As we’ve written about before, Universal is working toward developing its famous monsters into a so-called “shared universe” to mimic the design of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a bold and tremendously exciting concept, and the monsters represent unique properties ripe for modern adaptation.
Those monsters, or at least the headlining ones, appear to be Dracula, Frakenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and Van Helsing’s numerous fiendish opponents. There will reportedly be franchises based on all of these characters, with 2017’s The Mummy remake leading things off (though there’s some debate over whether or not Dracula Untold truly launched the shared monster universe). But this past spring, we got some very interesting casting news about that remake of The Mummy that could indicate the potential for spin-off franchises and a larger network of monsters: Russell Crowe will appear in the film as Dr. Henry Jekyll.
This was rumored for a short time before Crowe himself took to Twitter to confirm it. It’s a surprising role that strays from previous versions of The Mummy and injects some exciting new potential into the coming series. But let’s look a little bit deeper into what we ought to make of this role.
For one thing, the early indication is that this role might be exclusively Jekyll, with no Hyde. For those unfamiliar with the specifics of Robert Louis Stevenson’s original character, he’s a brilliant doctor who occasionally finds it difficult to suppress nefarious impulses. In order to do so, he invents a potion that he means as a suppressant for his darker side. However, the potion ends up enhancing that darker side, effectively causing Jekyll to adopt dual personalities—one well meaning and the other pure evil. Typically, in Stevenson’s original work and ensuing interpretations, Jekyll and Hyde are depicted at the same time. But Screenrant’s report points out that Crowe has very specifically been brought on board as Jekyll, with no mention of the evil alter ego. That could indicate that the Hyde aspect of the character is being saved for future films.
Regarding the previously mentioned interpretations of Jekyll and Hyde since Stevenson’s novella, it’s worth mentioning that Crowe will be working with something of a blank slate. There have been films over the years about these characters, including a few recent TV movies, but there’s no definitive version of them on screen. Similarly, the characters are surprisingly underrepresented in an entertainment culture that embraces monsters, legends, and psychological thrills. Betfair’s platform has a small video game devoted to Jekyll and Hyde, but that’s about the only such piece of entertainment you can find. It’s cleverly made as a digital slot machine with built-in symbols typical of the story (think smoking potion containers) and background scenery that calls Victorian London to mind. But it’s also an outlier, because there are very few games, modern stories, etc. relating to these characters. That means unlike Marvel and DC superhero actors,
Crowe will get to do with this role what he pleases, within reason.
With all that said, there’s a clear parallel that can be drawn that could conceivably give us an inkling as to how Universal means to handle this unexpected role. That parallel is to Bruce Banner, who’s been portrayed by Mark Ruffalo in the MCU not just as a scientist who stumbles on a super soldier serum gone wrong but as, essentially, a comic book interpretation of Dr. Jekyll. Ruffalo’s Banner fears “the other guy,” as he calls him, and knows that the Hulk’s anger exists inside of him. Anger and altered physique aren’t quite the equivalent of Hyde’s pure evil, but the general concept is very similar. That’s not to say Crowe will come up with a Ruffalo impression, but it could be a hint that the Jekyll character will serve a similar function to Banner and the Hulk—perhaps alongside a Tony Stark-like lead in Tom Cruise’s Tyler Colt.
But above all else, the inclusion of Dr. Jekyll in The Mummy should probably clue us in to the fact that Universal isn’t limiting its shared universe to headline monsters and monster hunters. They’re going to be roping in any and all characters they can think of to put forth a packed universe that represents over a hundred years of fiction and legend.