A rather sumptuous and appropriately grand Mayfair hotel was the venue for director Guy Ritchie, stars Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law and Noomi Rapace, producing legends Joel Silver and Lionel Wigram, as they attended the UK press conference for Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows. They answered questions on such topics as collaborative filmmaking, 3D, bromance, and the future of the series…
Joel and Lionel, you are back with a lot of familiar faces and a few new ones, I really noticed that you have a new writing team, could you tell us what it was you felt they brought to this new adventure.
Lionel Wigram: I would say the writing of these particular movies is a unique thing; they definitely brought some new blood to it. It is a team effort led by Robert and Guy, and we all sort of dig in and come up with the structure, but in many ways we make it up as we go along – that gives it the creative vitality you have seen in the movie.
Robert Downey Jr: And then Jude says he refuses to say a single word of this dialogue and we have to rewrite. Right Jude?
Guy Ritchie: And you really believe that’s Jude?
Joel Silver: That is pretty true, the writers give us the structure and then the team up here go to work, and you see the fruits.
Guy, the score for the first film was Oscar nominated. What was your collaboration with Hans Zimmer this time around? You have a very wide panorama for this film.
GR: Hans and I were both very much in sync, had the same ideas and thinking for this film and we like the same music as well. It was an extension of it because Hans really enjoyed the first movie. On the second one, he went off to Romania for a month and recorded the lion’s share of the score in Romania.
Hans Zimmer, although he is very prolific, he really is the real thing, he is one of those guys that got into this business for all the right reasons, and he is still in this business for all the right reasons, a true creative, a pleasure to work with and his enthusiasm is contagious. I can’t do enough to speak highly of Hans Zimmer.
Robert and Jude, what did you particularly relish about developing the Holmes/Watson bromance?
RDJ: He doesn’t like it when you say bromance.
JL: I think it belittles it, it is more than that! What did I relish? What did we relish? What did you relish?
RDJ: Look, people talk about chemistry and what does that really mean? We were just trying to figure it out, and we are really grateful that it comes across that way. We work really hard and have an immense respect for each other and we have also seen, and some of us have been in, sequels that sucked and we wanted to avoid those pitfalls.
JL: I think also, no matter how happy and harmonious and creative the first film was for us as a group, it is always true to say that 20 or 30 per cent of a film is taken up at the beginning, getting to know each other, and you end on a high, knowing how each other works, so it never felt like we dropped the ball from the first to the second.
We never assumed we were going to make the second, but there was a lot of energy carried from the first film into the second, and a lot of enthusiasm for these relationships that worked, and we wanted to flesh them out a little more. I was excited just investigating and mining more of the same.
Noomi, you’re the newcomer here; you must have received many script offers after the [Millennium] trilogy, and I wonder why you chose this to be your first film in English?
Noomi Rapace: I have always had a thing about gypsies, and when this came to me, actually I met Robert and Susan, his wife, in LA, and it was a very quick, intense, fun meeting. And we didn’t really talk about Sherlock, but I came out from that meeting and I was smiling and I thought, “Wow, I really want to work with those people”. It was very personal, I met the people from Warner Bros and then Guy in London, and it started very early on from a discussion about movies and about dreams and what sort of movies we want to make, and how we want to work.
It felt like I was invited into an amazing opportunity to work with people who I have been admiring for many years, it was much more about the people in it and then also to get the opportunity to play a gypsy.
Was the use of a question mark at the end of the movie a deliberate idea to let the audience expect a third film, and who’s idea was it to leave it open ended in that way?
GR: The question mark, I wonder who came up with that? Let me think about that…
LW: That was definitely Robert.RDJ: Any moment in this film that touches you, makes you laugh or cry: Those ideas were mine and the rest were down to this collective we have mentioned!
Guy, can you talk us through the challenges and intricacies of directing a naked Stephen Fry?
GR: Yes, I thought it was going to be an issue. We all did when it was presented on the pages. He turned up on the day and he was naked, there was no great resistance, rather like getting Robert into a dress – there was no great resistance. I have a sneaky suspicion it could have been his idea anyway! It went from there, no work on my part.
Also, obvious casting as Sherlock’s smarter, older brother?
GR: Yeah, Rob and I have a mutual friend, that chap Chris Martin out of Coldplay, and he is a Sherlockian and very enthusiastic about the whole thing, and so is Stephen Fry, and it was his idea. I think he told you first didn’t he?
RDJ: I think so. Well we don’t know where the good ideas came from. Every good idea in this movie came from Chris Martin, so now you know!
To Robert, what do you think are the obvious pitfalls of sequels? How can they be avoided? Because obviously no one sets out to make a bad sequel…
RDJ: Well I think we were really fortunate to have new blood with Noomi, because as humble as she is being, she came in basically having mastered a second language inside a year and came in as part of this creative team, and started challenging the idea of her being a third party to this investigation, and how would she fit into the story line.
