Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, ...
Credit: From Hell: Jurgen Vollmer

A period piece set in Victorian London is probably the last thing you’d expect from the Detroit-born twin brothers behind such gritty urban dramas as ”Menace II Society” and ”Dead Presidents.” ”People get all freaked out that we’re doing this,” says Allen Hughes. ”They think we’re making this Merchant Ivory-style movie.” Which, adds Albert, ”is exactly why we did it. There’s this conception out there that we only do a certain kind of film — a shoot-’em-up Negro type of movie — so we decided to go for something different.”

Actually, ”From Hell” (based on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s acclaimed graphic novel about the hunt for Jack the Ripper) turns out not to be such a departure from the Hughes brothers’ usual themes. ”It’s about street crime,” Albert notes, ”which is right up our alley” — even if it did mean they had to travel thousands of miles to film it. Not to England but to the outskirts of Prague, where it was cheaper for the $35 million production to build a replica of London (or at least a sizable section of the Whitechapel district) than to lug cameras to the real thing. ”It was an amazing site,” says Coltrane, recalling his first trip to the set to play Peter Godley, a Scotland Yard detective who assists the psychically gifted Inspector Abberline (played by Depp, who stepped into the role after Jude Law backed out) in his quest to uncover the Ripper’s identity. ”You’re driving through this forest in the Czech Republic and suddenly there’s London in the middle of nowhere. It was very disorienting.”

Despite all the grisly murders re-created with meticulous accuracy (”We’ve been interested in the Ripper since we saw a show about him on ”In Search of…” with Leonard Nimoy,” notes Albert), the three-and-a-half-month shoot turned out to be fairly painless. ”I thought Albert and Allen were going to be these tough street guys,” says Graham, who costars as Mary Kelly, an Irish prostitute on Jack’s to-do list. ”But they’re so sweet and friendly and innocent and childlike. They were really lighthearted about it all, even when they were showing you these fake mutilated bodies around the set.”

Filming in Europe was so agreeable, in fact, that the brothers are considering a move across the Atlantic. ”We’re getting a place in Amsterdam,” Albert announces. ”And not just because of the drugs and women.”

From Hell
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