Sherlock Holmes Movie to Star Robert Downey Junior

Comments 6 by Rebecca Bollwitt

The following is a guest post written by the President of the Vancouver Sherlock Holmes society, The Stormy Petrels.

It has come to my attention that there are two new Sherlock Holmes movies in the works. This is always good news to Sherlockians – fans of the great detective.

Downey, who earned raves for the action blockbuster hit Iron Man this spring, has signed on to play the iconic literary sleuth in an upcoming film directed by British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, Warner Bros. announced on Thursday. [CBC]

However, the casting of the main character is critical. Sherlockians are very protective of Sherlock Holmes, and he must be portrayed as the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, had described him. Physical characteristics can be altered somewhat by movie magic, from his tall, thin stature, to his hawk-like nose, but the mannerisms and quirkiness must be adapted to a fault. The casting of the title role is crucial to the movie’s success. Needless to day, the movies will be judged with many keen eyes.

Hundreds of Sherlock Holmes movies and plays have been adapted or written for stage and screen and the list of actors portraying the detective is as varied as the plot lines.

John Barrymore, Orson Wells, John Gielgud, Peter Cushing, Christopher Plummer, Roger Moore, Raymond Massey, Charlton Heston, George C. Scott, Michael Caine, Rupert Everett, Matt Frewer, to name just a few actors who have taken on the title role.

Photo Credit: bcostin on Flickr

The most well-known, and one of the most popular actors as Sherlock Holmes is Basil Rathbone in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Although, except for “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, the stories did not follow the originals very closely.

It was not until the 1980’s when a Grenada TV series introduced Jeremy Brett to the role of Sherlock Holmes, to great critical acclaim. This series sparked much renewed interest in Sherlock Holmes Societies around the globe. The stories resembled the original writings and Sherlockians were very pleased as Brett had the character down perfectly.

Actors have been and will always be compared to Rathbone and Brett. Nearly all have and will fail in their attempts. Recently, very poor choices have been made to cast the role. These movies have all been panned by Sherlockians based on this factor alone.

I get the sense that comical portrayals, such as the up-coming movie starring Sasha Baron Cohn (“Borat”) as Holmes will not be popular among Sherlock Holmes fans. Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes? I think it unlikely. Sherlockians are still waiting for the next great Holmesian performance.

Update: May 2009 – the trailer for the film has been released:

Update: Apparently Brad Pitt is already in talks about playing Moriarty in the sequel.

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6 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. LucSunday, July 13th, 2008 — 10:26am PDT

    Robert Downey Jr. can inject an intense personality dose into any character he plays. Hopefully he’ll stay away from drugs in his personal life, but I wonder if the script writers came up with an opium scene.

    I think that the finest actor playing a detective is Tony Shalhoub in Monk. Not the most clever plots, but a delightful cast. Monk is back next Fri.!

  2. Mort-ySunday, July 13th, 2008 — 2:23pm PDT

    I am very interested to see what RB Jr. can do. I thought Rupert Everett was pretty good.

    Only one story out of the original 60 showed an opium scene. (so i am told by a Shelockian friend). Holmes was addicted to a 7% solution of cocaine. (I think he just used it for medicinal purposes, though).

  3. RoshanSunday, July 13th, 2008 — 8:55pm PDT

    Although it was very Canadian, I quite liked the casting of Matt Frewer & Kenneth Welsh (as Holmes & Watson respectively) in a couple of the tv movies that I saw on Hallmark. Welsh in particular is wonderfully cast as Watson. I also loved Christopher Lee as Holmes but he was a scary Sherlock.

  4. Amber LeaFriday, September 26th, 2008 — 3:43pm PDT

    Guy Ritchie should just stick to being married to Maddonna. His supposed “Sherlock Holmes movie” will be absolute crap. Robert Downey Jr. is an excellent actor, don’t get me wrong, but is no way the Sherlock of this era. Especially if Jude Law is to be casted as Watson. Ugh!

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