One year later, after the press conference which launched the shooting of Sherlock Holmes, the cast and crew were back in the London’s Freemasons Hall to promote Sherlock Holmes. Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Joel Silver, Kelly Reilly, Mark Strong, Susan Downey, Dan Lin, Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram and Hans Zimmer attend the conference (sadly Rachel McAdams wasn’t able to make it), to explain how they were all introduced to Sherlock Holmes and what drew them to the project. Robert Downey Jr. was his typical wisecracking self, playing around with the audience and the cast and the crew, but everyone else was done in a rather typical “straight-laced must sell the film” mode.
Hope you enjoy.
Joel, what was it for you that attracted you to this project?
Silver: It’s a great movie. I think it potentially has franchise capabilities which is very good. I think Warners, we’ve mentioned this fellow, Jeff Robinov, the head of the studio, who actually is here today. It’s a worldwide press conference. Jeff, please stand up so we can… (applause) And sitting next to him is Sue Kroll, head of marketing. But I mean, I have to do that. But I think we have a chance at really having a lot of fun with this character, with this story. I think that you want to have a place to go with a movie. You want to have a place to start and it can continue past the end of the movie. I think we tried very hard to allow the audience to embrace the fact that there may be more of a story. I’m hopeful the audience loves it and enjoys it and we can continue our journey.
So what was your first intro to Sherlock Holmes?
Zimmer: I think pretty much, at the age of six, German translation, needless to say, when I started reading Sherlock Holmes. I certainly fell in love with it and carried on loving it all throughout my life.
Lin: For me, it was seeing young Sherlock Holmes in elementary school.
Wigram: For me, it was around about the age of eight or nine. My dad used to read them to me before I went to bed.
Reilly: I don’t remember exactly when it was but I just know that it was in my childhood. I can’t really put a finger on when.
Law: Mine was the TV series, the Jeremy Brett TV series.
Downey Jr: I’m the same as Kelly. On that point.
Ritchie: For me I was about six. They were the first stories I was familiar with actually. I knew them all extremely well. I knew them from school.
Strong: If you were a school boy growing up in England, he forces his way into your literary DNA. I think the first one I saw was, like Jude, Jeremy Brett.
Susan Downey: I saw Hounds of Baskerville and I’d read a couple of the short stories, but when this was percolating, I’m a very good student and I kind of locked myself away one weekend and read everything.
Silver: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, I remember those movies. They really had a lot of resonance for me and it was great to take what we saw and what we… I remember as those movies and bring to life today.
Guy, we’ve known you from smaller films. Why did you choose this one?
Ritchie: I chose it really because I needed the job. Aside from that, I wanted to go from small independent films and this seemed to be the perfect segway from something that was small, but I managed to hold onto an English identity but at the same time we had American muscle and American pockets. So it’s kind of been the perfect segway to me to have something that’s big and broad, but is essentially but with only American muscle.
Is there any more pressure because of that American muscle and those pockets?
Ritchie: You’ll have to ask me that in a few days once the film opens, but as yet it’s really the same, I think the same process is involved for a big film as it is for a small film. That may all change in a few days.
For the actors, what is required for the slow motion in terms of technique?
Downey Jr: (in corny accent) Am I expected to qualify this with an answer? (Back to normal voice) It’s a seven second take and so, if you notice, everything that happens that you never see in seven seconds you see in playback so I think it’s just about trying to do less.
There is a sense that because it is super slow motion there is no hiding.
Downey Jr: Yeah, often there’s not. Guy used to tell me, “Try one like you’ve just tasted like peanut butter,” and I thought that is the strangest direction I’ve ever gotten and it actually kind of worked.
Guy, is there an influence from Caballa in this movie and how was Israel for you?
Ritchie: Israel’s very nice.
If you can shorten that answer a bit…
Ritchie: (Laughs) Israel. No, if you come through the door of this building above the door it says Kaddish, Kaddish, Kaddish. So we actually derived most of our influence from esoteric schools from the Masons, loosely based on the Masons. But the Masons themselves are heavily steeped in Hebraic scripture so that’s really where we drew our inspiration.
Robert, Holmes has been an inspiration for many shows like House M.D. Are you a fan of that show. Also, were you scared about approaching this role?
