Shadow play: Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey and Jude Law reunite for new Sherlock Holmes adventure
When it comes to set visits, you can’t get more grandiose than the one for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the sequel to Warner Bros.’ 2009 smash hit. The location is Waddesdon Manor, a French chateau-style manor deep in the English countryside. It is bitterly cold as we observe an explosive night shoot involving a dozen or so horse-drawn carriages. In between takes, we had the chance to catch up with director Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey, Jr. (Sherlock Holmes himself) and Jude Law (who plays his partner Dr. Watson).
Having dropped out of filming Cowboys & Aliens to reprise his role as the world’s most famous consulting detective, Downey was in high spirits when we asked him how it felt to be back for the sequel. "Ever since Mr. Law and I met, the chuckles, the fun and the happiness come naturally. But we are serious about getting on with our business as Holmes and Watson. You could say we definitely like getting sweaty together!"
Law agrees, noting the great onscreen chemistry the two actors share. "We like the work, and we find working together fun," he declares. "Every so often you get to play wonderful characters maybe at the wrong time in your life. And sometimes, the right character comes along at the right time. I think we both felt that was what happened with our roles in Sherlock Holmes. It wasn't just happening individually, it was also watching someone else have that experience. We're working hard, but we're also enjoying it. It's the perfect balance."
Filmed on location in England and France, A Game of Shadows introduces us to Holmes’ most infamous enemy, a certain Professor Moriarty, played by British actor Jared Harris (“Mad Men”). His presence promises a much darker experience than we witnessed in the first film.
"It's nice to have Moriarty, who is arguably the most infamous intellectual villain ever," director Guy Ritchie divulges, noting how impressed he was with Harris’ performance, "Jared has been really great, and I keep telling him every day that he is significantly evil, which he finds most flattering. His take on the character works really well, and it's been a pleasure to work with him. We definitely made the right choice when it came to casting for the role."
Ritchie himself was scheduled to work on the film adaptation of DC Comics’ Lobo, but when the studio rushed through plans for the second Sherlock Holmes, he was quick to take up the director’s mantle again. "We enjoyed the last one so much, it would only seem churlish not to return and do another one. I like filming in the U.K., as I can sleep in my own bed tonight, which I'm very happy about.”
So, Moriarty aside, how will this film differ from the first? "The first Sherlock Holmes introduced many members of the audience to the character for the first time," Downey comments, "and the nice thing is second time around we are able to honor Conan Doyle even more by pretty much making this a very thrilling story not unlike the original books he wrote. I think, to be honest, it's a tiny bit broader and it's a little bit darker, just because of the situation we're up against. Moriarty reaches out and touches us with his evil quite a bit, and as a result we're in pretty bad shape almost all the time.”
Law agrees, observing that it is the trend in Hollywood to make sequels darker than their predecessors. "I don't know why there is that trend, but it does seem to be so. We went in with that in mind, and the threat of Moriarty and the presence of such an evil mind certainly leads it that way. A lot of the film this time around isn't set in London, so there's a real sense of the characters 'living out of a bag.’ I think as a result it's a lot more gritty and perilous than the first film was. Anything can happen!"
Of course, when it comes to making sequels, the three readily admit that they were apprehensive at first about recapturing the magic a second time. "Whereas before we didn't know what we were walking into, this time around it was a little more daunting. But we can only really do it one way, and that's by doing it full steam ahead," Downey tells us with a smile on his face.
"I was nervous about recreating the same formula again for the sequel," reveals Law. "I mean, how do you step in and start that up again? Once we got underway, though, it just happened and everything clicked together like it did before."
Can Law see it carrying on as a new franchise? "There's certainly the material, it's not like there isn't a load of stuff we could do. There are so many great stories and the characters are so strong, which is why they've remained so popular over the last hundred or so years. There's still such a hunger for it, whether it's on TV or film. There's something about those two together that people just get, it's an ingredient that they find pleasing. I'd be thrilled to do another one, but it always relies on if enough people see it. If they want us to do another one, we'll do another one."
The final word on this matter, as ever, has to go to Downey, who tells us gleefully, "We're all ready to hit you with Sherlock 3 right now. We're ready and raring to go!"