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Sherlock Holmes - Mark Strong interview

Mark Strong in Sherlock Holmes

Interview by Rob Carnevale

MARK Strong, who plays Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Lord Blackwood, talks about getting into character, why he likes playing darker roles and what makes Sherlock Holmes so quintessentially English.

Q. When was your first introduction to Sherlock Holmes?
Mark Strong: If you’re a schoolboy growing up in England he forces his way into your literary DNA, but I think like Jude Law, the first one I saw was Jeremy Brett.

Q. You mentioned that you read all the books as a child, so was the chance to play an evil character [Lord Blackwood], the nemesis in this film, something you relished?
Mark Strong: Yeah, I’ve worked with Guy a few times so it was great to come back and work with him. More importantly, I think the pressure was on to find a villain who was worthy of the greatest detective in the world. I was fascinated by the fact that, although everything else is cherry picked from the short stories and the novels, Blackwood isn’t. I think what that allowed the film to do was to create whatever we wanted, which was even more outlandish perhaps than anything you’d find in the novels. But he embodies Victoriana, the whole imperial feel of showmanship that the Victorians are famous for, so I loved playing him.

Q. Do you think fans might be disappointed that Moriarty doesn’t feature more prominently?
Mark Strong: As the nemesis or the so called bad guy Moriarty is the guy you would assume would be the adversary for Holmes but by not making it Moriarty you allow yourself to create something much more interesting. You couldn’t have a Moriarty that dabbled in the occult, or that committed the crimes that Blackwood does at the beginning of the film without having everyone up in arms. So, it’s in a way more inventive to find somebody who isn’t Moriarty and, of course, it leaves the tease free for somebody else to play him. I think it was probably quite interesting that the villain wasn’t Moriarty in this one.

Q. What makes Sherlock Holmes so quintessentially English?
Mark Strong: I’m not really sure, maybe because Conan Doyle was an English writer, what he was trying to do was embody everything that was best about the Empire at that time. It was a very confident time to be an Englishman, I think a third of the world had been invaded by us. Maybe it was precisely because he has flaws, it was interesting that at the time when we were supposedly running the world a character was created who did have flaws. I don’t know, it’s just Conan Doyle’s vision of his version of an Englishman. That’s the best I can do I’m afraid.

Q. Why do you think you are cast as dark characters so often?
Mark Strong: [Laughs] God knows, I don’t know. I think of myself as quite a charming, easygoing guy so maybe it’s quite nice, the idea that I get to play something that’s completely different. I’ve obviously done it in the past and been horribly successful at this so [maybe] people feel it’s something I can pull off. Personally, I like to play them because I find them psychologically more interesting in that you have to explain the reason for all that darkness. But I actually loved doing this, had a ball, and working with all these people has been an absolute joy, I have to say.

And coming back to my earlier answer about what makes Holmes so quintessentially English, I don’t think Conan Doyle wrote him with a view to him being quintessentially English, I think the point is that he’s become considered as being quintessentially English. What this film does is re-examine that and make it something more modern and much more interesting than the slightly stuffy version of Holmes that we’ve all become used to.

Read our review of Sherlock Holmes

Read our interview with Guy Ricthie