Robert Downey Jr. talks Sherlock Holmes & Iron Man 2 - RT Interview
The actor on his two big franchise outings.
Robert Downey Jr. can't quite remember why he was on the phone to Guy Ritchie the first time Sherlock Holmes was mentioned, but it was to give him some advice about the trailer for his comic thriller RocknRolla, not to bid for the lead in his $80m Victorian detective caper. But Downey does remember that when the conversation finally swung round that way, Ritchie told him he'd be too old for it anyway.
Nevertheless, within weeks of that chat, a press conference was held in the Freemasons Hall in central London, announcing the news that Downey had signed to play the eccentric sleuth. Just over 12 months later, the film is imminent, and what at first looked like stunt casting now appears to be a stroke of crazy genius. Once a cadaverous codger with a deerstalker hat and fogey pipe, Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous literary creation gets a jolt of adrenaline with Downey's firecracker performance, cutting a psychedelic swathe through the fog of Old London Town.
He talks exclusively to Rotten Tomatoes about the challenge of playing the most brilliant man there never was...
Bringing back Sherlock Holmes is a daunting thing. At what point did you think, 'I can do this'?
Robert Downey Jr.: Well, I never thought I could or couldn't, actually. I just remember talking to Joel Silver and saying, "Dude, where's our franchise?" Joel Silver and Mrs. Downey had done Guy's film previous to Sherlock, RocknRolla. Rather, they had put up the dough and had enjoyed the results. In the meantime, [producer] Lionel Wigram, had, I guess, been trying to figure out - like the rest of us, once we got it going - how come Sherlock Holmes had not been snatched up and done already? I remember in the 80s, 90s and on through nowadays, all search engines were on high alert for what the next franchise could be. So I guess it had been hiding in plain sight all along.
Was your decision to sign up determined at all by who would be Watson?
RD: Absolutely. That, to me, was the whole point. The realisation I had was that Holmes and Watson were the first action duo - I dare anybody to predate them. So I thought, Wow, this really is a two-hander. And while the script had the relationship there, I'm sure, initially, it was geared toward reintroducing a generation to Holmes himself. And maybe it was, partially, to share the load, or take off the pressure, but I think more so because it was my first instinct, I said, 'Well, this is a movie about two guys.' The movie, just as the books, is told, through Doyle as Watson, describing Holmes and his adventures. At a certain level, Doyle is Watson. It's hard to make that come through in the script, because usually when studios take a property, they decide to spin a point of view on it. Well, this one didn't need to be spun, we just needed to find the right guy. So we were pursuing Jude, and, understandably, he was cautiously optimistic. I asked him to come over to... where were we staying? What's the coolest old-school hotel in London?
Robert Downey Jr. with Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes.
RD: Claridges! Of course. And I had a feeling it was kind of a perfect match, as all of the females on my team all of a sudden needed to be in the hallway for no reason when he was coming up in the elevator. So I thought that it could really work for everybody. I knew that it was gonna work out, because two seconds after we started sitting down and having a coffee, we were already talking like we were shaping and workshopping every and anything that was possible with these guys. And, most of all, we were looking back into the massive database of books and short stories regarding those two fellows.
Jude Law has said that the stories prefigured the age of technology, information and computers. Is that something you'd agree with?
RD: Very much so. And that just goes back to Doyle. Doyle was a serious spiritualist. He was in touch with a lot of intuitive folks. I know there's some square, maybe it's Berkeley Square, in London where he had a spiritual society. As a matter of fact, in the 80s, when I was doing Air America, I used to go to the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Spiritual Society and listen to mediums as they shared the intimate goings on of the recently deceased with their mourning loved ones.
Continue on to page 2 as Downey shares his curiousity about spiritualism, the rumours about Brad Pitt's Moriarty and what we can expect from Iron Man 2.