The top-secret ending of the upcoming Hannibal film will be a big surprise, even for those who have read the novel. For the hotly anticipated sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, director Ridley Scott says he's scrapped Harris' controversial conclusion.
While the book has serial-killer Hannibal Lecter drugging FBI agent Clarice Starling so he can finally consummate his feelings for her, the movie ends differently. But Scott isn't spilling the beans.
"I think it's a great book, but I told Tom [Harris], I just don't buy these two going off together, even with Clarice under the influence," Scott told The Post during a recent stop in Manhattan.
"He said, 'Fine, see what you come up with.' Tom was very happy with Steve Zaillian's screenplay, in which Hannibal and Clarice's affair of the heart is much more metaphorical."
Scott is dropping some tantalizing hints about the film, which has generated huge Internet buzz preceding its opening in February.
The Silence of the Lambs won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1991, and Jodie Foster won an Oscar for her portrayal of FBI-trainee Clarice Starling.
While hunting for another serial-killer, she's assigned to enlist the help of Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter (another Oscar-winning turn, by Anthony Hopkins), a psychiatrist jailed because of his taste for human flesh.
Fans are wondering whether the 10-years-older Clarice of Hannibal, now played by Julianne Moore, after Foster passed on the followup, will be seduced to the dark side by Hopkins' chianti-swilling Lecter.
We don't want to give too much away, but according to extensive reviews of Zaillian's script drafts posted on the Internet, much of the film apparently follows Harris' novel.
Clarice, now a veteran FBI agent, is in hot water with her superiors after a bloody shootout. She falls under more suspicion after receiving a letter from Hannibal, who's been working as an art curator in Italy under an assumed name after busting out of prison years earlier.
"His first connection with her is just a note saying, 'Chin up, old girl,'" Scott reveals.
"He wonders why she's still on the street, why there isn't anyone in her life. But of course, because he's been retired for years he's actually bored. And so he leaves a clue in the note . . . And she starts to gather information . . ."
What Hannibal apparently doesn't realize is that Clarice is being used as bait by Mason Verger, a pedophiliac meat-packing tycoon played by Gary Oldman.
Verger, who survived a horribly disfiguring attack by Hannibal, his former shrink, is an even bigger monster, and he wants revenge on the good doctor in the very worst way.
A rave review of a test-screening last month in San Diego suggests Hannibal is not for the weak of stomach.
The ending is "better left to be experienced on the big screen than in print," wrote a reviewer for Aintitcoolnews.com.
"But I'll give you these words to think about: 'wild boars,' 'alive guy with exposed brain' and 'guts.'"
Scott chuckles and insists the movie suggests a lot more than it actually shows.
"The ratings board gave me an R rating," says the highly respected director of Gladiator.
"It's all about the perception of violence, how you serve it up. We don't dwell on the effects."
MGM, which badly needs a smash after a hitless year, is pulling out all the stops to promote Hannibal.
Last week, journalists received a mass mailing of tape recorders containing a tape on which Hopkins can briefly be heard holding forth in Hannibal's metallic rasp.
"Are you back on the case?" Hannibal hisses in a message to Clarice. "If so, goody, goody . . . I need to come out of retirement and return to public life."
If the frantic pace of dishing on the Internet is any indication, the moviegoing public certainly ready for another helping of Hannibal the Cannibal. – The New York Post.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)