The first shot of Florence after the movie starts is the same scene as depicted in the drawing on Hannibal's cell wall Hannibal describes to Clarice in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - the Duomo, as seen from the Belvedere, in Florence, Italy.
The part of Mason Verger was originally offered to Christopher Reeve based on his work as a wheelchair-bound police officer in Above Suspicion (1995). Not having read the novel, Reeve showed initial interest in the role, but ultimately declined upon realizing that Verger was a quadriplegic, facially-disfigured child rapist.
According to Zeljko Ivanek, he accepted his role because he wanted to work with Ray Liotta. Ivanek introduced himself to Liotta but Liotta reminded him that they worked together before on The Rat Pack (1998). Ivanek was embarrassed that he had not remembered that.
Ridley Scott had some uncertainty with the source material. In particular, he had difficulties with the ending of the novel, in which Lecter and Starling become lovers: "I couldn't take that quantum leap emotionally on behalf of Starling. Certainly, on behalf of Hannibal-I'm sure that's been in the back of his mind for a number of years. But for Starling, no. I think one of the attractions about Starling to Hannibal is what a straight arrow she is." He also "didn't buy the book from the opera scene onwards, which became like a vampire movie." He asked Thomas Harris if he was "married to his ending". Harris said he was not, so Scott changed it.
There are several Gucci products featured and promoted throughout the movie. This is due to the friendship between Julianne Moore and the designer Tom Ford, who was the creative director of Gucci at the time the movie was being filmed.
Originally, a teaser poster released in the UK had a picture of Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) with a "skin mask" covering the right side of his face, ala the infamous escape scene in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). The poster was quickly pulled from advertisement, as it was seen as being "too shocking and disturbing" for the public.
The outdoor opera, Dante's "La Vita Nuova," which Dr. Lecter and Mr. Pazzi see in Florence, was especially composed for the movie. Composer Patrick Cassidy did not stop at the three minute part as performed in the movie, but composed an entire aria, "Vide Cor Meum."
According to an interview with producer Martha De Laurentiis in The Guardian, Gary Oldman demanded to share star billing alongside Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore. When the producers denied him this, he threatened to quit the film but later angrily demanded to have no billing at all. During pre-production, producer Dino De Laurentiis announced Oldman's involvement at a press conference "just so we couldn't deny that he was in the movie". In the original theatrical release, Oldman is uncredited but in the VHS and DVD releases his name was added to the closing credits. However, in an interview with IGN Filmforce, Oldman told a different story stating: "[W]e thought that as I'm unofficially the man of many faces, you know, of Lee Harvey Oswald, Dracula (1992), and Sid Vicious, and Ludwig van Beethoven, we thought that I would be... I'm playing the man with no face. So we just had a bit of fun with it. We thought it would be great. The man with no face and no name, and sort of do it anonymously. It's no secret that I'm in the film. We just had fun with it, really."
When Gnocco (Enrico Lo Verso) is waiting for Hannibal Lecter in order to try and pick his wallet and get his fingerprints, he's standing next to a newsstand. In the background you can see a billboard for a local movie theater advertising the film Gladiator (2000), director Ridley Scott's previous film.
After years of being actively involved in getting this sequel made during no less than 15 drafts of the screenplay, Jodie Foster, ultimately declined to participate in the sequel. She issued a statement at the time (clearly to no benefit of the film) saying "I had been offered more money than ever in my entire career to make this film. But who cares if it betrays Clarice, who has become like a person to me, in the end." Ironically, Foster had to fight tooth and nail for years to land the role of Clarice in the original.
According to the film's cinematographer John Mathieson, three separate endings were filmed. The filmmakers, unsure as to whether the ending of Thomas Harris' novel would work for the movie, filmed three versions: one for Harris, one for producer Dino De Laurentiis, and one for director Ridley Scott.
Some of the places where the movie was filmed include places where filming hardly ever is allowed. Author Thomas Harris, while doing research for his book, got in contact with the heir of the Palazzo Capponi. For the movie this same heir allowed Ridley Scott to film the Capponi Library.
The 500lb man-eating hogs featured in Hannibal were selected by Ridley Scott from an audition of over 6,000 other hogs. They were purchased from a farmer, Chaloem Pasak, who lives north of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Hannibal asks Pazzi about being demoted from the Il Mostro case. Il Mostro was a serial killer about whom Hannibal gives clues to Pazzi. This was a subplot that was filmed but never used as it was thought to be too complicated.
Dr. Lecter's Florentine alias, Dr. Fell, is taken from a rhyming epigram by 17th century English satirist Thomas Brown: "I do not love thee, Dr. Fell; The reason why I cannot tell. But this alone I know full well: I do not love thee, Dr. Fell." The alias is also a reference to the "Silence of the Lambs" book where Jame Gumb, a.k.a. Buffalo Bill, lived on Fell Street. Dr. Fell could also be a reference to the 1979 play "I Do Not Like Thee, Dr. Fell" by Irish playwright Bernard Farrell which parodies American psychobabble. Or it could refer to the earlier movie Room to Let (1950) where a new tenant in 1904 London named Dr. Fell is suspected by his neighbors of being the infamous Jack The Ripper.
