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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - Jared Harris DVD interview

Compiled by Jack Foley

JARED Harris talks about playing Professor Moriarty in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and why he feels playing a villain requires a lot of respect for the genre and for the truth behind real-life villainy as opposed to movie villainy.

He also talks about how he reacted upon finding out he had landed the part and what it was like working with Guy Ritchie. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is available on Blu-ray Triple play, DVD and digital download from May 14, 2012.

Q: You play Professor Moriarty. What’s it like to play, what has been called, the first super villain in literature?
Jared Harris: Daunting and also a great challenge. One likes a big challenge and this is a giant challenge. It needs to be an original version, because this is a totally sort of original, unique retelling of the whole Sherlock Holmes mythology. After Dr. Evil and Mike Myers, super villains can be a comic element. It was quite a fine line that you needed to be able to maintain credibility of the story and credibility of the character so that the story didn’t ever tip into being like some late-era Roger Moore-Bond movie or something.

Q: The character is very gentlemanly, calm and intellectual which makes him even scarier when you realize how evil he is. How did you develop the character that way?
Jared Harris: It always annoys me when I see people playing villains in stories where they’re these snarling, obvious, really unpleasant people. I think that it’s more likely – the people who are deeply manipulative and who are villains – they’re charming, they’re courteous, they seem like very reasonable, kind people, and they suck you in. It isn’t until later, until you’re too deep, that you find out that there’s this other side that they’re willing to do. They’re willing to go somewhere else that you’re not willing to go to. That’s why they have that edge over you.
I also thought that for him to operate within the levels of society he operates in, he needs to be believable as a professor. He’s a celebrated professor of astrophysics. He’s the Einstein of his era.

Q: What was your reaction when you found out you got the part?
Jared Harris: I was delighted and panic stricken. I understood what a big break it was in terms of the career potential. At the same time I also knew that the character casts a long shadow and that a lot of people had expectations about it.

Q: What’s it like working with Guy Ritchie as director?
Jared Harris: He’s very frank. He’s very direct. He wants you to be bold and kicking up ideas. He doesn’t want you to explain your ideas. He just wants you to show them. He expects you to be an adult. If he doesn’t like them you’re not going to go and sulk and you’re going to come back with more ideas.
Robert [Downey, Jr.] and Guy have a similar relationship that Holmes and Watson have in that they have this sort of brother quality, so they have this banter and competitiveness. The first image that I had of seeing the two of them was they were standing on set dressed in their training outfits. They both practice martial arts. And they were squaring off like gunfighters with each other. They were practicing flicking kicks at each other’s balls, and not hitting them, but seeing who was going to flinch and whoever flinched first lost.

Read our review of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is available on Blu-ray Triple play, DVD and digital download from May 14, 2012.