Robert Downey Jr. Talks About Finding Sherlock Holmes
by Alex Billington
August 20, 2008
Robert Downey Jr. is one of two big actors coming up who will play the legendary Sherlock Holmes on the big screen, the other being Sacha Baron Cohen. As we announced first back in early July, British filmmaker Guy Ritchie has cast Downey Jr. in his film about the classic British super sleuth and plans to show us a much different version of Holmes than we might all be familiar with. Premiere caught up briefly with Downey Jr. recently and talked with the actor about the kind of character he'd be playing, who he says is a buff bare-knuckle boxer and martial arts expert in addition to a detective. Although they're not shooting until October, it's refreshing to hear him talking about finding thi character already.
Downey Jr. explains that this will be like Zack Snyder's 300, "the idea of doing a period piece where you don't modernize it, you just realize how modern it was." He adds of this film, that "in 1891, it was incredibly modern. And Sherlock Holmes is such a great character to be able to play." Imagining a world with Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes that Guy Ritchie has dreamt up definitely excites me, because Ritchie is such a unique and stylistic director. And Downey Jr. assures us that this isn't going to be a stylized period piece like we all-too-often see with films like Elizabeth: The Golden Age. "I love the idea of doing a period piece without trying to be too stylized." He also adds more about the physicality of the character.
"We're both martial arts enthusiasts and historically, in the real origin stories of Sherlock Holmes, he's kind of a bad-ass and a bare-knuckle boxer and studies the rare art of baritsu [fictional martial art created by Doyle for the final Holmes story, 1901's The Adventure Of The Empty House]. If you look baritsu up, they can't even really tell you what it is, so it gives us a lot of leeway."
If you've seen Tropic Thunder, you know how quickly Downey Jr. can go from playing a superhero like Tony Stark to an Australian actor embodying a black solider named Sgt. Osiris. And I'm guessing we'll see another perfectly formed character from Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes as well. He finishes up with a rather nerve-wracking statement about struggling to still find the character with just a few weeks left before the cameras roll, but we all know he'll pull it off. "Here I am, promoting a movie while my heart says I should not be promoting Tropic Thunder at all because I need to have my ham radio going for Sherlock Holmes. It's mandatory that I get this inspiration, and what if I miss that train? I'll be depriving the moviegoing public of what it is that I promise them I'll be able to do, which is, more often than not, deliver."