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Mr. Beaks Investigates The Making of SHERLOCK HOLMES With Guy Ritchie!

Two weeks ago, while Robert Downey Jr. was down at the San Diego Comic Con showing off some visually impressive footage of SHERLOCK HOLMES and, generally, working over the convention center's Hall H like a revival minister, his director, Guy Ritchie, was stuck back in England tending to the latter stages of postproduction to make sure the finished film lives up to Downey's unfettered hype when it opens this Christmas. This may sound like a thankless task, but I think any self-respecting geek would happily skip Comic Con if it meant getting to spend several days working on the score of their own feature film with the one and only Hans Zimmer. This is just one of the many big-budget luxuries that have been afforded Ritchie, who's making his first full-on studio film with SHERLOCK HOLMES - and, judging from his comments in the below interview, enjoying every second of it. It helps that he's working with Warner Bros. (which has gained a reputation as the most director-friendly studio in town over the last couple of years) - and Ritchie is quick to credit the regime there for giving him free reign creatively. He's also having a blast collaborating with Downey, Zimmer, Rachel McAdams, Oscar-winning cinematographer Philippe Rousselot and just about everyone else who's pitched in behind or in front of the cameras. So Ritchie's fine with Downey getting the geeks all charged up at Comic Con. As he tells me near the end of our conversation, he's very confident that SHERLOCK HOLMES "won't look like any other film you'll see this year." Obviously, it's not going to look like any Sherlock Holmes movie you've ever seen (bye-bye deerstalkers), but Ritchie is careful to point out that their take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famed deducer will be true in spirit to the original stories. It'll also be stuffed with easter eggs which should satisfy fans of Doyle without pandering to them. And if you're wondering about Moriarty, well, the question does get asked. Read on...

Mr. Beaks: As I'm sure you know, SHERLOCK HOLMES went over brilliantly in Hall H.

Ritchie: I'm very pleased about that.

Beaks: Did you get to see video of it?

Ritchie: I did not get to see video, and I should've, shouldn't I?

Beaks: You should be able to find it on YouTube.

Ritchie: It's not very hard for me to look up then?

Beaks: No, I think Comic Con put up videos of all the panels. They just cut out the footage. The great thing about the SHERLOCK panel was that it was the finale to Warner Bros.' presentation. And instead of waiting for someone to announce him, Downey just walked out on the stage by himself. The place exploded.

Ritchie: Oh, good. Good man, Rob!

Beaks: He really enjoys it.

Ritchie: If anyone's earned it, he has.

Beaks: I agree completely. Well, it's great to catch up with you, Guy. The last time we talked, ROCKNROLLA was opening in the U.S. and you were just getting started on SHERLOCK HOLMES. Where are you now in the process?

Ritchie: I spent all day with Hans Zimmer today. He's a genius. Have you ever done anything with Hans Zimmer?

Beaks: I've spoken with him briefly, but I've never interviewed him.

Ritchie: He is fantastic. He is the most humble, the most creative, the most unpretentious individual I think I've come across in this industry. And crazy talented. And crazy grateful for his job. I'm full of admiration for Hans Zimmer.

Beaks: How does your collaboration with him work? Did you give suggestions as to what type of music you'd like, or did he just come in and give you what he thought would be appropriate for the film?

Ritchie: We are very much on the same page. We watched the movie together, and then drank a couple of pints of whiskey together and riffed off one another about where we thought we should go. I'm very happy with where we've gone. I think the music will be a very significant part of the process.

Beaks: Was he a Sherlock Holmes fan coming into this?

Ritchie: You know, I don't think I've ever asked him that question. From his point of view and my point of view, I had an opinion of what Sherlock Holmes was like through my mind's eye. And I forgot about that once I got behind the camera. What I wanted to do was create something that felt fresh. So I've not harked back to any previous imagery which I may have concocted in my noggin. I started with a fresh template, so I think I have - and Hans has - that with the music. These things sort of organically point you in the right direction. One foot tells the next foot where to go creatively. So I don't think you could foresee that. I think that's happening with the music. I had no definitive [thought] that the music had to be this. I suppose I had the same approach toward the imagery and where the camera would go, and its ultimate identity until it started manifesting on the day. I think it's sort of taken on its own identity, which was steered initially by Conan Doyle. But since then, it's taken on a life of its own.

