An Elementary Chat with Sherlock Holmes Director Guy Ritchie
by Alex Billington
December 24, 2009
Just last week I caught up with Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie for a chat on the phone since he was in London (and I live in LA). I've interviewed him once before (for RocknRolla in Toronto), so I knew what to expect, but it's still always crazy interviewing Guy Ritchie. At one point, he started interviewing me, asking me questions. You don't expect that when you're interviewing a big director, but it's all good fun. Best of all, I loved Sherlock Holmes and I'm a huge fan of his movies, so I was still excited to chat with him and made sure I got in every question I wanted to ask. So without further ado, read on for my interview!
I had the chance to see Sherlock Holmes a few weeks back and loved it. It's definitely a much more intense, dark, and riveting mystery than you're probably expecting, which isn't bad. That's actually what really pulled me into the world even more. Hans Zimmer's score is incredible (it gets awesome whenever Lord Blackwood appears) and Guy's style works perfectly for the movie. It's really a fantastic film all around, from the cast to the story and script to the directing and everything. I definitely recommend seeing this as soon as you can!
Let's start off with Sherlock Holmes, I have a bunch of questions actually.
Guy Ritchie: Okay fire away, ask and I'll give you an answer. I tell you what, I'll give you a one sentence answer, how's that?
For every question?
Guy: Oh it's alright. And if we can't do it properly, then we'll go from there.
My first question -- were you a fan of Sherlock Holmes before this or as a kid?
Guy: I've been a fan of Sherlock Holmes since I was six when we were rewarded by the school -- if you were a good lad, they would show you Sherlock Holmes on tape and so I knew all the stories from there so it's almost impossible to have been from our period of 65 years ago or been a school boy in England to have avoided the deluge of Sherlock Holmes narratives.
So what made you finally join the ranks of Hollywood and why was it this film and why now?
Guy: Because, you know, I just -- I don't care, I was never prejudiced against Hollywood anyway, I was always interested in doing something that was, you know… It depends on what I'm interested in. I became interested in this movie at this time. I mean it was irrelevant whether it was a studio or not.
So it didn't matter that it was at a studio?
Guy: I know, I didn't care. I mean, well I did care because I knew they had money and having been attached to a couple of projects as far as, where people don't have the money. So, no I was never prejudiced against doing anything that was from a studio. Actually, having the benefit of hindsight now I can tell you, working for Warner Bros has been a pretty pleasurable experience. They have a kind of traditional film school folklore, you know, I mean independent film school folklore, it's just, they were all a very constructive, helpful, intelligent and collaborative bunch of lads. I very much enjoyed working with them.
That's great to hear. How much development did you have with the script? Did you work on it when you first first brought in and were there many changes?
Guy: Sure, as soon as it came to me, I sort of went all over the place with it.
Because you've written the scripts for most of your past films and this one was not your idea from the start. So I assume there was a script when you came on and then from there you still wanted to put your own stamp on it, so to say?
Guy: Sure yeah, I mean I tried to -- inevitably I supposed any director does this, I don't know, because I can only speak for myself but -- you're right in that everything else I've done and wrote. So in this respect, I wrote a bit for a couple of months and tried to put my influence on it, tried to have the scenes coming from not such conventional point of view. I tried to contemporize it, I suppose, in my own way of doing that.
Was it more of a classical story when you first came on?
Guy: It was a bit more conventional yes.
That's actually really interesting to hear. Obviously I'm a huge fan of all of your films and one of the reasons in particular I was looking forward to Sherlock Holmes was because I wanted to see exactly what your take on it would be and what you would be bringing to a character that we're all familiar with.
Guy: And what's your answer, what do think about that?
I loved it, I had a great time, I really loved it, thought it was fantastic.
Guy: I'm happy about that.
When I went to see it I was expecting a lot of comedy, I think it was from all of the trailers, they were really playing up the comedic moments, but when I saw it there was barely any comedy. It felt a lot more intense and full of action and the story moved along swiftly. That was one of the biggest changes in what I was expecting, but that was better, because I didn't want as much comedy.
Guy: Well I mean, yeah Sherlock Holmes isn't synonymous with a good laugh, is it?
Guy: I think you want some levity but, you know, you couldn't -- I mean it just isn't comedy.
Did you ever imagine at the start that Sherlock Holmes would be this popular in America today, that there would be this much excitement for it?
Guy: Yeah -- by the way I can't be objective about this because I'm in the eye of the storm, I have no idea what the velocity of the wind is that surrounds me. Maybe you could give me some kind of a perspective on how big a storm or how small a storm it is, so could you answer that question for me?
Well I ask because, I feel like a few years ago, whenever this idea was first floating around, I could've seen someone saying "I don't understand why Sherlock Holmes would make for an entertaining movie." And yet you delivered an entertaining movie and it's fascinating to see how it's gone from a point where I think people wouldn't be interested to this point where people are really excited. I think it has a lot to do with casting Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and the way it looks and so on.
Guy: Okay so tell me, do you think it feels like there's a palate for this movie now, in a sort of broad sense?
Yeah I definitely do.
Guy: Okay good, I hope you're right.
Like I said I think it's a combination of everything, and this is a testament to what you've done with the film. You brought togethera great cast, a great story, a lot of really great elements, and your style I think really plays well to Sherlock Holmes. It sounds like I'm reviewing it for you, but those are just my thoughts.
Guy: Okay, well I mean I suppose your point, you know, is the same sort of thinking that I'm thinking, when it got bought to me. I thought there's two versions of this, right?
There's the version that I think probably you and I want and there's the other version which I don't think many people want but maybe a couple of old purists feel happy about. So I mean, I like the idea of -- I suppose -- the challenge of rebooting that which, it was a challenge, but nevertheless you could see that there was gold in the hills.
I assume this is a question you get asked a lot but just for the sake of asking, is this the start of a franchise? Are you expecting it to continue on?
Guy: Who knows, I suppose that question is just a bit premature. I suppose it goes on if they make a lot of money, then they'd go from there.
Would you be interested in returning?
Guy: I think so, I enjoyed doing this enormously.
Because I think it would be wonderful to see the entire team back together for sequels.
Guy: Yeah, it was not an unpleasant shoot and no one fell out with one another, if you know what I mean, so we all enjoyed doing it. I don't have an ill feeling towards anyone that was involved in it, I think everyone would be very happy to be doing this all over again.
I know I would, from what I saw. I just wanted it to continue.
Guy: Oh good, good.
When you're shooting this film in particular, how much did you shoot practically? Do you strive for more in-camera effects or do you prefer doing the rest in post-production?
Guy: Well, whatever we could get away with on location we got away with on location. So I'm being waved at now, I'm being told I've gotta get off the phone. Can we do one more question? One more question I'm told.
This is jumping to a different topic but I have to ask because I was actually a big fan of RocknRolla. Are we ever gonna see that trilogy finish?
Guy: I hope so, is all I can say to that, I hope so, I enjoyed it.
Yeah, me too.
Guy: But I need to sell a couple more DVDs and I'm your man.
Thank you to Guy Ritchie as well as Michele and Brooke from MRC for arranging this. He's tough to interview, but I always have a fun time talking with Guy anyway. Sherlock Holmes hits theaters everywhere on Christmas Day, which is tomorrow, so go see it this weekend!