About The Production
Dressed in parkas. gloves and hats, the FROM HELL crew prepares for another night's work in the rain and cold. Temperatures will dip into the 30s.
It is mid-July.
"Unbelievably, ridiculously cold weather for summer," comments executive producer Tom Hammel. "Everyone says this is unheard of here. If it had been this cold in
London, Jack the Ripper would have stayed home."
Ironically, a mere ten days earlier, when the company was shooting days, the mercury reached a record high of 98 degrees, the hottest temperature recorded in Prague in 139 years.
Weather wasn't the only aspect of the Czech Republic to challenge filmmakers. The city of Prague, it turns out, didn't provide a suitable location to double for London's Whitechapel
district. where the bulk of the story takes place.
Says Academy Award-winning production designer Martin Childs," Despite its many wonderful old buildings, Prague doesn't much resemble Victorian England. (Neither, he adds, does London, due to the destruction of so
much original architecture.)
"We couldn't find anyplace here that resembled Whitechapel from all angles, so we ended
up building it in the middle of a field. It became the unexpected highlight of this entire enterprise."
Using hundreds of photos and detailed drawings. Childs designed the 500' x 500' set in about a week. A team of 170
carpenters, painters and craftsmen worked seven days a week to complete construction in twelve weeks. The finishing touch was the creation of streets made from hundreds of centuries-old cobblestones borrowed from local breweries and civic institutions. Some of these stones weighed 150 pounds each.
"We were very lucky that Prague was undergoing a major restoration and digging
up many of its streets, says Childs, "because we were able to borrow cobblestones from the city." He jokingly adds. "They're waiting for their return to re-open the streets.
The one touch missing from Czech workmanship was the ability to create authentic- looking English brick, so Childs brought in two British painters to handle the proper coloring and aging of the set's exterior.
The main structures of Whitechapel seen in the movie include Ten Bells Saloon,
Commerce Street and Christ Church. as well as specific sites where the Ripper's victims were
found. These were made to appear just as they did in 1 888. "We wanted to definitively portray
the environment of Whitechapel," says Albert Hughes, "and this set is as close as we could possibly achieve."
The actors were equally inspired, including Depp, who comments, "I was stupefied the first time I walked down these streets. It was incredible. The Hughes brothers are sticklers for details, down to the position of the bodies, the cobblestones, the location of the broken windows. Martin (Childs) did an unbelievable job."
Depp's interest in the Ripper story dates to childhood, when he voraciously read numerous books and articles on the subject. "I was always attracted to things on the darker side, especially when I was young," he says. "I must have some 25 books, maybe more, on the case. There are so many theories, any of them could be correct. It's impossible to know. I've always thought it would make a great movie if very carefully done."
It was, in fact, the Hughes brothers' meticulous approach that enticed him. The directors have been fascinated by the infamous murders since age seven, when they saw a profile of the Ripper in an episode of Leonard Nimoy's "In Search Of." "It was so scary that it has stuck in our heads," says Allen Hughes. "We've since absorbed everything about the case we can — books, movies, documentaries..."
When the Hughes met Depp six years ago to discuss another project, they happened to causally mention they were also developing a film about Jack the Ripper.
Depp told them he was a "
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