I think the main thing that gets lost is that you have to re-double your humility, as there is a natural inflation that occurs with success and until it has happened, you can’t know it. I guess the main thing is that you unconsciously take things for granted and you think the audience is with you, just because you are with yourself, and that is not true.
I guess, again, going back to this team thing and the discussions that Jude and I had all the time, about what would we expect? What would be expectable that could be gotten wrong the second time, because you’re still thinking about how you’re going to spend all the money you have made, now that you have become a creative pillar of the series.
NR: It was amazing to see how you worked because I stepped into this big American movie and then the way Guy and the two of you work was so playful and easy, I forgot that I was nervous and everything around me. It felt like a small indie production because there was so much team work and it was so intimate. It was amazing to be a part of.
RDJ: I think it is really important for us to talk about the gypsy dance for a moment.
JL: what would you like to know Robert?
RDJ: Where did you get those moves pal?
NR: And how long did we dance for, Guy?
GR: Yeah sorry, I made them dance for three days and used about five seconds of it.
Joel, you’re someone who knows about sequels, did you have a steer on this as well, about how to keep the energy?
JS: The idea was always to try to make something fresh and original, whilst still maintaining the experience of the first movie. We all have our favourite sequels, but there aren’t that many. We have all been involved in making more than the one movie. You always feel the second one is really critical, because that is the one that continues the saga.
They are starting Bond 23 now and I don’t see why we can’t do Sherlock 23, but that means doing 21 more movies! This is very impressive, that we put together a movie that doesn’t feel like we are just carbon copying the first picture; it feels in many ways better than the first movie. It is bigger and more exciting and it lets the audience enjoy these characters.
This is possibly a more physical and boisterous movie than the first one. Was this one of the more exhausting shoots you have been on, bearing in mind the combination of the playful nature of devising the script, and the physical side of it?
NR: I have done fight scenes and that kind of stuff before, I like it, I think it is really fun. But on this one I actually stopped training because I wanted to look more feminine, it’s a period piece and you don’t want to look like you are stepping out from the gym!
The way Guy works, it felt like we were kind of searching and finding the best solutions every day, and when we stepped into a new room it was like, okay, so how do we use this room and what is the best way of doing this? It felt quite easy, it was not that hard, just mostly really fun.
JL: I think it is true to say, though, that the physical aspect of this film was another important element that we wanted to push further. We were pushing the dialogue and the characters and the relationship, but we did all step up and say let’s really elevate the physicality. Going back to the original idea of the first, it was to take these guys out of Baker Street.
You don’t just hear them talk about their adventures and what happened, you see them unpicking them and running from them and living them and surviving them and so that bar was pretty high. I think we’d go into stuff 90 percent knowing what was happening and then usually another idea would come up that would increase it by about another 20 per cent!
GR: Another thing that is worth noting, is that some of these action scenes would last for two weeks, and these guys had to work eight hours or ten hours a day, repeating the same stunt. No one asks professional athletes to do that amount of work, and consequently these three were constantly on a diet, constantly on an exercise regime and the warm up would last an hour, cool down lasts an hour and then they have ten hours in between.
That went on for week after week, and it’s almost impossible to appreciate how much you actually want out of them physically, never mind the other aspects, just the physical aspect was very, very demanding.
JL: I was expecting a round of applause then, and it didn’t come!
RDJ: The things you A-list actors go through!
Why was this movie not shot in 3D? Was this a cost issue or are you not a fan of 3D?
GR: Actually I am a fan of the 3D movies, and I am a bit of a film geek, and I like the technical aspect of filming a lot, so actually I did try and push this for 3D. The main reticence was that there was a lot of 3D coming out, and it felt almost tired at the time we were embarking on this, but I am a fan of anything that is innovative. At the time, it just didn’t feel that innovative. Perhaps if we had filmed a bit earlier, I would have pushed harder.
RDJ: When you’re shooting 3D, I don’t think you can have the swiftness of movement. I mean sometimes Guy would be doing really, really innovative shots and the movie kind of leans on going guerrilla style here and there, as well as there being beautiful frames. Sometimes I think, as it stands right now, 3D can be really inefficient. I am sure the tech is catching up with the needs of filmmakers.
Guy, do you feel constrained by the mainstream, or are you pushing it to be a little bit edgier anyway?
GR: Funnily enough, I don’t at all. Filmmaking has changed as we all know, and the indie movie has been somewhat muscled out in an inconspicuous fashion, who is responsible for that and why that is the case, I am not sure. At the same time I still see myself as a sort of Indie film maker and I certainly got no resistance from the studio in terms of trying anything we felt was innovative, they really encouraged it.
I think film making particularly at this sort of blockbuster level has absorbed this sort of indie influence and I think that is the upside of the position we have found ourselves in and big movies are becoming more interesting. It is an interesting time in film history, but I do feel that these big movies can work well, so no is the answer, I don’t feel constrained at all.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows is out in UK cinemas today.