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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - Robert Downey Jr interview

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ROBERT Downey Jr talks about some of the challenges of making Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and why he didn’t want to fall into the pitfalls of making a bad sequel.

He also talks about his ongoing chemistry with Jude Law and why he loves the character of Sherlock so much, as well as his eccentricities. He was speaking at a press conference in London.

Q. What did you particularly relish about developing the Holmes/Watson ‘bro-mance’?
Robert Downey Jr: People talk about chemistry, and what does that really mean? We were just having lunch and trying to figure it out. We’re really grateful it comes across that way. We work really hard, and we have respect for each other. We’ve seen, and been in, sequels that sucked, and we wanted to try and avoid those pitfalls.

Q. How do you manage to take your characters further without falling into the pitfall of doing the same thing again?
Robert Downey Jr: Well, we have a scene in a gypsy camp, where Sim is looking at us thinking, are they ever going to stop arguing long enough to tell us why they’re here? To a scene where [Watson] is drunk and late for his own wedding. We turned up with all sorts of script ideas, and Guy was like, ‘I’m pretty sure we’ve got to shoot these two where they’re not saying a word.’ You have to judge the tone, and it really paid off. The audience can feel the subtleties of the characters.

Q. What are your favourite eccentricities in relation to Sherlock?
Robert Downey Jr: I love his dependency on Watson. I love the fact we found a way to make the audience not judge him for driving a wedge between he and his wife. I think he’s someone who needs to be taken care of so he can do what he does best.

Q. What are the less obvious pitfalls of sequels, as nobody sets out to make a bad sequel?
Robert Downey Jr: We were really fortunate to have new blood with Noomi, as, humble as she’s being, she came in and mastered a second language inside a year. She came in and challenged the tenets of what does it mean to be a third party to this investigation, how can she fit into the storyline. The main thing that gets lost is that you have to redouble your humility, because there’s a natural inflation that occurs with success, and until it’s happened, you can’t know it. I guess the main thing is, you unconsciously take things for granted, and you think the audience is with you, because you’re with yourself. These are discussions that Jude and I would have all the time – what would WE expect? What would be expected and gotten wrong this time because you’re thinking about all the money that’s to be made?

Q. A lot of your lines are in German. How easy was that to pull off and learn?
Robert Downey Jr: Sometimes everything you need to know to be an actor in your mid-forties, you learn before you were 15 years old. I used to sing in madrigals when I was a kid, so there would be Schubert songs – that’s where the song ‘Fischerweise’ came from in the discussion with Moriarty.

Q. What’s in you that’s expressed in these characters?
Robert Downey Jr: I’m really good at playing smart people, and the rest of the time… it’s like everyone bolsters each other and has their thing to do. What’s more on point this time is that it’s really Watson recanting the story, a story that is tragic, although hopeful, a story that is evocative and interesting. It’s straightforward entertainment, but that was the thing about Doyle – you really got a sense he was speaking about issues larger than these two guys.

Q. Would you ever be tempted to shoot a Sherlock Holmes film in 3D?
Robert Downey Jr: Well, when shooting 3D I don’t think you can have the swiftness of movement. Sometimes Guy would be doing innovative shots and the movie kind of leans on being able to go guerrilla-style here and there, with these beautiful frames. As it stands now, I feel 3D can be inefficient. I’m sure the tech’s catching up with the needs of film-makers.

Q. How much comes from you working on the character and how is taken from the books?
Robert Downey Jr: Mr Law and I should speak about this. From the minute we met, when Guy got us together, hoping we would hit it off, we cracked a book and started getting chills: ‘Hey, Watson was never this chubby old doofus with his foot in a waste paper basket. He was dynamic, he was in the army. Holmes never wore a deerstalker hat.’ We had a chance to, not rewrite the history of Holmes, but to extrapolate from the untapped actual history.

Q. Sherlock has fantastic disguises – how far have you gone in real life to disguise yourself?
Robert Downey Jr: About 20 years ago, I went on a tear, and put on a Planet of the Apes mask thinking that would prevent people from knowing how blitzed I was. It worked for about the first 15 seconds. “It’s me, Cornelius!”

Q. Even after part one there were questions about the homoerotic subtext – this time you’re pushing it further with the dancing, the cross-dressing. Are you saying not to take it too seriously?
Robert Downey Jr: You mean onscreen, yeah? What happens in our private lives is another matter entirely. Jude and I have decided to save Warner Bros money – we’ve been sharing a suite during the entirety of the press junket. We asked for a small room, with a single bed. We prefer two sinks so we can wash up before and after our nuptials. As for wearing each other’s clothes to please each other, that’s something we’re going to save for the next instalment – Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Trannies [laughs]. And there’s your soundbite!

Read our review of the film