(At around one hour and forty-five minutes) After the Ripper has killed his final victim, the police officer describes the scene, so that it can be written down as evidence. Those lines are taken directly from the report of the actual crime scene.
Great care was taken to accurately reproduce the actual sites of the "Ripper" murders. Illustrations and actual photographs from 1888 were used. Similar care was used to reproduce the wounds inflicted upon the Ripper's victims.
Some of the real photos from the Ripper victims are pinned to the walls in the police station sets. Directors Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes placed them there to unnerve the cast, so they'd give an edgier performance after having seen the real victims.
Commissioner of Police Charles Warren never really arrived at the site of the fifth victim, because he had resigned shortly before her murder. Strangely, before his resignation, he ordered that no police officer was to enter the scene until he arrived (which is strange, because all of the past victims had been killed on the street) and as a result, no officer or investigator entered the building for three hours, because they were unaware of his resignation.
Johnny Depp's character was based on a real person, Inspector Frederick Abberline of Scotland Yard, who was in charge of the investigation in the East End. The real Frederick Abberline, however, was neither a dope addict, nor a supposed clairvoyant, and did not die shortly after the investigation, nor in Hong Kong (as shown in the special features alternate ending). He died in 1929 in England, at the age of eighty-six. Robbie Coltrane's character Sergeant Peter Godley is loosely based on Essex born George Godley, who at the time of the Ripper murders was a Sergeant at Bethnal Green.
By avoiding giving dates to specific scenes, the movie makes it seem that the Ripper murders occurred in a much shorter amount of time than in reality, which was August 31st to November 9th. The investigation continued for many years after 1888.
The crew built four blocks of Whitechapel on-location in Prague, including half a church.
According to John Douglas (creator of criminal profiling), the Ripper murders were the work of a disorganized, paranoid personality, not the calculating one shown in this movie.
Though there were many rumors (and speculations) as to whether the victims knew each other, there is no real evidence that they did.
The Hughes Brothers originally wanted Daniel Day-Lewis to play the lead role. When that fell through, they interviewed Sir Sean Connery, Jude Law, and Brad Pitt, before settling on Johnny Depp.
In the movie, George Lusk (Vincent Franklin) arrives with half of a kidney, and the infamous "From Hell" letter after only two of the canonical five victims have been killed, suggesting the kidney was from Annie Chapman. In reality, this did not occur until much later, and was believed to have come from the fourth victim Katherine Eddowes.
The late Sir Nigel Hawthorne was originally cast as Sir William Gull. Hawthorne was replaced by Sir Ian Holm, his The Madness of King George (1994) co-star, when his cancer prevented him from working. He died in 2001.
(At around forty-five minutes) The medical council announcer introduces the Elephant Man as "Joseph Merrick", then Merrick's benefactor Dr. Treves "corrects" him, so he calls him "John Merrick". Merrick's given name was Joseph, but Frederick Treves insisted on calling him John in his reports, deliberately crossing out Joseph. It is not known why Treves did this, but Merrick always called himself Joseph and never John, so historians always call him Joseph Merrick.
Sergeant Peter Godley knows his William Shakespeare: He quotes from "Hamlet" twice (". . . I must be cruel only to be kind . . . ", "Good night sweet Prince . . . "), from "Romeo and Juliet" (". . . a rose by any other name . . . ") and from "Henry V" ("Once more unto the breach, dear friends . . . "). He also references Othello.
As is revealed later on in this movie, many of the main characters, such as Jack the Ripper, Dr. Ferral, Sir William Gull, Prince Edward Albert Victor, and Sir Charles Warren, amongst others, can be identified as being Freemasons by their rings bearing the Freemasonic symbol of the "square and compass". The killer's amputation kit also bears this symbol.
The movie is based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, and while some scenes are straight out of the comic, the approach is entirely different. The comic is not a mystery, but follows the killer throughout, only considering Inspector Abberline in a few chapters in the second half. The psychic is a separate character in the book, and admits in the first few pages that his visions are imaginary.
The ceremony, in which Dr. Ferral (Paul Rhys) is partaking halfway through the movie, is a Freemasonic initiation ritual. During this particular ritual, the candidate (Dr. Ferral) is initiated into the very first degree of Freemasonry called "Entered Apprentice". For this ritual, the candidate is stripped of all of his clothes, except his shirt, and is clothed in a pair of drawers kept in the lodge for the use of candidates. The candidate is then blindfolded, which masons refer to as "hoodwinking", and a rope called a "Cable-tow" is hung around his neck. His left foot is bare, his right in a slipper, and his left breast and arm are naked. After a lengthy ritual, the candidate is finally ordered to kneel on his left knee, place his right hand on the square and compass, and raise his left hand in the air. He is then ordered to give the solemn oath of secrecy. In every ritual degree of Freemasonry, the candidate is required to take an oath, and is warned of the hideous and grotesque penalty that awaits him, if he dares ever to reveal any of the group's innermost secrets. In this first degree oath of Freemasonry, as is depicted in the movie, the candidate declares: "...binding myself under no less penalty than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by its roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea, at low-water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours, should I ever knowingly violate this my Entered Apprentice obligation."
The first person who signed on to the movie was composer Trevor Jones, who stuck with the project since its conception in 1998, and finally composed and recorded his score for the movie in early 2001.
Around the same time, William Friedkin was trying to set up " The Diary of Jack the Ripper " with Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Heather Graham started dating Heath Ledger during the making of this movie, shot on adjacent soundstages in Prague to A Knight's Tale (2001) which Ledger was making at the same time.
In his book "Jack the Ripper the Secret of Mary Jane K", published in France in 2006, paranormal investigator Philippe R. Welte brings evidence that the ripper was a French doctor, in love with Mary Kelly. In this book, a twenty year investigation, every murder is clearly motivated.
Just as is depicted in the movie, many high-ranking officials or other prominent figures are often members of a secret society such as the Order of Freemasonry. For instance: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sir Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, J. Edgar Hoover, Silvio Berlusconi, Shaquille O'Neal, Henry Ford, Steve Wozniak, and Michael A. Richards, just to name a few, were, or are all, initiated members of the secret Order of Freemasonry. Whereas, for instance, George W. Bush, John Kerry, and Paul Giamatti are initiated members of the Order of Skull and Bones which was founded in 1832 at Yale University. Members of this order are generally referred to as "Bonesmen".
(At around twenty-six minutes) During the discussion between Inspector Frederick Abberline and the police chief, the chief holds up a flyer for a show by Buffalo Bill. Though in context, this is the performance name of war-hero-turned-circus-performer William F. Cody, it was also the name of a fictional serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
Johnny Depp originally turned down the lead, having just played a similar character in Sleepy Hollow (1999).
This isn't Paul Rhys' (Dr. Ferral's) first time appearing in a movie about the Jack the Ripper. He had previously appeared as the leading man in Love Lies Bleeding (1999).
Samantha Spiro (Martha Tabram) portrayed Barbra Windsor in the "Carry On" biopic Cor, Blimey! (2000). Coincidentally, the real-life Windsor (who also had a cameo in Cor, Blimey! (2000)) appeared as Ripper victim Annie Chapman in the Sherlock Holmes movie A Study in Terror (1965), where the famous slueth investigates the Jack the Ripper case.
(At around one hour and three minutes) Ann Crook's address was given as Fitzroy Square, fitting as "Fitzroy" is Anglo-Norman for "son of the King", and she had borne a child with Prince Albert, the Duke of Clarence, and son of the then Prince of Wales, who, had he lived, would have eventually become King.