The Hughes brothers have made no bones about playing loose with the facts. Johnny Depp's real-life chief inspector Fred Abberline, for instance, is portrayed as a brooding clairvoyant and opium fiend (with occasionally visible tattoos). And Heather Graham plays the prostitute Mary Kelly, in actuality the fifth and final victim of the notorious serial killer -- but a girl can always dream about living happily-ever-after along the breathtaking Irish seaside, now can't she?
For Graham, 31, an actress commonly cast in lighter comedies (Bowfinger, the Austin Powers sequel) and more contemporary pieces (Drugstore Cowboy, Boogie Nights), the film proved especially rewarding. "I don't see myself as particularly modern or whatever, but it seems like it's hard for other people to see me playing a period role," she notes during a recent interview. "I really wanted to do this movie, and it was just lucky for me that the Hughes brothers were as cool as they were about giving me the chance."
CL: What did you think of Alan Moore's graphic novel (on which the movie script is based)?
HG: I read it, but for the most part I just thought it was long. I mean, it was good and it gave you a lot of information, but there are chapters where he just goes on and on and on about the history of the world or whatever. The script does have a lot of similarities, but I'm glad the Hughes brothers changed a few things so it wouldn't be so incredibly dark. I mean, if you think the movie's dark, the graphic novel's way darker.
What was the mood on the set, given the inherent darkness of the material?
You'd think it would be pretty dire, huh? It's funny, though, because just the opposite was true. I had so much fun working with the Hughes brothers. They were actually really playful and light-hearted on the set. It was like, "Hey, check out this dead body we're using in the next scene!" They were cool. It was more disturbing reading the script or seeing the movie for the first time than it was actually shooting some of those killing scenes.
How was working with Johnny Depp?
Smoldering. When he starts giving you that look with his eyes? Smoldering.
Talk a little about filming in Prague.
It's a pretty small town compared to other major European cities I've seen. There was all of like three clubs that everybody went to. What was so great was you'd see all these other movie people hanging out in the same three clubs. Heath [Ledger, Graham's most recent ex-boyfriend] was there shooting A Knight's Tale. Hilary Swank was doing Affair of the Necklace. Mists of Avalon was filming there, too. Mainly, it was just fantastic to be running into other people who spoke English, but at the same time it was funny to think what a small world it was with all of us there at the same time.
There's a lot of speculating going on in Hollywood right now about what types of movies people want to see in a time of crisis like this. Do you think this is the right time for a dark film about Jack the Ripper, or are audiences more in the mood for escapism and diversions? Is it just unfortunate timing that From Hell is coming out when it is?
Well, ideally, of course, we wouldn't be in a war, but I also happen to think this is a really good film. I mean, a lot of films out there aren't as good, so in a way this movie is a diversion, because it has an interesting and intelligent storyline, you know? It's set in a different time and place, so it's also escapism in a way, too. More people went to see a thriller like Don't Say a Word on opening weekend than a comedy like Zoolander, so I guess you just never know.
In fact, another of your films has been even more directly impacted by the events of Sept. 11 [the postponed ensemble comedy Sidewalks of New York].
Yeah, the Twin Towers were in the background of the poster, so I know they wanted to change that, and there's been talk of changing the title of the movie, too, which I kind of hope they don't do.
After several highly publicized relationships with a few fellow actors, do you ever think about looking outside the business?
That would be nice. I keep telling my friends, there's got to be somebody out there I can meet with a normal, ordinary job.
I'm a freelance writer based in Atlanta. Is that normal and ordinary enough for you?
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