Allen Hughes

Allen and Albert Hughes have been heralded as the most influential African-American filmmakers working in Hollywood today. Review Graveyard caught up with the twin brothers (
Albert is the cinematographer, Allen directs the actors) from Detroit as their latest movie, From Hell, is released on Rental DVD and Video from 20th Century Fox...

ReviewGraveyard: What made you want to do a Jack The Ripper movie?

Allen Hughes: We had the same fascination that everyone has with the Ripper because we have never really discovered the identity of the murderer. A lot of the films in the past were told from an upper class British perspective and a lot of the facts that were known were not put into the story. We wanted to make a movie that people would remember and with Johnny Depp who is a good actor. We also had an opportunity to include information that had been around of years but had been overlooked in other Ripper films.

RG: Your Whitechapel is utterly convincing yet you created it in Prague. Why?

AH: There was a consideration about shooting in England but it was not serious because that would have been very expensive. Too much had changed in the area of London where the murders happened. We went out to the Czech Republic and the architecture was very much like England of the Ripper's time.

We had six day weeks and it was cold at night in Prague and we only had three and a half hours of daylight. So it was pretty tough and in the end we got it done. That was the toughest part that six week stretch.

RG: Were you tempted to make From Hell an even more bloody film than it is?

AH: Our plan from the outset was to take a note from Hitchcock that less is more. Hopefully people feel the horror from better film making than more direct horror. In the end we were happy with what we did.

RG: Johnny Depp is inspired casting. Was he always the first choice?

AH: Not originally. We had talked with a few other actors and somebody told us that Johnny was interested. So a meeting was set up and we saw he was totally interested. He had all these Ripper books from childhood. But he was booked on another gig, Don Quixote. But that film fell apart and after that it was plain sailing. Johnny felt like a brother, we have a lot of respect for the guy.

RG: There also seems great chemistry between Johnny and Robbie Coltrane?

AH: Robbie is a guy who will get on with anyone. When we cut there was so much funny stuff going on between Robbie and Johnny. They were the perfect comedy team off camera.

RG: Ian Holm brings great subtlety to his role, doesn't he?

AH: We had seen the Madness Of King George and originally Nigel Hawthorne was to play Gull. But Ian had to come in when Nigel was not available. A week in we knew that Ian packed a punch. He brought things that we never thought the role would have.

RG: Did you always think this was a film that could interest guys from your background?

AH: It's not that hard for somebody to make a reality wise street film whether you are black or white. We grew up in the ghetto but were no different from white kids who grew up in better neighbourhoods. The main thing is that a lot of these films have been told from an older, British view. With us it was quite easy to do it if we did our research.

RG: It's said you have ghetto blasters playing when you make a movie?

AH: That's true. It started on our first movie so that we don't get bored between takes. It creates a relaxed, party atmosphere. We played a lot of soul oldies and hip hop.

RG: What's next?

AH: We don't now. I wish we did. We are not into developing two or three things at the same time. We would like to do another period piece in Europe.

With thanks to Louise Gray at DSA

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