No Room for Hopkins in New 'Hannibal'?

05/14/2003 at 01:00 PM EDT

It seems Anthony Hopkins may have outgrown Hannibal Lecter.

A new movie, "The Lecter Variation: The Story of Young Hannibal Lecter," is now being fashioned by the character's creator, novelist Thomas Harris, in which audiences will witness the cannibal develop from childhood, series producer Dino de Laurentiis has announced.

While at the Cannes Film Festival, the legendary de Laurentiis, 83, told British trade paper Screen International that four actors will be required to portray the galloping gourmet at the ages of 12, 16, 20 and 25.

Settings will reportedly include Lecter's childhood in Lithuania, his teenage years in Paris and, eventually, his arrival in America.

"Lecter was born into a very rich family, but the war destroyed it and killed his parents," de Laurentiis tells the paper.

"He was left with his sister with whom he had a very close relationship," the cigar-smoking producer added, providing a hint as to what could be a possible (ahem) main ingredient to the plot.

Of course, the childhood timeline would presumably mean Hopkins won't be the lead in this latest installment. The 65-year-old actor already had to attempt some reverse-aging for last year's prequel, "Red Dragon."

"I had a trainer and worked out," he told PEOPLE last year. "I almost didn't make the movie. I went out on a bike, smashed my knee and had a mild limp when I started filming."

But despite the tough prep work, Hopkins wasn't ready to rule out playing the character again.

"I don't know," he joked. "Do you think I could get away with 'Hannibal: The College Years?'"

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