Site menu:

From Hell

Johnny Depp and Heather Graham Journey From Hell

by Scott B.
October 19, 2001

Johnny Depp and Heather Graham recently spoke at a series of roundtable interviews in Los Angeles about their work on the new thriller, From Hell, which poses a solution to one of history’s all-time great mysteries: The who and why of Jack the Ripper. For Depp, a longtime Ripper aficionado, getting to play the policeman tracking the killer was a dream come true. “I was always attracted to things on the darker side,” he admits. And Jack the Ripper is a “subject that I’ve been interested in since I was a little kid. I can remember stumbling upon a documentary about the Ripper case when I was around seven or eight that sort of sparked my interest. Grisly murders left unsolved, and there are so many possibilities and theories . . . it’s all just fascinating.”

Graham, on the other hand, admits that she wasn’t exactly a “Ripper fan” before joining From Hell. “After I got the job, I did do some research,” she says. “We met this guy who’s a ‘Ripperologist,’ he writes books on theories of who [Jack the Ripper] might have been. Johnny and him got to know each other pretty well.”

Indeed, Depp has the highest praise for these Ripper experts: “It’s amazing the details these guys know. And I’ve read a lot of the materials, so I can hold a fairly steady conversation with them. But it’s really a life’s work for these guys.”

While Depp’s interest was in the history of Jack the Ripper, for Graham a lot of the appeal of the film had to do with its setting, London in 1888. “I really wanted to do a period movie,” she says. “There was another movie I went up for previously, a period movie that I really liked, and the guy was just like ‘Well, maybe you’re too modern.’ And I didn’t think I was!” Getting to play From Hell’s Mary Kelly, one of the Whitechapel prostitutes on Jack the Ripper’s hit list, gave the actress her opportunity. “You just know in your heart [that you can do it],” she says, “and I’m glad I finally got the chance.”

Needless to say, From Hell is a very violent film, and the question comes up as to the commercial appeal of such a dark subject in the current cultural climate. “I think it’s a good film, but it’s hard to say whether people are going to get into it,” admits Graham. “But I think it’s escapism and entertainment, because it’s so far removed from what we’re experiencing today. There’s something in the image of those misty streets that’s like a fable.”

Depp agrees, adding that “it’s difficult to sit around and talk about movies in the midst of what’s happening. Is this the movie that people should go see? I don’t know. But we have to keep moving forward, and movies are a form of escapism. If people want to go get out of reality for a couple of hours, then why not?” He adds with a laugh: “And Halloween is coming up, after all.”

Following From Hell, both stars have some interesting projects on the horizon. Graham will next be seen with former boyfriend Edward Burns in Sidewalks of New York, the release of which was postponed after the events of September 11. She also reports that she will be in the next Austin Powers movie, saying “I haven’t read what I’m supposed to do yet, but I’ll see it in the next week or so. It’ll just be a quick little cameo, but I just don’t want to be blown up!” She will also appear in the upcoming Killing Me Softly with Joseph Fiennes, which she describes as “about sexuality and passion and kind of going over the edge. I think it’s interesting, personally; I’d rather watch people having sex than being very violent.”

Depp has just completed work with director Robert Rodriguez on Once Upon a Time in Mexico, where he co-stars with Antonio Banderas, Willem Dafoe, and Mickey Rourke. Interestingly enough, Depp will be playing a villain in the piece. “That was a great experience,” Depp says with a smile. “It’s the third in the El Mariachi/Desperado trilogy. I play an especially nasty CIA agent named Sands—just really not a nice guy.”

-- donated by Theresa

-- photos added by Zone editors