How Dino De Laurentiis Brought ‘Hannibal’ And His ‘Manhunter’ To North Carolina
Fans of the evil genius Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter are eating up NBC’s new series Hannibal, but the horror icon’s first big screen appearance came in a stylish ’80s thriller that inspired the show, while his biggest would come almost 15 years later in the series’ namesake, and both were filmed partly in North Carolina thanks to legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis.
Released in theaters on August 15, 1986, not many suspected that director Michael Mann’s Manhunter would spawn one of the most infamous icons in movie history, as the film was released to very little fanfare and sparse publicity. At the time, Mann was not yet the renowned film auteur he is today, but the visionary mastermind behind the ultra stylish NBC cop series Miami Vice.
Based on the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, Manhunter is in many ways the film that set the tone for Mann’s career to follow, as it can clearly be seen as the bridge from Vice to the Mann we recognize now.
Produced by North Carolina based hit maker Dino De Laurentiis, the production filmed in Wilmington for a week in September of 1985.
The hospital seen in the film is actually Wilmington’s New Hanover Memorial Hospital, now expanded to become part of the New Hanover Regional Medical Center, and FBI agent Will Graham’s (William Petersen) “Florida” beach house is located on nearby Mansonboro Island, North Carolina.
After shooting in Chicago, Atlanta, Washington D.C., St. Louis, and Florida, the production was completed at the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG) Film Studios soundstages and various area locations, including a house that was built especially for the production on the Cape Fear River.
The closing credits of Manhunter give special thanks to the New Hanover Memorial Hospital, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) Department of Biological Science, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, and the Masonboro Island Sea Turtle Assessment Project.
You can watch the original theatrical trailer for Manhunter in the player below!
Formed in 1976, it was the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group that helped turn Wilmington into the “Hollywood of the East” that it is today, producing dozens of locally filmed movies in the area, including King Kong Lives, Firestarter, Maximum Overdrive, and Evil Dead II.
Mann stated later that he never wanted to change the title of the movie from Red Dragon to Manhunter, but De Laurentiis insisted after his film The Year of the Dragon (also filmed in North Carolina) bombed at the box office earlier that year.
After passing on the movie adaptation of Harris’s Red Dragon sequel, Silence of the Lambs, Dino De Laurentiis brought the franchise back to North Carolina when it came time to adapt the third novel in the series, as the now prolific producer came on board for Hannibal’s third and biggest adventure on screen.
Hannibal was filmed in part in Asheville, North Carolina in 2000, starring Anthony Hopkins in his second turn as Lecter and Fayetteville, NC native Julianne Moore taking over for Jodie Foster as FBI agent Clarice Starling.
The historic Biltmore House on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville served as the home of vengeful former Lecter victim Mason Verger, played terrifyingly by the great Gary Oldman.
It is here that one of Lecter’s most gruesome cinematic scenes was filmed with Hopkins, Moore, and Oldman.
You can view the official trailer for Hannibal using the player below!
De Laurentiis would go on to produce two more films in franchise, including a remake of Manhunter this time starring Hopkins as Lecter and called Red Dragon (2002), and the adaptation of Harris’s prequel Hannibal Rising (2007).
Dino’s wife and partner, Martha De Laurentiis remains a credited executive producer on the new NBC series Hannibal, which is based on Red Dragon, the same Thomas Harris novel that Manhunter is based on.
Like so many other cinematic terrors, from Carrie to Pinhead, North Carolina is also deep in Hannibal Lecter’s bloodline, but perhaps none more so than the mastermind of NC film, Dino De Laurentiis.
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