How Anthony Hopkins will play a young Hannibal. goes behind the scenes of the fall prequel ''Red Dragon''
Anthony Hopkins
Credit: Anthony Hopkins: Vince Bucci/Getty Images

The fearsome Dr. Hannibal Lecter isn’t the type to spring for a ”day of beauty.” But Anthony Hopkins was happy to primp while preparing to play the flesh-chomping psychiatrist for the third time in the upcoming prequel ”Red Dragon.” ”He’s been on a very strict regimen of physical training and diet to trim and to rejuvenate,” says ”Dragon” co-producer Martha De Laurentiis. ”He’s been doing facials.”

It’s not that the 64-year-old Hopkins has developed a sudden urge to become a teen heartthrob. He’s just trying to portray a Hannibal Lecter who’s 10 years younger than he appeared in ”The Silence of the Lambs,” which Hopkins filmed back in 1991. ”Red Dragon,” helmed by Brett Ratner (”Rush Hour,” ”The Family Man”) is based on the 1981 Thomas Harris novel of the same name, which introduced the Lecter character and Will Graham, the FBI investigator who caught Lecter. (Edward Norton will play Graham in the movie.) As in Harris’ 1987 follow-up, ”The Silence of the Lambs,” the FBI tries to get an imprisoned Lecter’s help in finding another serial killer. In ”Silence” it was Buffalo Bill; here, it’s a freaky dude named Francis Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes) who calls himself the Red Dragon, after a piece of art by William Blake. (Harris’ killers tend to be surprisingly cultured.)

It gets more complicated. ”Red Dragon,” which began production in January and is due in theaters Oct. 4, is not the first movie to be based on the novel. That honor goes to 1986’s ”Manhunter,” which was directed by Michael Mann (”The Insider”) and featured Brian Cox as the inexplicably misspelled ”Dr. Hannibal Lecktor” and William L. Peterson as Will Graham. ”I wasn’t disappointed [with ‘Manhunter’], because the picture was very good” says Dino De Laurentiis, producer of ”Manhunter,” last year’s ”Hannibal,” and ”Red Dragon.” He adds, with his famous Italian delivery, ”But box office — no work. No work because, number one, Hannibal Lecter no come out the way he’s supposed to be. And number two, the casting for the FBI agent was not the best choice.” (A publicist for Michael Mann didn’t respond to a request for comment.)

The stylish ”Manhunter” — which changed the book’s ending, reduced Lecter’s role, and left out the origins of Francis Dolarhyde’s madness — has its fans (EW gave its DVD release a B+). But the makers of ”Red Dragon” aren’t treating their movie as a remake. Instead, they say, they’re going back to the source. ”We’re staying true to the book, not only in the storytelling but in the tone,” says Ratner. ”Every choice, from the casting to the locations to the set pieces, is more along the lines of the book. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with ‘Manhunter’ — it was just an artistic choice for Michael Mann, and it happens that our interpretation is exactly what the book is.”

Red Dragon
  • Movie
  • 126 minutes