My heroes have always been villains, Episode III: The psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Today, for the third installment of “My heroes have always been villains,” I discuss one of my favorite modern, “realistic” villains:  Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  Dr. Lecter has been portrayed by at least three exceptional actors of whom I’m aware, the most noteworthy being Anthony Hopkins, who performed the character brilliantly in the movie “The Silence of the Lambs,” and also creditably in “Hannibal” and “Red Dragon.”  He was also played by the excellent Mads Mikkelsen in the TV series “Hannibal,” and (his first screen portrayal, to my knowledge) by the brilliant British actor Brian Cox (not to be confused with the rock star cum physicist, also brilliant in his own right).*

I am not, however, primarily interested in the portrayals of the good doctor on the large or small screen, though I have found them uniformly excellent.  Here I take my cue from Thomas Harris himself, the character’s creator.  He is reputed to have refused to see any of the movies based on his work, because he didn’t want his vision of his creation to be influenced by the interpretation of writers, directors, and actors who had visions of their own.  I deeply respect this attitude, and I think it’s warranted.  So, my discussions of Hannibal Lecter will focus, mainly or entirely, on his depiction in the books.  This is not a sacrifice; Thomas Harris is one of the finest authors I’ve encountered, and I consider Hannibal, specifically, to be among the greatest books I’ve ever read, on a par with The Godfather and The Lord of the Rings. Continue reading

My heroes have always been villains, Episode II: Sauron, lord of Mordor

It’s the second Thursday of the month and, as promised, this is the second installment of “My heroes have always been villains.”  Today, I discuss one of the greatest villains in modern fantasy literature:  Sauron of Mordor, the title character of The Lord of the Rings.

Peter Jackson’s amazing LotR movies (and the slightly less amazing The Hobbit movies) have brought Sauron to the attention of the population at large to a greater degree than ever before, but he was hardly a shrinking violet to begin with.  Millions upon millions of us met him in the books, after getting teased by him as the Necromancer in The Hobbit. Continue reading