Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, May 25, 2024

Weekender Interview | Gaspard Ulliel

Gaspard Ulliel may be a new face in Hollywood, but he is no stranger to the industry. After acting in numerous French films, Ulliel, 22, is now tackling one of cinema's most infamous villains: Hannibal Lecter in "Hannibal Rising."

Opening in theaters this Friday, Feb. 9, the film finally reveals the mysterious past of the iconic serial killer, exposing the story behind the madness. In a college conference call, Ulliel discussed his preparation for the role as well as the trials and tribulations that come with portraying such an infamous character.

Question: Where did you find the humanity in the monster that is Hannibal Lecter?

Gaspard Ulliel: I had a nice script where we can see that it's just a regular young kid, and he is more human than in the other films. In some scenes I just tried to add a more personal touch and make the character closer to me. The whole film is built as a crescendo, as he is slowly drifting away and losing his humanity.

In the first part I had to stay more normal. As an actor, the second part was more difficult, where the character is closer to the older Hannibal Lecter and is more insane.

Q: What sort of process did you put yourself through to prepare for this role?

GU: I watched all three films again and read the Tom Harris novels. I found some important information in the novels about the character. I also read some ... interviews with real serial killers and they talked about their earlier lives and how they started to kill. [Director Peter] Webber and I went through the script trading ideas and talking about things in the film. He arranged a meeting with me and a moving coach who discussed how the character would breathe and move, which was very interesting. He [Webber] also sent me to hospital in Prague to watch an autopsy class. I don't know how helpful it was, but this is what the character is seeing everyday as he is in medical school.

Q: This is only your second English-language film. What was it like making that transition from French films to English [films]?

GU: It's not very easy. I was very anxious in the beginning. Working in another language requires lots of preparation. I only had one month of coaching for the accent. On the set, you have to go through this process to try and take some distance from the lessons so the lines come out natural. You have to take some distance from the music in your head about the accents and pronunciation .... for U.S. or British films there are some precise intonations to express emotions that are much different from French. I studied English in a bilingual school so I can speak English quite well, and can understand everything, but [I] still had to do a lot of work on my accent for this film.

Q: When Thomas Harris was writing the book and screenplay he got criticism about Lecter's character remaining a mystery. How do you feel about that?

GU: Some are complaining that they are doing a prequel. They say it is like killing the audience's imagination. But Thomas Harris is the creator of this character so he can do whatever he wants. He is like Hannibal Lecter's father. I was intrigued when I got the script about how Lecter became who he was.

Q: On IMDb it says that your dream has been to direct a movie. Can you tell us a little more about what type of film you might want to direct?

GU: Yes, this is true; I started acting [when I was] around 12 years old, and this was completely by chance. A friend of a friend of my mother was opening an agency and she asked me if I wanted to try some acting. After that, I did some small roles on television. I had a very slow and regular progression. I developed a real passion for cinema, not really for acting but more for cinema in general.

The first idea that attracted me was writing and directing my own film. The idea of being able to express myself through my own project fascinated me. Today I am taking more and more pleasure working in acting, but I still have this idea of one day doing my own film, but it's a really tough job. And as I get older, I realize that it's such a long process, and I don't feel really ready for this yet.