Death is No Bad Friend is a short that explores Jekyll and Hyde author Robert Louis Stevernson’s struggle with the duality of his conscience after his epic pursuit of Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne from Europe to California and the near fatal illness it induced in him. Written and produced by comic book writer and artist Geri Gallas, author of William Blake graphic novel The Poet and the Flea the film is currently in production in San Francisco.
Now together with Dracula, Frankenstein and the ghost stories of MR James, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one of the cornerstones of the British Gothic so anything that explores the genesis of the story must be important to us Hothouse dwellers.
I caught up with Geri in between scouting locations in San Francisco to find out what the film was all about.
‘Death Is No Bad Friend finds Robert Louis Stevenson in San Francisco and Northern California.He attempts to escape his guilty conscience through honeymooning on Mount Saint Helena. But his illness catches up with him, forcing him to face his inner demons. The screenplay is largely influenced by Stevenson.’s letters from the time as well as The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The story is about feeling inordinate guilt for that which is beyond one’s control.’
Stevenson had first met and fallen in love with Fanny who was still a married woman at the time, in France. As if carrying on with a married woman wasn’t shocking enough for respectable Victorian society, she was also eleven years older than Stevenson and perhaps even worse still an American. Advised to back off by his friends, Stevenson didn’t even tell his parents why he was leaving Scotland for the USA. Mind you rebelling against the respectability of snooty Edinburgh New Town society as personified by Henry Jekyll was nothing new to Stevenson, as a student his own personal Edward Hyde often dragged him to the debauchery of the Old Town’s pubs and knocking shops whenever he had a few shillings burning a hole in his pocket.
‘My fascination with R.L.S. was sparked by reading those letters’ Geri continued, ‘They give a real sense of the time and place he found himself in, and show a side of Stevenson unseen in his more famous works. His letters can be subtle and even sarcastic at times, but also sincere and profound at others. He was a very ill man for the entirety of his short life, but somehow he was still able to find humour and contentment in the world. These qualities in Stevenson’s character factor greatly into the way I wrote the screenplay and the way I’d like to present him in the finished film.’
’We are very lucky to have Kyle Duke Adamiec as our Robert Louis Stevenson — when I first saw him, I was convinced he was the living, breathing reincarnation of Robert Louis! He’s done a marvellous job on our trailer and I’m really excited to be working with him, Kari Wishingrad who plays Fanny, Larry Laverty and the rest of our cast and crew on this production. I met director Mary Lachapelle and cinematographer Jacqueline Lehr at the 2013 Cannes International Film Festival — they have a passion, vibrancy, and intuition that I feel will make the film the best it can be ’
Death is no Bad Friend will be shooting soon in San Francisco and the producers need a bit of help to fund the project. If you can spare a few Pounds, Euros or dollars you can donate to the project’s Hatchfund here.