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!
So Alex what ur saying is it isn't really an action comedy? They pretty much show all the comedy in the trailer?
SwampDonkey2k9 on Dec 24, 2009
i heard this movie is crap
DoomCanoe on Dec 24, 2009
I haven't heard any negative reviews either, but either way, I am excited for this movie. Guy Ritchie is an up and coming director. He's been around for a little bit, but his fame and appeal and all is starting to rise. I LOVED ROCKNROLLA, and I cannot wait to see his techniques and style brought to Sherlock Holmes. I am surprised that the film isn't an action comedy. It's actually good news that all the comedy is in the trailer, and it did sell itself very well that way. And even though there might be a wide range of audience members who will expect laughs, the fact that it's an intense film, and trusting Guy Ritchie, it just means that Robert Downey Jr.'s performance won't be comedic but serious and dark toned, which I think gives him a lot more credit. It also eliminates people talking about him in a negative light because of his role in Iron Man. If the comedy is definitely low, then the comparison isn't brought in, and it elevates the director's status, the actor's, and the film's overall presentation. I really wanna see this movie tomorrow!
Van Castle on Dec 24, 2009
Seeing it tomorrow with my family looking forward to it. Too bad he didnt answer the Rocknrolla question though, cause omg I WANT THE REAL ROCKNROLLA!
Cody on Dec 24, 2009
those you listen to critics about a Guy Ritchie film are naive at best. I have no doubt I will love this movie, all of his movies are good, even Revolver, Rock n Rolla was great, as was Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and I ignore the Madonna movie phase. I'll see this and love it.
xerxex on Dec 24, 2009
My all time favorite Director. Lock Stock, Snatch, and RocknRolla are definitely in my top ten. Ritchie's style is so slick and fresh. Cannot wait to see Holmes. OH and #4, what do you mean an up and coming director? He's been around for a while jackass.
Garrett on Dec 24, 2009
Alex you should totally try to interview Mark Strong...his acting is just phenomenal. He embodies every single one of his characters perfectly even when one is the exact opposite of the other and hes beginning to be my favorite actor more and more as he appears. Not to mention Archi is the most badass characters ever.
Cody on Dec 24, 2009
@ #7 I know he's been around for a while, but it's taken that entire while to get him to have proper recognition and a bigger name. Five years ago, the name Guy Ritchie didn't stand alone like it does today. It's taken those years and all of those films to get people to pay attention to the guy the way it's being done now. Most directors get early fame, but don't rise to higher levels of appreciation and glory for a while. It's a common factor.
Van Castle on Dec 24, 2009
Whatever man. Lock Stock and Snatch came late 90's early 2000's and were huge hits then and now. He gained a household name then.
Garrett on Dec 24, 2009
was not impressed by revolver or rock n rolla but im sure i will love this
samuel j on Dec 24, 2009
i would go as far as saying revolver sucked. there i said it.
samuel j on Dec 24, 2009
I'll agree that Revolver wasn't great. It was pretty pretentious. But I loved RocknRolla
Garrett on Dec 24, 2009
I'm gonna see it just so I can watch Mr. Downey Jr. talk with an old French accent for two hours. Cool!
Valerie Atherton on Dec 24, 2009
alex, i haven't heard bad reviews........but i haven't heard/read good ones either. the main positive seems to be the chemistry between RD jr. and Law. the main negative (and why the reviews i've seen have been 3, 3, and 3 out of 5) is that the ritchie interpretation is too modernized and comes across like a victorian "james bond" rather than a holmes movie. from what i've seen on trailers, i'll watch it when it hits netflix........but i don't see anything to make me want to pay theatre prices to watch it. i enjoy the more traditional holmes movies/stories so it probably isn't a surprise i'm skeptical of ritchies interpretation. hey xerxex, i like all of ritchies movies except "revolver". i thought that movie was all over the place as far as direction and story. however, lock, stock and two smoking barrels, snatch and rock and rolla were great. i particularly LOVED rock and rolla.
beavis on Dec 25, 2009
rock n rolla sucked balls. snatch was amazing, SH will be amazing becuase RDjr can not let me down.
PinkSushi on Dec 25, 2009
like #10 said the guys was a cult director 10 years ago and he is a bigger cult director whose works were accepted by the mainstream his approach, camera angles and story handling (you gotta hand it to the guy, he writes and directs and does both pretty darn good) are great IMO. loved his LSaTSB back in 1998 fell in love with the movie (just like i did with Bondock Saints a year after that) couldnt get more of the film, each time i watched it i wanted to see it once more 😀 it was funny, fast, and had a great cast then came out Snatch and wise ass bareknuckled gipsy kicked the laugh out of me 😀 and boy, did i get my yet another dose of the type of movie that i loved watching...yep i did 😀 his Revolver was also fine by me but like most said it was not his "one of the best works" but than came RnR 😀 balanced the score again in favor to the guy... I havent seen SH yet. but from the trailer and from what i have read about the man in the early stories were like, it seemed genuine and a fresh breath, new take on a legendary character. will it ruin the literature behind the Novels? or will it do justice.. i dont know i am not an authority, in fact i am a nobody who only wants to see great movies done originally and fresh ideas with and/or orginal characters as well as old ones 😀 and i am sold in regard to SH. after the guys revealations about the actual tone of the movie not being comic, i have a sense that this is gonna be harder ride which will end so smooth and with a big grin on my face 😀 i ll see 😀 oh one more thing... Guy is "The GUY" 😀 cheers
burak "Daequitas" on Dec 25, 2009
mark strong is the go to guy for making a movie great! i really want him to finish ROCK N ROLLA
Gabe the Accuser` on Dec 25, 2009
hey beavis I can understand why you didn't like Revolver, it was conflicted but I liked it. and Rock n Rolla was amazing.
xerxex on Dec 25, 2009
Just got back from Sherlock Holmes.....just awesome, ignore what people say about it being a victorian james bond or anything like that. The character development,cinematography and most of all the acting was phenomenal. Dont expect an action packed movie though or one with tons of laughs cause its nothing like that. Its easily the best detective movie Ive ever seen.
Cody on Dec 25, 2009
WHAT ABOUT LOBO ?
tobi,leader of the akatsuki on Dec 28, 2009
here's another interesting article on Sherlock Holmes http://www.moneyteachers.org/Deadmanmusings11.htm
Dead Man on Jan 3, 2010
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