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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stephen Frears|
Nancy Graham Tanen
|Written by||Christopher Hampton|
by Valerie Martin
|Music by||George Fenton|
|Edited by||Lesley Walker|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Box office||$12.9 million|
Mary Reilly is a 1996 American drama film directed by Stephen Frears and starring Julia Roberts and John Malkovich. The movie was written by Christopher Hampton and adapted from the novel Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin (itself inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde).
This was the re-teaming of director Frears, screenwriter Hampton, and actors Malkovich and Glenn Close, all of whom were involved in the Oscar-winning Dangerous Liaisons (1988). The film ended up being a box office bomb, making just $12 million against its $47 million budget.
Mary Reilly comes to work as a maid in the home of Dr. Henry Jekyll. She and Jekyll develop a rapport and Jekyll often calls on her for assistance. One night, Mary is accidentally locked in the laboratory and spies on Jekyll's new assistant, Edward Hyde. On an errand to deliver a letter from Jekyll to Mrs. Faraday, a madam, Mary learns that a bloody mess at the whorehouse was caused by Mr. Hyde. Mrs. Farraday arrives at Jekyll's home and insists on seeing him. She demands more money for her continued silence. While watering the garden, Mary notices the lights in the laboratory go out, and investigating, discovers a small pool of blood on the theater table.
Mary returns home to plan her mother's funeral. As she is returning to Jekyll's house, Hyde grabs her in the alley; he is being pursued by the police. Eventually the police question Mary about a murder and she denies having seen Hyde that day. Jekyll warns Mary that she should not have lied to the police. He tells her that he has dismissed Hyde and bribed him to disappear.
Days later, Mary is surprised to discover Hyde in the doctor's bed. She tries to raise the alarm, but he stops her and then reveals his true nature: he explains that as a cure for depression, Jekyll injects himself with a serum and as a result becomes Hyde, who in turn injects the "antidote" to resume being Jekyll. Hyde says he now has the ability to appear without the aid of the serum, and tries to persuade her to have sex with him. Mary is shocked; he lets her go.
Mary packs to leave, but on her way out, she decides to visit the lab. There Hyde attacks her and holds a knife to her throat, but he does not kill her. He then injects himself with the antidote, and Mary is forced to witness the horrific transformation of one man into the other. Jekyll reveals that Hyde has mixed a poison with the antidote, and then dies in Mary's arms. In the morning, Jekyll, although dead, has transformed into Hyde one last time, awake and smiling, as Mary walks into the fog.
Producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber acquired the film rights to Mary Reilly in 1989, and optioned them for Warner Bros. with Roman Polanski as director. When Guber became CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment later that year, he moved Mary Reilly to Sony's sister company, TriStar Pictures, where Tim Burton was approached to direct with Denise Di Novi to produce in 1991. Christopher Hampton was hired to write the screenplay, and Burton signed on as director in January 1993, after he approved Hampton's rewrite.
He intended to start filming in January 1994, after he completed Ed Wood, with Winona Ryder  in the leading role but Burton dropped out in May 1993 over his anger against Guber for putting Ed Wood in turnaround. Stephen Frears was TriStar's first choice to replace Burton, and Di Novi was fired and replaced with Ned Tanen. Daniel Day-Lewis was TriStar's first choice for the role of Dr. Jekyll and Uma Thurman for the role of Mary.
Reports of alleged production delays and animosity between the two leads helped fuel the poor word-of-mouth preceding the film's release. Upon release, the reviews were negative, with few critics finding anything to praise about the production. Many found fault with Roberts, calling her "miscast" (though Malkovich, too, received his fair share of ill mention). The film did not do well at the box office. It earned a paltry $5.6 million domestically on a budget of $47 million and grossed only $12.3 million worldwide. Mary Reilly currently holds a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 4.3/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Mary Reilly looks good and has its moments but overall, the movie borders on boredom."
Roberts was nominated for Worst Actress by the Razzie Awards, and Stephen Frears was nominated for Worst Director, but lost to Striptease. The film was also entered in the 46th Berlin International Film Festival.
Attempting a Gothic-romance slant on the legend of Jekyll and Hyde, Mary Reilly has plenty of production polish but little of the dramatic force and erotic spark needed to vivify [the story]