Beaks: That's interesting, because when some people see the trailer or the footage, they have this knee-jerk response. "That's not Sherlock Holmes!" But I think the popular conception of Sherlock Holmes may be the least accurate representation of the character out there.

Ritchie: Yes. Deerstalkers and pipes. Where they came from, I'm not sure. Pipes, yes. Deerstalkers, no. They become a parody of themselves, really. Any production of Sherlock Holmes became a caricature upon a caricature. We were more insterested in... capturing Conan Doyle's spirit. And I think we've been as authentic as we can to that considering that this character was as dark as he was and as multilayered as he was. But at the same time he's an action man who was into martial arts. He was a Bartitsu expert in the 19th Century; no one was up to those sort of tricks back then. He's a very modern action hero who has all of the advantages and pedigree of someone who comes from the 19th Century. You get all the benefits of a modern action hero, but all of the benefits of a 19th Century intellectual detective. It's an interesting confluence of characteristics.

Beaks: And just in terms of honoring the spirit of Conan Doyle while doing your own thing with it, it strikes me that you're doing kind of the same thing that Marvel Studios has been doing with some of their franchises - IRON MAN, in particular. "We're going to incorporate all of the elements that people like about this character - and maybe some elements they don't know about. We're not going to seriously violate canon, but we're also not going to tell the same stories over and over again."

Ritchie: Also, Conan Doyle wasn't a filmmaker. He was a novelist. I'm a filmmaker, so it has to come through the filmmaker's point of view. Who knows what Conan Doyle would've done as a filmmaker, and, in a way, it's sort of irrelevant. I have to go with what I believe to be the spirit of Conan Doyle, and who knows how authentic you can be to the novelist's interpretation if you're a filmmaker? That's another thing to be taken into consideration. And I think I do. I think I empathize with Conan Doyle as an individual as much as anyone does just because I'm sort of sympathetic to the way he thought. He was a very broad-minded thinker, Conan Doyle. And in many ways, he had a very... holistic approach to life. He didn't believe that it was a sort of disparate accident. He was interested in much bigger themes, as was much of that cabal that he hung around with back in the 19th Century. I'm sympathetic to that. They thought big and ambitiously, those guys. And we've tried to incorporate that into the film.

Beaks: Speaking of big and ambitious, this is definitely your biggest production yet. It's certainly your first full-scale Hollywood production.

Ritchie: I've found [the studio] to be tremendously supportive, particularly Jeff Robinov, who's in charge of production at Warner Bros. It's very filmmaker friendly, and they want the filmmaker to have a vision. I felt very supported by him and his team throughout the process. I mean, I haven't had one argument with any of them in terms of what direction we're heading in. It's been great, you know? It's been great having deep pockets, and it's been great in terms of their support of the creative vision from Robert's point of view and my point of view.

Beaks: I keep hearing this from directors who work with Warner Bros. They have these great experiences, and generally feel like they get to make the film they want to make.

Ritchie: I completely feel like I've made the film I wanted to make. And at the same time, it's very beneficial having other people with other creative points of view, which can trump what you believe to be a good idea. From my point of view, filmaking is about teamwork, and I've got a big, powerful, creatively clever team behind me. So I've got no complaints at all.

Beaks: As a collaborator, I don't know if there's an actor alive who is more aware of the camera and how to maximize his presence on film than Robert Downey, Jr.

Ritchie: (Laughing) I love Robert. I love him. I know he was on the rise when he came on to this, but I can't help but feel that his presence has been augmented exponentially since we've done this project. And it's nothing to do with this project; it just feels like Robert's personality is growing and growing and growing.

Beaks: (Laughing) He's a late-blooming superstar.

Ritche: It feels like that, doesn't it?

Beaks: Absolutely. Compared to the way he was at Comic Con a few years ago, he was out there this year relishing the attention and working that crowd. It was fun to watch.

Ritchie: He can control it all, too. He's at the right age for it. His head's in the right place for it.

Beaks: So, for example, when you were staging these fight scenes, would Robert come up with ideas that you'd incorporate?

