Mary Reilly (film)

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Mary Reilly
Mary Reilly.jpg
Theatrical Release Poster
Directed by Stephen Frears
Produced by Norma Heyman
Ned Tanen
Nancy Graham Tanen
Written by Christopher Hampton
Based on Mary Reilly
by Valerie Martin
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography Philippe Rousselot
Edited by Lesley Walker
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date
  • February 23, 1996 (1996-02-23) (US)
Running time
108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $47 million[1]
Box office $12,379,402[1]

Mary Reilly is a 1996 American 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).


Mary Reilly is placed in service by her mother at age 12 to remove her from her tormenting father. She comes to work in the home of Dr. Henry Jekyll, who has a laboratory that is separate from the house. She and Jekyll develop a rapport that arouses the distrust of Mr. Poole, the head of the household staff, but 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. She is discovered, but Hyde is less disapproving than she expected. 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.

Mary finds herself drawn towards Hyde's passionate nature. However, she is also upset when he reveals that he knows intimate details about her conversations with Jekyll. When she challenges Jekyll about this, he says he made notes about their conversations out of habit, and Hyde must have looked at the notes without Jekyll's knowledge. The next day, when Mary delivers Jekyll's breakfast, he asks her to accompany Hyde on an errand. They visit the slaughterhouse yard to collect organs for Jekyll's research, and Hyde torments Mary, asking whether she is aware of how much Jekyll longs to touch her.

While fetching tea for Hyde, she answers the door to find Mrs. Farraday, who insists on seeing Jekyll. Jekyll is not pleased to see her; she demands more money for her continued silence. Mary leaves them alone, but while watering the garden, she notices the lights in the lab go out, and investigating, discovers a small pool of blood on the theater table. She does not see Hyde, who is hidden and has killed Farraday.

After receiving a letter informing her that her mother has died, Mary returns home to plan the funeral. As she is returning to Jekyll's house, Hyde grabs her in the alley; he is being pursued by mounted police but is concealed from them. Eventually the police question Mary about the death of Sir Danvers Carew, and she denies having seen Hyde that day. Jekyll later 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 goes on to say that 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, and she joins the other servants 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. However, he returns without success.

Mary packs to leave, but on her way out, decides to visit the lab. There Hyde attacks her, smashing items in the laboratory. He holds a knife to her throat, but does not kill 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 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.[2] 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.[3] Christopher Hampton was hired to write the screenplay, and Burton signed on as director in January 1993, after he approved Hampton's rewrite.[2] He intended to start filming in January 1994, after he completed Ed Wood,[4] with Winona Ryder [5] 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.[3]


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.[6] 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.[7] 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."[8]

Roberts was nominated for Worst Actress by the Razzie Awards, and Stephen Frears was nominated for Worst Director but lost to Striptease.[9] The film was also entered in the 46th Berlin International Film Festival.[10]


  1. ^ a b "Mary Reilly - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Claudia Eller (1993-01-11). "Fox mulls playing 'Pat' hand; TriStar woos Woo". Variety. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  3. ^ a b Claudia Eller (1993-05-03). "Burton's off 'Reilly'". Variety. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  4. ^ Staff (1993-02-04). "TriStar Pictures slate for 1993". Variety. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Godfrey Cheshire (1996-02-19). "Film Review: Mary Reilly". Variety. 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] 
  7. ^ Mary Reilly (1996) - Box office / business
  8. ^ "Mary Reilly (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved February 22, 2018. 
  9. ^ "1996 RAZZIE® Nominees & "Winners"". Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  10. ^ "Berlinale: 1996 Programme". Retrieved 2012-01-01. 

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