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Why Dr. Jekyll is in THE MUMMY

Why Dr. Jekyll is in THE MUMMY

There have been a lot of questions about Universal’s new The Mummy film, directed by Alex Kurtzman, since the trailer dropped on Sunday evening (on Monday, I shared how the film fits into any existing Universal Monsters continuity). One of the biggest question marks seems to be why the choice to include Dr. Jekyll, played by Russell Crowe, was made. Dr. Jekyll, while a major character from horror literature, was never one of Universal’s major monsters–despite being in 1953’s Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. So why him? Why now? Kurtzman explained it was all in service of the story.

“There was a lot of debate about whether or not to put Dr. Jekyll in the movie,” Kurtzman began, “because the minute you say ‘Oh, it’s The Mummy, but also Dr. Jekyll’s in it,’ you guys are all going to say ‘are you trying to sell me on a shared universe all of a sudden?’ Which seemed a reasonable question. In the footage shown to Nerdist and a few other outlets, Dr. Jekyll introduces Tom Cruise‘s Nick Morton to Prodigium, the clandestine, monster-finding organization which will likely be the S.H.I.E.L.D. of the universe.

“We wanted to understand the context of the Mummy in the larger world,” he continued, “and we wanted to explore that monsters have existed for millennia, and we knew as the story evolved we wanted there to be an organization that was maybe cataloging them, following them, collecting them.” By necessity, then, there needed to be someone who understood that world, and could bring Morton into it. “We could make up a character to fit that role,” Kurtzman continued, “or we could look at monster mythology and say ‘is there a character who could organically fit into The Mummy story, that wouldn’t detract from The Mummy story, but would in fact enhance it?'”

Kurtzman said there needed to be a learned, professorial, medical and scientific type to be that character, a harkening back to the classic films in which there was always a learned doctor who aided in the monster fight in some way. (A lot of the time in those old movies, it was a character played by Edward Van Sloan–fun fact.) This led Kurtzman and company to the character of Dr. Henry Jekyll, though to add him, it needed to be a reflection of the Morton character’s unreliable, conflicted nature. His character gets cursed by the Mummy and that makes him torn between good and evil. “You’re talking about a character and a movie that’s really going to explore how much human and how much monster is going to exist within this guy,” Kurtzman explained. “Where is the line between them, and can both of those things exist within one character? Well, I could also be talking about Dr. Jekyll, so that’s when we said ‘these guys are really mirrors of each other.’ Now there’s a reason to put him in the movie, because he’s a reflection of Nick’s character arc.”

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But don’t expect The Mummy to be populated by dozens of other Universal Monsters characters. He said, Jekyll aside, the movie is a Mummy movie and this won’t be a backdoor team-up movie. Kurtzman cited The Avengers as the way of doing it right, by introducing each individual hero first, something he was quick to point out, was essentially started by Universal with their monster team-up movies. Don’t hold out too much hope, however, for a full complement of monsters in one film.

“The promise, the fun of bringing [all the Universal Monsters] together,” Kurtzman explained, “is they’re probably going to fuck each other up pretty badly. It’s not going to be a pretty room with those guys in it, and that’s a lot more exciting than people who are going to behave nobly and predictably.” Which, by its very nature, is how a shared universe of heroes has to largely behave. “That becomes a much more interesting prospect,” he continued, “so the question becomes, how do you get them to work together? I don’t know yet. Also, to what end? Why would you bring them together? There also has to be some unifying reason. And we might not bring them all together. We might just do one or two.”

As great as it would be to see a The Monster Squad-style team-up of all of the Universal crew, it might be more special if we only get specific pairings. In any case, I got the sense from Kurtzman that the universe of Universal Monsters is very special to him, and the individual films need to warrant any kind of fan-exciting character inclusion.

Keep watching the Nerdist feed for more insight into The Mummy and other titles that might be of interest to you, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Images: Universal


Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist, and a massive horror nut. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!


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