yes. Open mind, open to new experiences. I applaud that. And now I am speaking as devil’s advocate (cos I do not believe this): Could unfortunately also be interpreted as opportunist by his critics.
        Once again, good call on your decision – I never thought about it but you are right, most of the other interviews seem to be “cleaned up” versions. Armitage is always a pleasure to listen to/read. He’s eloquent and articulate. It’s nice to see that appreciated by a member of the press. (PS – need to go and read your piece on Mikkelsen, if that is already published?)

        • I would argue with them, if there are any, or anyone who think he is opportunistic. I can think of another actor’s name (very famous, very popular with fans, also English, but I won’t say his name) whose choices appear to me to have become more opportunistic lately. Not saying that he can do no wrong, but truly in this one case of Francis Dolarhyde, the character has gotten the right actor this role demands and deserves.

          My Mads Mikkelsen articles are in Indonesian in All Film’s website. But after this Armitage interview series is concluded, I will post his interview in English as well. Once again, thanks for the feedback and I hope you’ll stay tuned for Mikkelsen’s interview.

  4. Pingback: Ballad of a Wayward Fannibal

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