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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: Filmmaker Guy Ritchie talks the importance of the right Moriarty

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
04 May 2012

With Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows coming to Blu-ray and DVD on May 14, we have a Q+A with director Guy Ritchie about the impending release.

Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and Jude Law returns as his formidable colleague, Dr. Watson, in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.”

Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room…until now.  There is a new criminal mastermind at large—Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris)—and not only is he Holmes’ intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may actually give him an advantage over the renowned detective.

When the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead, the evidence, as construed by Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), points to suicide.  But Sherlock Holmes deduces that the prince has been the victim of murder—a murder that is only one piece of a larger and much more portentous puzzle, designed by one Professor Moriarty.

Mixing business with pleasure, Holmes tracks the clues to an underground gentlemen’s club, where he and his brother, Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry) are toasting Dr. Watson on his last night of bachelorhood.  It is there that Holmes encounters Sim (Noomi Rapace), a Gypsy fortune teller, who sees more than she is telling and whose unwitting involvement in the prince’s murder makes her the killer’s next target.  Holmes barely manages to save her life and, in return, she reluctantly agrees to help him.

The investigation becomes ever more dangerous as it leads Holmes, Watson and Sim across the continent, from England to France to Germany and finally to Switzerland.  But the cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead as he spins a web of death and destruction—all part of a greater plan that, if he succeeds, will change the course of history.



Where does this story begin? The characters have gone in different directions.

Guy Ritchie: Yes. Sherlock Holmes has spent the last couple of years salivating over the prospect of having found a nemesis that’s worthy of his repertoire of skills. So, he’s worked himself up into a frenzy and is, if not careful, going to recede into madness.

John Watson is going to play his moral and sane anchor and pull him back from the brink of genius and insanity. I suppose that’s the role that Sherlock Holmes and John Watson have had and will continue to have.


This film is bigger and grander than the first.  How important was it to ratchet up the action?

Guy Ritchie: Obviously, the necessary requisites are to make it a better film than the first one. There is a natural momentum with Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and so much of the film is about the marriage, if you will, between these two. That’s really the spine of the entertainment and the story is the relationship between these two; then the plot is really the flesh that goes on top of that spine.

So there is a natural momentum to making a second and a third and a fourth one. I’m not saying we’re going to do that or I’m going to do that; but there is a momentum that’s organic to that. So it only seemed natural if the first one was financially successful that we’d bounce back and end up doing another one.

The experience of the first one, for all sorts of reasons, was so positive for me that I was just “a pig in poop,” with enthusiasm to return to this arena of which I know something about now. But I had to make it a more extreme version of what we had last time. In other words, I had to make it smarter and I had to make the action not too predictable.



Most people who are familiar with Sherlock Holmes know about the Professor Moriarty character. How important was it to get the casting right and how did you come across Jared Harris for the role?

Guy Ritchie: Dealing with the manifestation of Moriarty is a tricky one because he’s arguably the most infamous villain in the history of literature. So it’s in no small way a significant challenge trying to portray this chap. I found it easier finding an actor that not many people knew about really. So there were some names that were bandied around, and it was collectively decided that it was easier to go with someone that we didn’t know too much about.

Jared ticked the requisite boxes of intellect and talent to portray, not too overtly, a super villain.



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