A Complicated Case: Sir Ian McKellen and Laura Linney talk Mr. Holmes at the London Press Conference | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

A Complicated Case: Sir Ian McKellen and Laura Linney talk Mr. Holmes at the London Press Conference

19 June 2015

IN Mr Holmes, the new film by Bill Condon (The Fifth Estate) starring National Treasure Sir Ian McKellan in the lead role and Laura Linney as his disgruntled housekeeper, we are presented with a decrepit, conflicted, emotionally stunted Sherlock Holmes - a million miles away from cinema’s most recent representations of Britain’s greatest detective courtesy of the physical, dynamic Robert Downey Jr. It’s a film that packs an unexpectedly emotional punch.

At the ripe old age of 93, Britain’s most famous detective ‘Mr Holmes’ has retired to take up beekeeping. But an unsolved case from 30 years ago still haunts him. With his memory failing him and his body letting him down at every turn, the only thing he does know with great clarity is that something terrible happened during this case - it’s what forced him into retirement. Despite his ill health, he is determined to retrace his steps and remember what it was.

The Fan Carpet’s Shelley Marsden attended the London Press Conference...



What themes struck a chord with you about this movie?
Laura: There are a lot of unexpected things graded together, not least the iconic figure of Sherlock Holmes - it deals with him in a very unusual way. What ties everything together for me is the age-old dynamic of what you think someone is and what they actually are.

Ian: It’s touching that someone we think we know well - perhaps someone we’d not want to spend much time with, he’s not particularly sociable - turns out to have a beating heart that he’s trying to catch up with, having spent 30 years trying to run away from it. I find that touching. He’s at the end of his life, but he wanted to complete the emotionally side of his life that he’d neglected. There’s hope for us all. It’s the case Holmes didn’t solve. Dr Watson made one of his short stories out of it, but Holmes was so upset it stopped him doing any sleuthing for 30 years. Is that willpower, or stupidity? He goes to Japan at the start of the war to get some elixir to keep his mind going and the reward for all this hard work is to discover that he’s living with a woman who genuinely cares for him, underneath her gruff exterior.

Laura: A very sexy woman…

Ian: Dreadful cook though… And a friendship with a boy who is wiser than his years.


Ian, are you worried that the ‘Sherlockians’ might hate you for portraying a Sherlock who’s less than perfect?
Ian: Not at all. I think Holmes comes out of this story rather well. It is another play on the familiar character. I like the way it would be possible to sit through the film and imagine Conan Doyle had written it, which of course he hasn’t. I haven’t had complaints. But so many actors have played him. Do you know the original actor to play Sherlock Holmes on film? He’s an anonymous Hungarian actor. Isn’t that ironic? It’s a mystery… There have been so many great versions of him. Good luck to us all, I say. Derek Jacobi will be playing him next, you watch.


One of this film’s big themes is loneliness. How are you in your own company?
Laura: There’s a big difference between lonely and alone. I love alone, I need alone time. I like to ponder and have my mind float around and touch on memories and wishes and problems. Loneliness can be very hard. It can drive someone crazy. I think Mrs Munro is very lonely. Sherlock has been lonely by choice. He exiled himself, while she was robbed of partnership. But no, I like people they fascinate me. There’s only so much you can absorb though so at a certain point I need to get away and find some quiet time.

Ian: I’m alone but I’m not lonely… That’s a very good distinction. If I am at home, I find half of me is dying to get out. When I’m out, most of me is dying to get home! Enforced sociability I enjoy. I think Laura and I had lunch together every day we were on set. Neither of us separate the minute the work stops.



Ian did you get inspiration for the older Holmes from the Sherlock Holmes tales?
Ian: No! Il long learned that if someone has taken the trouble to write the script, any suggestions I may have about omissions from the source material or whatever are coming too late. They’ve thought of all that. It does relieve you from having to read, if you’re playing Hitler (as I have done), enormous biographies of the man. Of course you want the script to be good, and this one was. It was a real peach of a part for any actor. I’m very lucky that I knew Bill Condon of old and he thought of me before any of the other actors that are tearing what’s left of their hair to get it, I should think.


Laura you’ve always been slightly obsessed with Sherlock, haven’t you?
Laura: Since the age of nine. It was something I shared with my father, he bought me the books. I loved the movies. When I applied to drama school they asked me on the application form who my favourite actor was and I put Basil Rathbone who played him the Hollywood movies of the 40s. I love that Sherlock Holmes is more brilliant than anyone else in the room. There’s something sexy about him being a loner, a drug addict, a musician. And it was all set in London. I loved it. Look at everyone that’s played him in so many different ways. Theren’t aren’t many characters that have had such a workout, and are still interesting.


What does Holmes feel he needs to prove with the case in this film?
Ian: He fell in love. Over a bee. He followed a woman on a case, he’d been paid. He got intrigued, he fell in love and she offered him a life together. But he denies his heart, and thus lives thirty years in the wilderness wondering what went wrong. He did that because.. he’s the sort of person who hadn’t had any training. He was paid to be obsessed and not get involved, always the observer. Then one day, love happened.

Do icons like Sherlock need to be continually reinvented?
Ian: It’s not as difficult as you might think to play a character that so many have played before you. I played Hamlet - if you started thinking about all the people that had played Hamlet you’d never step onto the stage. But you do, because you know you can’t deny yourself the possibility of discovering a new Hamlet inside yourself. The difference here is that my Holmes is a new script that nobody’s ever done before.

Laura: The difference with Sherlock Holmes is that he wasn’t originally written to be embodied, but he’s become that as opposed to the stock characters in the theatre. But they’re all meant to be inhabited. Otherwise, they die! Have a go, do it - regardless of what angle you’re coming from. I’m a big exponent of keeping that exploration going, especially if it’s a character that will hold the weight of that exploration.


What does Holmes’ character in this film mean to you?
Ian: I’ve just turned 76 and he’s 93, so I think it’s probably... don’t give up, right up to the end, despite the aches and the pains. There’s always more you can discover about yourself and the world. That would be a good motto for an old person to have.



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