John Merrick: "I am not an elephant. I am not an animal. I am a human being. I am a man!"
John Hurt summoned a nuanced performance to breathe life into the desperately sad character of John Merrick, a severely deformed man reduced to a grim life in a Victorian circus freak show.
Anthony Hopkins played Treves, the London surgeon who rescues him, treats him and eventually welcomes him into his family in director David Lynch's sentimental yet affecting drama.
The Whole Truth?: There is no evidence that Merrick was abused while working at the British freak show and actually managed to save money while working there. Likewise, Treves did not "rescue" Merrick from a sadistic carnival proprietor. Merrick freely approached the doctor with a written note requesting his care. Due to the constrictive deformity of his mouth, Merrick was never able to speak as clearly as in the film.