Monday, July 14, 2008

A Tale of Two Holmes

The buzz is on for the British sleuthing rivalry of the century. But this time it isn't sleuth versus sleuth but rather sleuth versus himself. There are two motion picture projects in the works about the legendary fictional character Sherlock Holmes, featuring brilliant acting talents on both sides as well as apparently two very different directions.

The first Sherlock Holmes film from Warner Bros. is being directed by Guy Ritchie and stars the immensely charismatic and versatile character actor Robert Downey Jr, fresh off an amazing and surprisingly believable turn as superhero Iron Man. Although Downey is American, I am absolutely positive you will not know it either in accent or mannerisms. This production looks to be more serious than the other, yet with the inspiration not only stemming from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories but also the upcoming comic book "Sherlock Holmes" by producer Lionel Wigram, just how serious remains to be seen. Word is out that Downey's Holmes character will be a bit more physical then previous characterizations. Hopefully this doesn't mean that he will be less cerebral. But with Downey taking on the role, I am fairly certain that his Sherlock Holmes will maintain his shrewd intelligence even if he has to rely on his brawn a bit more than Conan Doyle intended. Produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey and Dan Lin, this production is set to begin filming in October.

The competing Holmes film takes the character to a whole other level as evidenced by its cast and producer. This comedy, which is said to be fastracked by Columbia Pictures, stars the hilarious but equally intelligent actor/comedian Sasha Baron Cohen as Sherlock Holmes and Will Ferrell as his loyal friend Doctor Watson. Produced by Judd Apatow and Jimmy Miller, the script for this film is written by Etan Cohen.

This relatively sudden burst of interest in the pipe-smoking, violin-playing detective is music to my ears for sure. The Sherlock Holmes mysteries have always been a joy to read, having started during my preteenage years, I think. And although the time period in which Sherlock Holmes' stories are set is not one of my most favorites, I nonetheless enjoy watching the adaptations. In my humble opinion, the best portrayal thus far has to be Jeremy Brett's with Basil Rathbone's coming in at a close second. Acting aside, the production values were greatly enhanced during Brett's stint [there is about 30 to 40 years difference between Rathbone and Brett's characterizations after all] so that does tip the scale in Brett's favor. Production values are quite important in period mysteries I strongly feel. Another favorite portrayal has to be Tom Baker's, but that really has more to do with the fact that he is Doctor Who! Other distinguished actors have taken on the role including Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Rupert Everett, Ian Richardson, Jonathan Pryce, Peter O' Toole, Leonard Nimoy, and John Cleese.

I cannot wait for both new films to be released to a movie theater near me. If anyone has more scoop on these productions, including cast additions and release dates, please comment below!

[Photo of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes is from BBC Four]

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