Harris will write a new Hannibal Lecter novel. ''Behind the Mask,'' about the flesh-eating doc's youth, is due in fall 2005, with movie to follow

By Gary Susman
Updated October 29, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Get out the fava beans and Chianti. Author Thomas Harris is serving up more Hannibal Lecter. Bantam Dell announced Thursday that Harris’ fourth Lecter novel, to be called Behind the Mask, will be on shelves in fall 2005. Naturally, a movie will follow, but don’t expect Anthony Hopkins to star. The book will be a prequel to Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal, focusing on the flesh-eating doctor’s youth in war-torn Europe. ”Millions of readers in 25 languages have wondered how Dr. Lecter developed his particular appetite for evil,” the publisher said in a statement. ”This novel will satisfy their curiosity.”

The film rights already belong to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who’s made three Lecter films and who hopes to bring the latest to the screen in 2006. De Laurentiis announced in May 2003 that he would adapt Harris’ forthcoming prequel, then titled The Lecter Variation. Variety reports that De Laurentiis is already trying to cast the movie, hoping to find European youths to play the Lithuanian-born Lecter at ages 5, 14, and 20.

This would seem to be about as far as Harris and De Laurentiis can go with the Lecter saga, but if Behind the Mask is a success, maybe we’ll get Lecter: The Medical School Years, or the WB version (à la Smallville or Jack and Bobby), with the future sociopath as a sensitive, misunderstood young hottie.