Downey Jr: Scared. I don’t get scared anymore. I just get busy. I already knew by the time Guy was directing this that it was a fresh interpretation. And then, I’ve worked with Joel Silver a bunch, I’ve lived with Susan Downey a bunch. Lionel Wigram basically is the person who figured out how to reprise this as a film. So I knew I was in good hands and then it was just a matter of getting down to business. Fortunately I’d spent some time here in the late ‘80s playing Chaplin and I had a great tutelage in all things British from Lord Attenborough so I felt like I’d definitely passed go, but definitely felt the onus of, it’s not the fear of the judgment of others, at a certain point it just comes down to, will you meet the standards that people are expecting of you and you expect from them.
What about Hugh Laurie?
Downey Jr: Hugh Laurie. It’s nice. What did he say about Israel? No, no, that’s actually an interesting point. I like that guy.
Mark, the chance to play a nemesis in this must have been something you relished?
Strong: Yes, it was a… I’ve worked with Guy a few times, so it was great to come back and work with him. More importantly, I think the pressure was on to find a villain who was worthy of the greatest detective in the world. And I’m fascinated by the fact that, although everything else is cherry picked from the short stories and the novels, Blackwood isn’t and I think what that allowed the film to do was create whatever we wanted, which is even kind of more outlandish perhaps than anything you’d find in the novels. But he embodies Victorian and that whole kind of Imperial feel of showmanship that the Victorians are famous for.
Robert, can you talk about why you loved filming in Britain. And Jude, the locations you liked?
Downey Jr: Look, I was here 20 years ago and the food sucked. And I was not particularly happy. I was doing a movie called Air America. I renamed it Air Generica. And we were at Pinewood in these studios or whatever and then I came back and I did Chaplain. I think there’s something about the work ethic here. I think there’s something about the people and the culture. Obviously as Americans and I can speak for myself and Susan and Joel – there’s sometimes just a bit of an abrupt attitude that we have, like, “All right, we’re here, let’s get done with the work. Fuck what you’re going through. We’ll eat later.” And we were very shortly put in check that there’s a more civilized way to operate and that’s it nice to put out a little cheese, let’s talk, let’s be grown-ups about this. It is tea time. It’s tea time right now. See you later. (Laughs) And by the way, we’re not vulgar or anything, it’s just very much a part of the furniture here. And I think it was just, for me anyways, just a huge experience in the proper way to do things. I’ve taken it forth ever since.
Law: I don’t remember my part of the question.
Shooting in U.K.
Law: Oh yeah, well the production design did an amazing job embellishing what was already pretty historic sites.
Downey Jr: Sarah Greenwood.
Law: Beautiful. We’d turn up every day and they’d been there two days dressing and laying in stuff as far as the eye could see. The detail was exquisite. But it’s always fun to be out and about in film rather than in the studio. That goes back to what Joel said. This was a film very much taking Holmes… The kernel of the story’s a domestic drama if you like and you see them still delving and unpicking cases on a cerebral level, but also they’re out and about getting their boots dirty and their knuckles sore. It was fun work in the U.K. It’s always fun working in the U.K. I love coming home, making films here.
Susan, the guys have talked about the atmosphere on set created by Mr. Ritchie. Tell us about that.
Susan Downey: Well, it’s really interesting because it’s by far the most relaxed set I’ve ever worked on. I think I can speak for Robert, at least on that. And what I came to realize pretty quickly was that it was completely by design. And Guy, it’s very important to him, that essentially he’s running the show, sort of orchestrating what’s going on. But he wants everybody to sort of feel excited to come to work and excited to bring their best and bring their new ideas. And as a result he creates a very collaborative environment and what it resulted for us was this desire to always bring new ideas to the days work or what was upcoming. We spent a lot of time together. A lot of times on a movie set at lunch, everybody disappears. Producers go off and have meetings or you watch dailies or the actors go take a rest of something. We all would get together at lunch in a trailer and sort of spend half the time making each other laugh and the other half working on either that afternoon’s work or something that was upcoming. It worked out really well. I think Guy improved his guitar. I think if we played some EPK stuff from the beginning of the shoot and then at the end we’d see how well he did. But then you’d go by and suddenly everybody else had the guitar in their hand. It was just that kind of family, collaborative environment and it made for a lot of fun.