Ritchie: Rob and I have pretty much collaborated - particularly on the physical aspects of the movie - all the way along. He's as fit as a butcher's dog. He smokes like a chimney, which he's since given up. But other than the fact that he smokes, or did smoke, he carries 5% body fat and he is tough as you like. He's very easy to work with: he's very flexible, very fit and very strong.

Beaks: His bantering with Rachel McAdams, at least in the footage we've seen thus far, it seems like they're perfectly matched. Was that something they had naturally, or did they have to work into that?

Ritchie: I think everything was pretty much there from the beginning, only because I felt as though everyone approached this film with the right attitude. Everyone was in sync with one another in terms of what direction we were planning on going in. There were never any tantrums. The creative conversations we had were good. Ego never got in the way. People thought narrative should come first as opposed to "being right" coming first. I always felt that with the actors and the producers.

Beaks: Visually, did you have a frame of reference for how you shot the film? Were there other movies you were drawing on? Was there a style you were trying to approximate?

Ritchie: Not really. I had Philippe Rousselot as a DP. He had an idea, I had an idea, and it pretty much came together, again, organically. Philippe is a very [collaborative] DP - which, you know, DPs' egos can sometimes be bigger than those of the director's or actors'. He would always come to me and go, "Do you like that?" And if I'd go, "You know, do a bit of this," he'd say, "You know what? You're right. We'll have a bit more of that." He was a very flexible DP, but he had a strong opinion at least initially. I'm very pleased with the way the film looks. And I do believe that it won't look like any other film you've seen this year.

Beaks: Well... that's confident.

Ritchie: Yeah, I am kind of confident in that respect. We've committed to a look, and it has a look. It's not just going to fall under the umbrella of standard [studio] filmmaking; it does have a look.

Beaks: We heard at Comic Con that there are going to be easter eggs in the film for Sherlock Holmes fans. And the one easter egg everyone is wondering about is Moriarty. We know Mark Strong is playing a different character as the villain, but people are really wondering if Moriarty makes an appearance in this film.

Ritchie: You know, I could get myself in trouble, and I don't want to do that. (Laughs) I have managed to avoid land mines, and I think I'm going to avoid this land mine. I'm going to politely defer to someone else for this. I can't say anything about Moriarty. But the film does have easter eggs.

Beaks: Looking forward, if this all goes well, I'm sure this will be a franchise. Are you in for the long haul? Would you like to keep on with this series?

Ritchie: I think one step at a time. I wouldn't like to count those chickens, so... one step at a time.

Beaks: Well, the footage went over very well at Comic Con.

Ritchie: And that's pretty much the film. That's a fair representation of what the film is going to be. We haven't showed you all the fancy bits, but... I think that's a pretty fair representation of what it is you're going to get.

Always a pleasure, Mr. Ritchie. For more on SHERLOCK HOLMES, check out Quint's conversation with Robert Downey Jr. and Rachel McAdams. Hopefully, Warner Bros. will make the Comic Con footage (or at least a portion of it) available shortly. Faithfully submitted, Mr. Beaks

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 4, 2009, 12:21 a.m. CST

    testing 1 2 3

    by xega


  • Aug. 4, 2009, 1:10 a.m. CST

    Getting more interested in this....


    Could go either way but at the moment I'm looking forward to seeing more of this. RDJ is always good company at the cinema.

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 1:31 a.m. CST

    I got chubbs for you

    by Trannyformers_Apologist

    I got chubs for you<P> Big fat chubs for you<P> Got a firm but soft for you<P> Gonna go half-way for you<P> Oh how happy you'll be<P> When I get this chubby lump outta my jeans<P> It's like a mini-bone<P> A tiny little tent<P> It's pulsin' now<P> Watch it go to half-mass<P> Come on, girl<P> Show me what you got<P> Make me harder now<P> Turn my chub into a hardon<P>

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 1:32 a.m. CST

    You Should have asked him how many times he fisted madonna

    by ChoclateWoman

    He probably had to shove both fists and his head up there to properly satisfy her. Loose twat. Rock'n'Rolla was ace fun, good to see guy ritchie getting back to what made him enjoyable.

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 2:36 a.m. CST

    Hi, I made a Sherlock Holmes film, but it doesn't

    by lockesbrokenleg

    have his greatest villain in it. I'm sure it won't bomb.