Dino De Laurentiis visited Ridley Scott on the set of Gladiator (2000) to offer him the job of directing the film. Scott misunderstood which Hannibal he meant, thinking De Laurentiis was speaking of the general and historical figure from Carthage who nearly brought down the Roman Empire back around 200 B.C., so he replied: "Basically, Dino, I'm doing a Roman epic right now. I don't wanna do elephants coming over the Alps next, old boy."
Around 9 minutes in the movie, during the market scene, a sign can be seen atop a market stand, shortly, that later reappears for a longer period; It is the name of a fish-stand; Chesapeake Seafoods. Dr. Lecter was known as the "Chesepeake Ripper."
Hannibal Lecter's self-sourced Dean & Deluca lunch box on the aircraft at the end of the movie contains, apart from delicately-fried brains, Beluga Caviar, figs, and a bottle of 1996 Grande Vin de Chateau Phelan Segur St Estephe.
The Italian servant in the Sardinia scene is actually the onsite painter with work clothes on, not a costume. The painter was working on adding cement to the fountain in the courtyard and had the half sheet on to keep cement off her clothes. When Director Ridley Scott came through to do the phone call scene, they added her as the servant because she looked authentic. Lines were given, but due to the painter's southern accent, the decision was made to have no dialogue from her. Most of the crew ended up being used throughout the film. For example, the tattooed fish market girl is also the set dresser.
Margot Verger (Mason's sister), Ardelia Mapp, and Dr. Doemling were all major characters removed from the film adaptation of Hannibal but some of Domeling's and Margot's dialogue ended up in the film spoken by Cordell and Mason.
In the opening montage the outline of Michelangelo's David (a statue) can be seen when Anthony Hopkins's name appears, right after the title card. The statue then recurred throughout the movie. It is famous for being a depiction of David before his battle with Goliath rather than after the hero's victory as depicted by other artists.
Eating any amount of human brain, no matter how well cooked, can cause Prion disease which is incurable with a high mortality rate. This may explain why you never actually see Hannibal eating any of Krendler's brain.
In the scene featuring the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" fugitives, the man to the right of Osama Bin Laden is James "Whitey" Bulger, Jr. - whose own criminal career was portrayed by Johnny Depp in Black Mass (2015).
In the library, Lecter knocks Pazzi out in a few seconds with a rag soaked in (presumably) chloroform. In reality, a person would have to inhale the drug for several minutes before losing consciousness.
The film was first rated "Not under 16" in Germany. But after some test-screenings, many youth organizations and parents criticized the rating and called for a re-rating. After this re-rating by the FSK (the MPAA in Germany), it now is rated "Not under 18". Similarly, in Australia the film originally received an MA15+ classification but it was changed a week after released to R18+ due to protests, since then though the DVD and Blu-ray releases have retained the MA15+ rating.
In the scene in the Italian police station, when Clarice is on the phone to Agent Benetti, the football match on TV behind Benetti is the 2000 English FA Cup final, Chelsea vs. Aston Villa. Aston Villa striker Julian Joachim is seen in the close-up. Chelsea won 1-0.
On the Director's Commentary track at around 52 minutes, director Ridley Scott talks about the character Hannibal probably using marijuana or opium. Ridley says "needless to say, I don't do either of those, er..., they're too much for me".
The phone number, for the $3,000,000 Hannibal Lecter reward, on the FBI web site is listed as 1-212-555-0118. Once Pazzi calls this number, he is referred to a lawyer in Geneva, whose number is 004123317. Either the first or last digit is not heard.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the novel's ending, Clarice joins Hannibal in dining on Paul Krendler's brain, and accepts his desire for them to become lovers. The novel also reveals that Hannibal's cannibalism stems from his childhood trauma of seeing his sister murdered and eaten by starving Nazis. Ridley Scott admitted that he didn't like the psychological explanation of Hannibal's actions and rejected it from the script.
The idea of eating a living person's brain as punishment is a reference to Dante's Inferno where Count Ugolino does this to Archbishop Ruggieri in hell. This makes sense because Lecter/Fell is depicted as Dante Alighieri expert in this movie.
In the book, Mason Verger died when his sister shoved a moray eel down his throat. As this ending was considered radically violent, the character of Verger's sister was written out of the final screenplay, and Verger's death altered to take place in the wild boar scene. The moray eel, however, does make a brief appearance in a scene between Verger and Clarice.
Anthony Hopkins was asked in an interview on the subject of whether or not he believed the idea of Starling and Lecter heading off into the sunset as lovers (as happens in the book). "Yes, I did. Other people found that preposterous. I suppose there's a moral issue there. I think it would have been a very interesting thing though. I think it would have been very interesting had she gone off, because I suspected that there was that romance, attachment there, that obsession with her. I guessed that a long time ago, at the last phone call to Clarice, at the end of SotL, she said, 'Dr. Lecter, Dr. Lecter...'."
Australia received an MA15+ rating, but the film was edited within first week of cinema release (2 small but distinct cuts were made - One small edit and removal of frames during the shoot out at the Seafood market to reduce overall impact of violence, the other was the removal of sequence of frames showing the clear dissecting of the brain of Ray Liotta.) The film was re-classified to R18+. Australian VHS, DVD and Bluray release had the R18+ rating reclassified to MA15+, but the edited cuts were not reinserted into the film. Till this day, all MA15+ versions of the film are still cut.