Sherlock Holmes: Interview with Star Robert Downey Jr.

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Robert Downey Jr. plays Sherlock Holmes in "Sherlock Holmes," directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Jude Law and Rachel McAdams.

A Superb Character

"He was probably the first superhero, an intellectual superhero," states Robert Downey Jr., the Oscar-nominated actor who takes on the title role in "Sherlock Holmes." "He was, and probably still is, one of the most recognizable icons on Earth, so much so that a lot of people actually thought that Sherlock Holmes was a real person. The more you look into Arthur Conan Doyle's books, the more you see what a rich character Sherlock Holmes is. He's very adept at so many things: he plays violin, he's a martial artist, a boxer, an expert single stick fighter and a swordsman of sorts. He has a strong moral code in helping good guys catch bad guys, so he has dedicated his life to being a consulting detective. He doesn't do it to show everyone how smart he is, or that he has figured everything else out when they haven't; he's actually a crusader."

"Sherlock Holmes" unfolds against the backdrop of London in 1890, when the city seems at the center of the world, with technology extending mankind's reach and all things new racing to replace the old. "There's a growing engagement in technologies of the near future, and this sense of wonderment," Robert Downey Jr. observes. "They're verging on all these incredible things."

Downey continues, "You have this incredibly fascinating yet dangerous city, and Holmes knows every inch of it. He feels that this is his city in which to engage the enemy. And he knows what he's up against."

Holmes's unconventional quirks and understated idealism resonated with the actor. "He's an archetype," Robert Downey Jr. asserts. "There's something so monastic about him–his intentions are so pure, and his moral code is strengthened by his resolve and his actions. When he feels he's not inspired or motivated by some creative charge, he'll fall into a state where he barely speaks a word for three days, and when he's engaged, he has incredible amounts of energy, super-human energy. He says, 'There's nothing more stimulating than a case where nothing goes your way.' And, in the end, Holmes's passionate curiosity and his ability to not only see but interpret these details are what make him so unique."

On Watson and Working with Law

In addition to joining Holmes in his investigations, Watson is also the storyteller in the Sherlock Holmes canon. "If there wasn't Watson, there would be no Holmes because Holmes never talks about what he does, but Watson is with him every step of the way," says Downey.

"Jude has a huge intellect and love of the game," Downey adds. "The second we met, we just started bouncing ideas off each other. We were very much on the same page, which is a pretty eccentric page. He really knows what he's doing and yet he's also very open to letting things flow. We really worked as a team to do justice to these characters and their friendship."

Fighting

"The bare-knuckle boxing ring is the only place where Holmes doesn't think," says Downey. "But even there he does think; he thinks about how to win the fight, but doesn't think about all of these ongoing concerns of life. Interpersonal relations don't enter into it. It's just you and your opponent."

More out of necessity than choice, Watson too knows his way around a street fight, though he is more of a brawler compared to the fluid combat style of Holmes. "Watson is used to the up-close-and-personal fight-for-your-life stuff," Downey attests. "He has a much more accessible but no less effective style than Holmes. As a matter of fact, there are often times when Holmes over thinks in order to come up with the best deduction, where Watson will just strike with any tool that's handy."