Sherlock Holmes: Interview with Director Guy Ritchie

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Guy Ritchie is the director of "Sherlock Holmes," starring Robert Downey Jr., Rachel McAdams and Jude Law. The film is being released Christmas Day by Warner Bros.

The cast and filmmakers of "Sherlock Holmes" set out to delve deeper into Conan Doyle's four novels and 56 self-contained short stories to peel back the layers on Holmes. "We've tried to take him back to what we believe to be his origin, which is essentially a more visceral character," says the film's director, Guy Ritchie, who has been a Holmes fan since childhood. "We've tried to integrate that and make him more streetwise. He is inquisitive about chemistry, martial arts, and the human condition. Yet he managed to percolate through all the different echelons of English society, which was tremendously complex. But then, as now, Sherlock Holmes is unique; there's really no one else like him. I think that's why his appeal has stuck. And while our story is rooted in London of the 1890s, we have tried to make it as contemporary as we possibly can.

Downey in the Lead

For Guy Ritchie, having Downey in the title role became the key to unlocking a new interpretation of "Sherlock Holmes." "In my opinion, Robert is the perfect Holmes," says the director. "He's American, but his English accent is flawless and he has an international feel to him. In his own way, Robert's also a bit of a genius. He's tremendously smart and quick-witted, and is very comfortable playing a character like Holmes without any artifice or pretension."

The Holmes/Watson Relationship

Their friendship plays an important role in both their work and their private lives. "They're tremendously close and we show how that manifests itself," Ritchie notes. "There's a lot of humor in it, some jealousy, but a real affection and sincerity about the partnership. They need each other for balance; Holmes is the creative genius and Watson's the more temperate and disciplined of the two."

On Rachel McAdams

To play Holmes's great love and Achilles' heel, the filmmakers cast Rachel McAdams. "Rachel struck me as the ideal Irene," says Ritchie. "She portrays her with this fantastic benign facade under which is the serpent of the most nefarious nature. She's not to be trusted at all. Even when she's got a blade to your throat, she smiles. Her sweetness is a front she uses to be as efficient in a man's world as she is."

Fighting Sequences

Ritchie sought a strategic blend of rehearsal and spontaneity to ensure the chaos of fighting was reflected in the sequences. "I made the creative decision to make the film gritty, so I didn't want things to be too choreographed," he says. "We discussed everything, but we also made sure to leave room for improvisation. I didn't want it to look too perfect."?

Of course, humor was an important ingredient in the action and found its way into all the action scenes. "There needed to be moments of levity and other moments of gravity," Ritchie offers. "So the funny bits got funnier and the darker bits got darker as we went along."