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 2:36 a.m. CST

    Dumbed down garbage

    by kwisatzhaderach

    I'll take the Jeremy Brett version any day of the week. Guy Ritchie isn't even a filmmaker.

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 2:50 a.m. CST

    Mr Ritchie please read this...

    by kingralphuk

    I've written a great screen play that would be perfect for you to film. It involves some kind of rare jewel that passes through many different kind of 'characters' hands, inclusing pikeys, mobsters and corrupt policeman. Best of all it could involve casting a hack ex-footballer to play a menacing hardman. You can even fuck up the last 30 pages of the script if you'd like.

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 7:54 a.m. CST

    I think its safe to assume madonna wore the strap-on in that rel

    by ChoclateWoman

    but I still think a old gal like madge probably digs a good fist or three in her vag to really satisfy those needs.

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 7:55 a.m. CST


    by ChoclateWoman

    darn tb doesn't let me post my smutty thoughts in peace. Ok, I'm off to rub my clit raw. Cheery-O, chaps.

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 11:34 a.m. CST

    If it wasn't for Downey Jnr this would be dead already

    by LightninBolt

    As it is it will be dead on delivery

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 12:35 p.m. CST

    "...drank a couple of PINTS of whiskey..."

    by discord8

    <raised eyebrow>

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 1:04 p.m. CST


    by Azlam Orlandu

    I seem to remember a Batman film in 2005 that didn't have his most famous villain in it and failed to bomb. There will always be Sherlock part 2.

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 2:21 p.m. CST

    Mr. Beaks

    by WealthyPeasant

    So, is there any merit to this report about Sherlock Holmes being "Gay"? The "New York Post" is reporting this: Did Ritchie allude to any of this in your interview?

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 5:29 p.m. CST

    HUGH JACKMAN to play GAY Sherlock Homes

    by idrinkyourmilkshake

    In a Musical about Sherlocke Homes, and insists to the critics he is in fact, "not gay".

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 5:53 p.m. CST

    11 comments on here

    by kingralphuk

    before this one and 3 of them are mine. There is NO interest in this film at all Ritchie.

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 9:03 p.m. CST

    No. They did mention the Joker in it

    by lockesbrokenleg

    They even showed his card! YOU'RE WRONG!!!

  • Aug. 4, 2009, 11:56 p.m. CST

    Sherlock,can you tell me why BIG LOB isnt in GI Joe?

    by GibsonUSA Returns

  • Aug. 5, 2009, 1:54 a.m. CST


    by The_Skook

    It doesn't take aybody with a passing interest in Holmes to work out the deerstalker and Inverness coat were first drawn by Sidney Paget who illustrated Holmes for The Strand. But no, it isn't definitive of Holmes, and shouldn't be... However, Ritchie isn't 'channeling' Conan Doyle. Merely his own ego. The trailer seems to dwell upon all the 'darker' aspects of Holmes and exaggerate them, and none of the itellectual and cerebral. Even making the villain Crowleyesque is a cop out. Too easy... The trailer looks like 'Carry On Sherlock'!

  • Aug. 5, 2009, 8:23 a.m. CST

    This movie looks like a horrible piece of crap

    by dale_cooper

    They're pulling a Van Helsing on Holmes. "True to the spirit," my ass. It's just another example of taking a lustrous old "property" (how I hate that expression) and running it through the Genericizer 2000. I look forward to not seeing any more of this movie than is shown in the awful, awful trailer.

  • Aug. 5, 2009, 8:31 a.m. CST

    RockNRolla 2

    by Dreamseller

    Next time someone of you AICN guys interviews Richie ask if he is going to make RockNRolla 2 anytime soon. That movie was awesome.

  • Aug. 9, 2009, 12:02 a.m. CST

    Greatest Villain?

    by Abelman007

    Try well-known - the guy appeared in person in one story because Doyle wanted to kill off Holmes. Who then got brought back. So Doyle could keep raking in the phat Holmes cash. Sounds like channeling the spirit to me.

  • Aug. 17, 2009, 10:46 a.m. CST

    The trailer is pretty good.

    by ewokstew

    Not a big Sherlock Holmes fan but it looks pretty fun. RDJ being in it helped seal the deal for me.