Doctor Jekylls unknown facts – from cocaine and bad dreams to mystery fires

Top comic Eddie Izzard is set to star in a movie version of horror classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

In a modern re-imaging of the gothic thriller, the 61-year-old – who also goes by the name of Suzy – will take on the role of Dr Nina Jekyll and her evil alter-ego Rachel Hyde. Here, as Doctor Jekyll opens in cinemas this week, we reveal all about the tale which inspired the flick…

‌The original book was published in 1886 and tells the tale of lawyer Gabriel John Utterson, who investigates the strange links between his old friend Dr Henry Jekyll and evil murderer Edward Hyde.

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The phrase Jekyll and Hyde is often used today to describe someone who seems good on the surface but is bad underneath. It’s thought that Scottish author Stevenson, left, may have got the idea from real-life Edinburgh killer Eugène Chantrelle, an outwardly respectable teacher who murdered his wife in 1878.

Another inspiration was well-to-do William Brodie, right who was secretly a burglar for the thrills and to fund his gambling habit. The name Jekyll was borrowed from famous gardener Gertrude Jekyll.

Stevenson’s story was boosted by a dream about someone taking a drug and transforming into another person. When his wife Fanny woke up her wailing hubby he asked: “Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.”

Despite suffering from tuberculosis, a bed-ridden and cash-strapped Stevenson wrote the 30,000-word first draft in three days. It’s believed the writer may have been using cocaine at the time.

This version was mysteriously destroyed in a fire, with accounts varying on whether at his own hand or his wife’s. She described it as “nonsense” Stevenson then took six weeks to write another draft.

Despite mixed reviews the novella was an instant hit, selling 40,000 copies in Britain within the first six weeks. When actor Richard Mansfield, left, took on the part in a play of the book in 1888 his performance was so good that some suspected he was Jack the Ripper, whose murders hit London the same year.

There have been more than 120 stage and screen versions of the book. The 1931 movie Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was the first time that a horror film won an Oscar.

A 1941 Hollywood movie starred Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner, while a 1990 TV flick saw Michael Caine, left, play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There was even a Bugs Bunny version.

Stan Lee, below with Lou Ferrigno, said the character helped inspire him to create The Incredible Hulk. There have been Jekyll and Hyde songs by The Who, The Damned and Judas Priest, and the book was the basis for Ozzy Osbourne’s Bark at the Moon.

Sickly Stevenson, who also wrote Treasure Island, had wooden teeth. He moved to the Pacific island of Samoa and died there from a stroke in 1894, aged 44 – while making mayonnaise.

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