Young Hannibal is ready to tuck in

Gaspar Ulliel lands the plum role of junior Hannibal Lecter

Put the fava beans on the hob and uncork the chianti: there’s a new Lecter in town and he’s hungry… With shooting slated to kick off next week in Lithuania, Czech Republic and France, the pivotal role of the liver-munching cannibal has finally been filled.

Gaspard Ulliel joins director Peter Webber (Girl With A Pearl Earring) for Hannibal’s fifth movie outing, Behind The Mask. Gaspar who? we hear you cry. If you’ve seen him as anything, it’ll likely be as Audrey Tautou’s amnesiac boyfriend in A Very Long Engagement, with Young Hannibal marking the 20-year-old Frenchman’s first foray into English-language movies.

Tracing Lecter’s early years, up to his capture by FBI agent Will Graham, the prequel plot will focus on Hannibal and his sister’s childhood in Lithuania, their flight from the Nazis and a decade he spends living in France (where he no doubt develops his taste for liver and fine wines).

Weirdly, even though the film’s about to roll, Hannibal creator Thomas Harris hasn’t even finished the novel, also titled Behind The Mask. It’s not due to hit the shelves until 29 November. So will it cut the mustard? “Thomas Harris is the premier novelist of psychological suspense of our time,” says his Random House publisher Richard Cable. “In Dr Hannibal Lecter he created the literary figure to whom all other villains are compared.”