Juan Carlos Medina’s The Limehouse Golem received a rollicking Ryerson roll-out this week, injecting much-needed genre thrills into the Toronto Film Festival program, outside the Midnight Madness section. Based on Peter Ackroyd’s 1994 book, the story is a fictionalized account of a Jack the Ripper-esque serial killer in Victorian London, stalking the grimy streets of Limehouse (an area now mostly terrorized by tony property developers) and frightening the denizens residing within – which include historical figures like Karl Marx and Dan Leno. It’s brilliantly adapted by Jane Goldman, fast becoming one of the hottest screenwriters in Britain, and stars Bill Nighy, Douglas Booth and Olivia Cooke. The film is produced by Stephen Woolley, Elizabeth Karlsen and Joanna Laurie of Number 9 Films.
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Stopping by Deadline’s TIFF studio, Booth and Cooke both enthused about the detail Goldman had included in her script. “It’s so dense and it’s so cleverly thought out and intricate,” noted Booth. “You’re kept guessing until the very last moment. She writes with great detail and she drops hints about things throughout the script.”
Agreed Cooke: “I felt the tension that is just seething through the script. The twist I didn’t see coming at all, and it felt like such a rich environment and a rich character to play.”
Cooke is Elizabeth Cree, accused of poisoning her husband who then turns out to be the prime suspect in the Golem murders. As Bill Nighy’s weary inspector starts to put the puzzle pieces together, much is made of the the plight of women and the lower classes in that period of history, and the film makes inventive use of the various suspects as they each are seen to commit one or more of the murders. Booth plays Dan Leno, a performer who helped make a star of Cree on the stages of London’s music halls, as she longs for a role in a legitimate production.
“I was looking for something interesting,” Booth told me. “As a young guy, it’s easy to get pigeonholed into something, and all you want to do is be given an opportunity to play interesting characters.”
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