With Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes about to get released, it’s time for the final segment of “7 Days with Producer Dan Lin”. Over the past week we’ve covered all the various projects Lin is developing like the Lego movie and Gangster Squad, his thoughts on the Terminator Salvation ending and what’s up with future movies, what’s up with Bone and Tom and Jerry, and yesterday was about the Justice League movie, Suicide Squad, and Stephen King’s It. But for tonight’s article, we finally get to the reason I got to speak with him in the first place: Sherlock Holmes.
As I have said many times, I loved the film. It’s got a great script. Fantastic performances from everyone involved. Amazing chemistry between Jude Law and Downey Jr.. A third act that doesn’t suck. Action scenes that sell why Sherlock Holmes is Sherlock Holmes. If you can’t tell…I’m really recommending the film.
Anyway, in tonight’s article, Lin talks about how he went from being a development executive to a producer. He also talked about what the differences are between being a producer/executive producer and a development exec. If you’re curious how Hollywood works, it’s great stuff.
And when we got to talking about Sherlock Holmes, he talks about how the project came together, are they planning sequels, what was it like for him when he found out Robert Downey Jr. wanted to play Holmes, and we also talked about whether or not a certain big movie star (Brad Pitt) makes a surprise appearance. Much more after the jump:
The first thing to mention is the Brad Pitt rumor. In case you hadn’t heard, rumors have been everywhere that Brad Pitt makes a surprise appearance somewhere in the movie as a major character in the Holmes universe. If you know the world of Sherlock Holmes, there is only one character I could be talking about. But according to Lin, “that person you’re referring to is not in the movie. That was all online chatter.”
Regarding sequels, Lin says “there’s a lot of talk about the sequel right now. Even over lunch the other day we were all talking about it conceptually. We don’t want to be too presumptuous. We want to make sure this first movie works, but clearly it’s set up to have future movies. That relationship between Watson and Holmes can go on for future movies. So certainly the goal is to have future movies if this movie works but we’re not being presumptuous about it just yet.”
Finally, one of the many things I loved about Sherlock Holmes is that it isn’t an origin story. Unlike most first films that could be a franchise starter, they decided to jump right into the world of Holmes with no origin. As Lin says, “this is more like Indiana Jones where you’re catching Holmes and Watson midstream-in the middle of their career.” Trust me, it’s a great start to what hopefully will be a long franchise.
Here’s the final part of our interview.
*note* minor spoilers are discussed
Collider: What I find interesting is you went from being a development exec, to being an executive producer, to being a producer. I have often heard about the acting casting couch. Tell me about the producer casting couch. What exactly does it entail?
Dan Lin: Do you want a joke response or….?
Well, I mean did you have to sleep with a lot of people? Is it about your performance in bed vs. what you really make at the box office?
Dan Lin: It’s about not giving it up. It’s the opposite of sleeping with people.
That’s very funny. But I am curious how you went from being a development exec to being an executive producer. How hard was that transition to go from one step to the next?
Dan Lin: It’s a pretty natural transition. For me personally, being a development exec was good preparation for becoming a producer. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the studio and the producers, we all work together towards the same goal – make the best movie possible. So, as you probably know, as a development exec I’m the buyer. Sherlock Holmes I initially bought the graphic novel from Lionel Wigram and set it up with the studio and oversaw it before I decided to transition to become a producer. As a producer you’re really in the trenches with the writer, the director, the actors. So it’s kind of a different feel. You’re really there from start to finish.
But on your resume you’re also listed as an executive producer on certain projects.
Dan Lin: Yes.
So what is, for example, those duties vs. being a development exec/producer?
Dan Lin: It’s really specific to the film. It’s whatever the director needs. It’s really just the title. It all depends on the movie. I was executive producer on Terminator Salvation but I was just as involved on Terminator as I was on Sherlock Holmes, in fact probably a little more involved on Terminator because ultimately the two movies were shooting back to back and I couldn’t be here on-set all the time on Sherlock Holmes. So it’s really hard to describe the difference. It’s really what the director ultimately needs you to do. With Terminator, I was on-set with McG helping with rewrites and its impact on our production process whereas Sherlock Holmes had other partners with Lionel, Joel Silver and Susan Downey that could handle the day-to-day in London.
Jumping into Sherlock for a second, how long ago did the project first come together? Could you sort of describe your involvement from the beginning and then how quickly did the film sort of get greenlit, if you will?
Dan Lin: We were just talking about it today before the press conference. Almost 3 years to the day from beginning to end. And beginning meaning when Lionel Wigram brought the graphic novel to me at Warner Brothers and I was an executive. I bought it 3 years ago with the support of Jeff Robinov (president of WB features). WB saw the potential to re-invent an iconic hero. How it began was Lionel Wigram wrote a graphic novel of Sherlock Holmes. He hired a comic book artist to show how different from the original books-both how he’s different and what pieces of the original Conan Doyle books that he’d be bringing into the movie. We set that up at Warner Brothers. Around that same time, I became a producer at Warner Brothers, so Lionel asked me to join him to produce the movie. We hired a series of writers. Started out with a British writer, Michael Johnson. And then ended up being Anthony Peckham. We read his script Invictus and loved it and brought him on to re-write it. And so I think Anthony set up the structure of the movie for us. Anthony then turned in a draft, we then hired Guy Ritchie to re-write and direct the movie. And somewhere mid-way through the process we heard that Robert Downey Jr. was interested in it. And so when Robert came on, he came on with Joel Silver who he had essentially grown up with in the business. Joel produced Weird Science and Susan Downey, who ran Silver Pictures at the time, came on as a producer as well. Both of them really helped us shape the movie.
