The movie prequel of The Silence of the Lambs has been stalled, because author THOMAS HARRIS has missed the deadline for finishing his new novel. The reclusive writer was due to submit the manuscript for YOUNG HANNIBAL: BEHIND THE MASK - the fourth book in the HANNIBAL LECTER series - before Christmas 2005, but there is no sign of his work and the deadline has been pushed further back. The delay has had a knock-on effect in Hollywood, where movie bosses are keen to quickly commit the story to film - following the success of the four adaptations of Harris' series. A spokesperson for publisher Heinemann says, "We hope to get the book out in April now, but we haven't got hold of the manuscript yet. "However this often happens with Thomas Harris. We don't normally have much contact with him, but when the manuscript does arrive, we hope to get it printed and into the shops in about a week." The film has already been hit by the withdrawal of SIR Anthony Hopkins, who has starred as serial killer Lecter in Silence of The Lambs, HANNIBAL and Red Dragon, but refused to reprise his role in the prequel.