In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as the world most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. Accustomed to being the smartest man in the room, criminal mastermind Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) throws Holmes off of his game, with his capacity for evil and lack of a moral compass keeping him steps ahead. As Holmes’ investigation into Moriarty’s plot becomes more dangerous, it also puts his friend and colleague, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), at risk and threatens to alter the course of history.
At a press conference to promote the film’s December 16th theatrical release, Robert Downey Jr. talked about the challenge of taking the character and story to another level for the sequel, always keeping Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in mind when playing the role, transforming into a woman this time around, and working with Jared Harris and developing the adversarial relationship between Holmes and Moriarty. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: After the first one worked out pretty good, we were doing the press tour and talking about things that we would like to improve and other directions we could go. And then, there was the reality of doing it. Anybody who’s ever been involved in making the second part to a first thing that worked, there should be a whole online support team. We happened through it. There’s so much to learn and the greatest disguise was us disguising ourselves as consummate, by the numbers professionals, when in fact, we’re all incredibly eccentric. And, Warner Bros. has given us the opportunity to try to do something that’s complicated and needs to tick a bunch of boxes. The great thing was that, this time, we also had Noomi [Rapace] and Jared [Harris].
What are the things you keep in mind, as you try to stick to the basics of Sherlock, but also make it different?
DOWNEY: Well, you just keep Doyle in mind. I just respect the guy, more and more. Oftentimes what’s required, particularly if you’re in any central position, is that you just have to let go of the things that are darling to you. You have to take the focus off yourself and put it on the shape of the scene and the intention of what everyone else needs. You have to give people something to actually write music to, so that you’re not just running your mouth, all the time. It was a democracy, in the truest, most frustrating and most rewarding sense of the word. Anybody could come in and say, “You know, I’m just not cool with that.” We’d be like, “Who’s that?,” and they’d say, “Oh, I was just cleaning the trailers.” It was nuts.
How was it to transform into a woman this time?
DOWNEY: I just put on some make-up. I thought I looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dwarf brother, or the lead singer of The Cure, Robert Smith.
Did you and Jude Law improvise a lot, during filming?
DOWNEY: The goal is to make a well-written scene seem like it’s improvised, and come up with things that you find in the room, that you couldn’t have known until you get into the real situation. You just try to improve things, as you go along.
Have you ever had a guy friendship or bromance, like Holmes and Watson?
DOWNEY: Well, Jude and I are pretty close, and Guy and I are practically brothers, which makes things really interesting. There have been times when I’ve wanted to lop off his head with a machete, but it’s just because I love him so much.
What was it like doing the first scene as Moriarty and Holmes? Did the relationship between you and Jared Harris grow, as you had more scenes together?
DOWNEY: Jared would come in and we’d have a scene that we would be shooting in two days, and he’d be like, “Is this going to pretty much stay like this?” I was like, “Not a word of it.” He’s day, “Can I have something that I can study the night before?” I’d say, “I’m going to venture a no on the possibility of yes.” It would be like that. The stakes were so high, in every scene, and there were complicated camera shots. It’s pretty terrifying. What Jared kept pushing toward wasn’t personal. It wasn’t like, “I don’t want to be embarrassed. I want to do a good job. I want to come off great. I want great dialogue.” It kept going back to this archetype that he was trying to represent.
Everything Jared Harris did, in the course of making this movie, was essentially thrown at him with very little time to prepare. It was shock and awe. I think what he brought with him was something that was just so particularly him, while still being this character. It honestly is the main reason that the movie works, but it was also an exercise in trial by fire for him. He was really quite nice. Once in a while, he would say, “I really just beg of you, if I could even have a semblance of knowing what I might say, I guarantee you that I could do a better job with it because I wouldn’t be like you, for this long scene that you just wrote, wearing an earwig where someone’s telling you what to say, in the other room. I would actually know what I was going to say.” I’d be like, “Interesting. Yeah, everyone has their own process.” Guy told him that he wanted him to go home and come back singing a German aria, the next day. Nobody learns a German aria overnight, except Jared Harris.
Having done two of these films, do you feel a sense of ownership towards Sherlock? Do you have any interest in the other portrayals?
DOWNEY: Yeah, I like everybody. Whenever I watch someone doing something, even if it doesn’t turn out so great, I admire their intentions. I know that there’s some quintessential performances that have happened. I’ve heard more about the series than I’ve seen, but I’m intrigued by it. I think it’s important that we’re all part of the same collective, honoring this great writer and his stories.
There was a rumor that you and Jude Law were going to do Some Like It Hot, with Guy Ritchie directing. Is there any truth to that?
DOWNEY: That’s Act 2 of Sherlock : A Game of Shadows. No, the Mrs. (producer Susan Downey) referenced that awhile ago because it’s what we reminded her of.
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