Mary Reilly

Mary Reilly Information

Mary Reilly is a 1996 American film directed by Stephen Frears and starring Julia Roberts. The movie was written by Christopher Hampton based on the novel Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin. This was the re-teaming of director Frears, screenwriter Hampton, and actors John Malkovich and Glenn Close, all of whom were involved in the Oscar-winning Dangerous Liaisons (1988).


Mary Reilly is a lonely servant in the home of Dr. Henry Jekyll, devoted to her position and her master. Slowly, a friendship between Mary and the doctor develops, which furthers into a growing attraction. However, the household is thrown into turmoil when the master announces he will be getting an assistant. The staff speculate on his employment, as he is never fully seen and remains a mystery.

One of Mary's duties is to deliver Jekyll's breakfast. One day he asks of her scars. She later explains about her abusive father, and how he tortured her with rats when she was young. Jekyll asks a favor of her, to deliver a letter. It is to a Mrs. Farraday, the madam of a whorehouse. She agrees to accommodate the doctor's assistant in one of her apartments. That person is, in truth, the sinister Edward Hyde.

Mary's curiosity about the assistant causes her to follow him into the doctor's lab one night, where she witnesses him handing over a cheque for blood money. When she sees him returning, she hides in the lab as the exit door appears to be locked. She is terrified as Hyde discovers her hiding place, but he merely throws her a key. The next morning, she finds Jekyll in the yard with a sprained ankle, so she helps him back to his room. He inquires further about her father.

Early the next morning, Jekyll wakes her with another letter for Mrs. Farraday. When she arrives at the brothel, the madam is furious. She shows Mary the room that has been let to Hyde, which is covered in blood. Mary returns to the house with a blood stained handkerchief of Jekyll's, as well as a message from Farraday promising to do what is necessary to conceal the bloody event.

While cleaning the library, Mary finally meets the handsome and enigmatic Edward Hyde. Although initially repelled, Mary soon finds herself drawn towards his passionate nature, until he teases her about her father. The next day, when delivering Jekyll's breakfast, she is cross with him for breaking her confidence. He apologizes for his assistant, and he asks her to accompany Hyde on an errand. They visit the slaughterhouse yard to collect organs for the doctor's research. Upon their return, Hyde again torments Mary, asking if she is aware of how much Jekyll longs to touch her. He instructs her to fetch tea, but on the way she answers the door to find Mrs. Farraday, who insists on seeing Jekyll.

Jekyll is not at all pleased to see Farraday, who demands more money for her continued silence. Mary leaves them alone, but while she is out watering the garden, she notices the lights in the lab go out. Investigating, she discovers a small pool of blood on the theater table. She does not see Hyde, who is hidden and, having killed Mrs Farraday, is joking with her head.

While cleaning in Jekyll's study, Hyde again corners her, but apologizes for his earlier rudeness. He suddenly crushes a tea cup, cutting his hand quite badly. When asked later by Poole about the broken crockery, Mary lies and takes the blame for herself. The next morning, as she delivers the doctor's breakfast, he reveals he knows of her lie.

Mary receives a letter informing her that her mother has died. When she goes to her mother's dwelling to visit the body, the landlord says he has sold her belongings to recoup outstanding rent. Mary intends to give her mother a proper burial, and goes out into the fog to find a funeral parlor. She is grabbed in an alley by Hyde, who is being chased by mounted police. He hides behind her as they rush by. He thanks her for being in the right place at the right time, and kisses her, before leaving.

When she returns to the house, she is greeted by the police, who questions her in connection to the murder of Jekyll's school friend, Sir Danvers Carew, a Member of Parliament. Asked if she has seen Hyde in the last 24 hours, Mary lies that she has not. Jekyll later tells her she should not have risked so much by lying for Hyde. Danvers may have been "corrupt and frivolous," the doctor says, but he never deserved to be murdered. Jekyll has dismissed Hyde and given him money to disappear.

Mary buries her mother, but while leaving the cemetery is confronted by her father, who pleads with her to meet with him occasionally, claiming that he is terminally ill. She refuses and flees the cemetery in tears.

When delivering breakfast, she is surprised to discover Hyde in the doctor's bed. She tries to raise the alarm, but he stops her. Hyde then reveals to her his true nature. He explains that the doctor injects himself with a serum, a cure for his depression, and that Hyde is the resulting cure. He in turn injects the 'antidote' to resume being Jekyll. He said that he now has the ability to appear without the aid of Jekyll's serum.

Hyde then takes her into Jekyll's room and tries to persuade her to have sex with him. Shocked, Mary wishes to leave. He releases her, and she joins her colleagues in the kitchen. They are interrupted by Jekyll. who orders Poole to take a sample of a potion to the chemist's and ask them to analyze it. He is to wait until they are successful, as this is a matter of life and death. Mary realises that Jekyll is talking about the antidote. She helps him back to the lab and asks if what Hyde told her is true. He is surprised she had not guessed. Unfortunately, Poole returns unsuccessfully.

Mary packs her things to leave, but on her way out, she decides to visit the lab. Hyde attacks her, smashing bottles all around. He holds a knife to her throat, but something prevents him from killing her. He says that he always knew that Mary "would be the death of us." He then injects himself with the antidote, and Mary is forced to witness the horrific transformation between one man to the other. Jekyll reveals that Hyde has mixed a poison with the antidote. Mary asks if this is some form of revenge against Jekyll, but he insists that is a release. He then dies in Mary's arms.



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 over Hampton's rewrite. He intended to start filming in January 1994, after he completed Ed Wood, 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.

Critical and public reaction

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 decidedly 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 42 reviews with the consensus stating: "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, with Stephen Frears also being nominated for Worst Director. The film was also entered into the 46th Berlin International Film Festival.

See also

  • Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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