Presumably this was an artistic decision to go onto this scale. Are we going to lose you to Hollywood or will you still make small films?
Ritchie: I don’t know is the answer to that. I really sort of, I make the films that I want to make. The interesting thing about this experience was that it wasn’t the cliche experience between filmmaker and studio. You know, I argued for the studio. I wanted to make an accessible, broad, what they call a four quadrant movie. What they wanted was Guy Ritchie-isms, so to speak. I argued for the studio and the studio argued for me. It was like two people trying to get to the bar and the other one was trying to insist they should pay. So all the arguments between the studio and myself are coming from a positive place. I think studios have changed with their approach towards filmmakers. They want, and I’ve certainly found this with Warner Bros. and Jeff Robinov, who really does seem to support a filmmaker’s vision. So I had a tremendously positive experience from beginning to end. I had no negative arguments. There was no us and them, which I had anticipated and I’d heard was inevitable. That just didn’t happen.
What were the most challenging aspects of recreating Victorian London. Also Guy, there’s a cheeky nod to your own pub in the film. Did you invite everyone for a lock-in during the shoot?
Ritchie: Wouldn’t know about lock-ins. I think [the first question] is really a question for Sarah Greenwood, but I certainly had no complains, which I usually do. I’m used to having a hammer and nail myself in all the films that I’ve done before while I sort of knock things up. It was a relief to come to work and have these great cities built. They managed to manifest something that felt so authentic to me. Although we shot almost entirely on location. It was inspiring to see what it was the production department could manifest. So you’d have to really ask them about that. I just loved everything that they gave us to offer.
Guy, can you talk about the reshoots. Also, why such an attractive Watson.
Ritchie: Was the first question about reshoot. We always left, in every film I’ve ever done, I always leave a contingency week for reshoots because you never know what’s going to surface during the editing process. So we always leave a week and we left a week in this one. But if you look at the, am I happy with the result? Yes, it’s the film that we all intended to make. But if you look at, on the DVD, there are no deleted scenes either, which is rather disappointing for those that like deleted scenes. But there was absolutely no fat on this. Pretty much what we started with was what we ended up with.
And what about Watson?
Ritchie: Oh yes. It’s been coined the Hotson versus Potson scenario. What we wanted, we really wanted a good looking Watson and then in the tabloids it got coined Hotson. And this was because I’d always seen their relationship as much more of an equal partnership, more like Butch and Sundance, than I had seen it as this kind of bumbling Potson. So I just thought that was fair to Conan Doyle and also Lionel and I agreed on that. Lionel and I were always in agreement with how we thought this partnership should be portrayed.
Jude, are you in love again? Robert, have you ever been tied to a bed?
Law: The only person I’m in love with at the moment is here on my left (talking about Downey).
Downey Jr: Where are you? (looking for journalist) I want to look in your fucking eyes. There we go. You’d like to know if I’ve been involved in sadomasochistic activities, sexually? I’ll answer answer this if you meet me in the bathroom with a little mask on. Bring your rubber mask and I’ll tell you.
Kelly, how did you cope trying to play the character with these two behaving like this?
Reilly: It was very difficult. Hell. No, I think Watson should have warned Mary before they go for dinner. I think he should have said he may be a bit tricky with you.
Law: How satisfying was it throwing that glass of wine, though?
Reilly: It was my first day on the first week of filming. I was terrified.
Downey Jr: You’d probably rather have done it closer to the end of the shoot?
Reilly: Yeah. (Laughs)
How many times did you have to do it?
Reilly: Oh, I can’t remember.
You didn’t do it the first time?
Reilly: No, I think I missed first time. But yeah, three or four. But I think what’s nice about Mary is that she’s the woman behind the already good man and the fact that she can actually have a place in that relationship that isn’t the woman that wants him to stay at home. She does love him as much as Holmes does and wants him to go and continue his adventures, but unfortunately you didn’t see it like that.
Robert, you mentioned that the food sucked in the U.K. 20 years ago. Was there anything you liked? Also, Guy didn’t have a lock-in, so have you been to the Punch Bowl?
Downey Jr: First of all, I kind of sucked 20 years ago. Far be it from me to say what was good and where. I barely remember any of it. But there’s a ton of good restaurants. As a matter of fact, I think we should just stop the press conference now and start passing around notes. I believe Automat is quite the spot right now.