What did Simon Kinberg do to the script?
Dan Lin: Simon played a key role for us at a critical juncture of our movie. He came in and further fleshed out our characters, working very closely with Robert to tailor the character to him. Simon also did a great job enhancing our action set pieces.
What’s that reaction…describe what that is like for you when you get that call? Yeah, we’re hearing Robert Downey Jr. might want to do this?
Dan Lin: Shock. You wonder if it’s for real, but it’s literally perfect casting. If you think about what he brings as an actor. We always talked about who’d be our dream casting. What was interesting about the graphic novel was this wasn’t an origin story. This wasn’t Batman. It wasn’t Spider-Man. This is more like Indiana Jones where you’re catching Holmes and Watson midstream-in the middle of their career. So it wasn’t going to be a young guy, so as far as a guy in his late 30’s-early40’s who can pull it off, pull off the action, pull off the humor, pull off the intellect of the character and pull off the edge, Robert Downey was the dream choice. So it’s a bit surreal when you get that call.
That’s actually something that a friend of mine and I were talking after we saw a screening of it. He was comparing it to me about how it felt like an Indiana Jones movie, which, upon reflection, it feels like an Indiana Jones movie. You start with the big action sequence. You know you’re jumping right on in. Was that always….can you talk about where the idea for the action set pieces, you know, where they were inside the film? Did you always know you wanted to open with a nice solid action sequence?
Dan Lin: We knew we wanted to open with a nice solid action sequence to tell the viewer immediately that this wasn’t your father’s Sherlock Holmes. That we wanted to show there’s a different kind of fighting style, so the opening sequence was always there that you saw. We also wanted to show, from the books, that Sherlock knew an ancient from martial arts called Baritsu and so we have version of that kind of hand-to-hand fighting that you saw with Robert Downey Jr. with his shirt off. Those were the two key set pieces that we wanted to start the movie off with. And then certainly the fight at the end was an anchor as far as the fight on Tower Bridge.
Which is really a fantastic sequence. I’m curious about Easter eggs in the film for die-hard Sherlock Holmes fans. How important was it for you guys to set up little things that maybe the audience isn’t going to notice but the die-hards will?
Dan Lin: It wasn’t a key part of the movie from what I understand and we talked about it early on whether or not we should have the deer stalker hat. We even wrote a scene and dispensed with the scene. We talked about should we have him say the line “elementary my dear Watson” with a wink and we said not to do that. So Guy’s approach is very much I want to make my version of Sherlock Holmes. I don’t necessarily need any Easter eggs from past movies or even from the books.
Being careful as I phrase this question, I tried to get information out of Guy Ritchie regarding…there’s been a lot of online talk about a certain possible guest star in the movie for a certain possible role. Will it ever come out whether or not this person was in the movie or not?
Dan Lin: That person you’re referring to is not in the movie. That was all online chatter. What Joel said today in the press room is true. We don’t know who’s going to be in the next movie. We focused on this movie. We don’t want to be too presumptuous about the next movie but we wanted to leave it open.
Let me ask you this question because I’ve seen it twice now and the second time, half the reason I went was specifically to listen to the dialogue as carefully as I could. And the dialogue, in my opinion, could be this major actor delivering those lines, or it could easily not be, but it’s close enough that if someone told me it was I would believe it. So my question for you is…will it come out who voiced those lines?
Dan Lin: It may incidentally, but it’s not the major movie star that you’re referring to. It’s a terrific voice actor, but he’s not a major movie star.
But it sounds very much like him if you listen. Believe me I was really paying attention. So here’s the thing, everyone at Warner Brothers seems very excited. Jeff Robinov has spoken very highly about it. I think the film’s great. Assuming that the worldwide audience embraces the film and the box office is good, and I know people are hesitant to talk about sequels, but let’s talk about the fact that this is clearly a franchise. How quickly…is someone already writing the sequel right now or is it sort of in the backburner and then after opening weekend we might hire someone?
Dan Lin: There’s a lot of talk about the sequel right now. Even over lunch the other day we were all talking about it conceptually. We don’t want to be too presumptuous. We want to make sure this first movie works, but clearly it’s set up to have future movies. That relationship between Watson and Holmes can go on for future movies. So certainly the goal is to have future movies if this movie works but we’re not being presumptuous about it just yet.
So thus far no one is actually actively writing the sequel?
Dan Lin: We’ve talked about a lot of ideas, but there’s no script yet.
Sherlock Holmes gets released on Christmas Day. Click here to watch some clips from the movie right now.