De Laurentiis plots Lecter’s future

Producer says further installments could follow

ROME — Legendary Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis says he sees yet more life in the Hannibal Lecter series as the fourth installment, “Hannibal Rising” — chronicling the cannibalistic killer’s first taste of murder — made its world premiere on Friday in the Eternal City.

“The future of ‘Hannibal’ is still strong. There are many aspects still to be told. Including, we see, for the first time with him, a love interest in Lady Murasaki,” the 87-year-old producer said on the sidelines of a press conference to introduce the blood-soaked thriller.

The Peter Webber helmed film, starring French thesp Gaspard Ulliel (“Paris, I Love You”) as Hannibal Lecter and Chinese thesp Li Gong (“Miami Vice”) as his love interest Lady Murasaki, explains the origins of Lecter’s taste for human flesh. So what triggers the cannibalistic menace? The young Lecter is present as German soldiers kill his younger sister Mischa, unleashing a vengeful rage in the young Lecter who vows to hunt down the soldiers and brutally murder each one.

The $75 million picture, co-produced by Dino and Martha De Laurentiis and Tunisian-born financier Tarak Ben Ammar, will hit screens on Feb. 7 in Paris, Feb. 8 in Australia and Feb. 9 in all other major markets except Japan, Germany and Spain.

As with the original three, “Hannibal Rising” is based on a Thomas Harris book. Harris again wrote the screenplay for this version.

Ben Ammar said the film, which was financed entirely in Europe by Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica, Zephyr Films, Etic Films and Cathago Films, represents a new model for him and European film production in general.

“Because this is totally financed in Europe, with no American money, we have had full control of the product — the pre-sales, distribution and marketing. This is important for Europe to produce a film like this with no involvement from the majors,” he said.

It will be distributed in Italy by Filmauro.

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