Coming Soon: Hannibal Prequel

Moviegoers love Anthony Hopkins' Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and Hollywood loves a good film franchise. And every so often in this harsh and unforgiving world, everyone gets more of what they love.

A continuation of Lecter's saga was all but guaranteed when the Ridley Scott-directed Hannibal blew the doors off the box office with a record-setting $58 million opening weekend earlier this year. But Scott won't be behind the camera when the next installment films, and it won't feature Clarice Starling, the character played by Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs and by Julianne Moore in Hannibal.

Rather, the new movie will be adapted from the Thomas Harris Silence prequel Red Dragon, in which Lecter is a secondary character — something that will doubtless be changed before the cameras roll — and Clarice does not appear at all. According to a report in Variety, Universal will take the helm of the franchise from MGM, and company man Brett Ratner, who directed the studio's holiday hit The Family Man, is in talks to call the shots.

Ratner, who made his debut with the Chris Tucker film Money Talks and has also directed both Rush Hour movies, will reportedly receive around $4 million if he takes the gig. Hopkins, who is also negotiating to join the project, would doubtless be paid substantially more to reprise his starring role.

Ted Tally, who won an Oscar for scripting The Silence of the Lambs but passed on Hannibal after Jonathan Demme declined to direct it, will pen the screenplay for the new film. Red Dragon has been adapted once before, in 1986, by director Michael Mann. That film, Manhunter, starred William L. Petersen and featured an appearance by Scottish-born actor Brian Cox as Hannibal.

The switch from MGM to Universal will not affect the participation of producer Dino De Laurentiis, who worked on Manhunter, as well as on Silence and Hannibal.