Robert Downey Jr is back behind the magnifying glass in “Sherlock Holmes : A Game of Shadows”. Speaking to Alicia Malone, Downey says he enjoyed getting a chance to play Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dwarf brother in the Guy Ritchie directed sequel. And that line will make no sense to anyone until you’ve read the piece.
Can you talk about this iconic character, what the challenge was for you to recreate Holmes taking to maybe another level especially with all the different disguises?
Well, I mean after the first film worked out pretty good, we were pretty much doing the press tour talking about things about things we’d like to improve, other directions we could go, blah, blah, blah, and then there’s the reality of doing it, you know. I mean anybody who’s ever been involved in making the second part to a first thing that worked, there should be a whole online support team for this. We happened through it. We’re just thinking about this over lunch too like there’s so much to learn. Again, I think the greatest disguise was us disguising ourselves as consummate by the numbers professionals, when in fact, we’re all incredibly eccentric, and Warner Bros. has given us the opportunity to try to do something that’s complicated and needs to tick a bunch of boxes and all that. The great thing was that, this time, we also had Noomi [Rapace] and Jared [Harris].
At the ”Due Date” press conference, you described that as the second greatest story ever told. I was wondering if this was at least the third greatest?
I don’t talk to Todd Phillips anymore. Let’s stay on topic [Laughs]
Cheeky. Could you talk a little bit about your transformation into the lovely woman that you became in the movie and are you excited about being a new dad?
Okay so I guess we’re not talking about this is being one of the most important films of the year?
You’re right. I put on some makeup [Laughs]. Yes, can’t wait, very excited!
Speaking of makeup, there was a rumor I read in the National Enquirer about you and Jude…..
Yes. Would you mind repeating? This could be the most important thing that anyone says today!
How are we going to get nominated for Oscars with these kinds of questions?
You and Jude doing Some Like It Hot with Guy, is this [true]?
That’s called Act 2 of Sherlock 2 [Laughs]
Is that true, though?
You know the Mrs. referenced that awhile ago, that’s what we reminded her of. I thought I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dwarf brother. That’s what I thought I look like. Oh and that lead singer from The Cure. Robert Smith. Sorry, I should know that. It’s embarrassing
We all have our moments. Did you and Jude did a lot of adlibbing on set that Guy ended up using and also the physical challenges of the scene – a lot more action. I was wondering if you had to do a lot more physical training or anything.
I think the goal is to make a well-written scene seem like it’s improvised and/or to come up with things you find in the room that you could have known until you get into the real situation and just try to improve things as you go along. Jude by the way would have been here but his son had a soccer game. To answer that question about green, what came to mind was I remember that every animal that was harmed, it was promptly taxidermied and sent as a gift to one of the many ecological companies that have these sorts of huge concerns that I validate.
As far as me being in shape, I think you and I should probably talk about that for half an hour as it is my favorite topic. Thank you.
We don’t have time. Can you talk a little bit are there some key elements that you have to hit when you play Holmes and certain things you just got to get straight in your head? Is one of those sort of taking him up that line that blurs sort of the line between madness and genius?
Sure. I mean I think we did get that.
This movie is of course about a friendship between Holmes and Watson. Have you ever in your life had that kind of a guy-guy friendship or a bromance or whatever term you want to use?
Yeah. Well, Jude and I are pretty close, but Guy and I are practically brothers, which makes things really interesting. There have been times when I wanted to lob off his head with a machete but it’s just because I love [him] so much. You know what I mean?
And Jared Harris? How is he to work with?
He’d be, “Can I have something that I can study the night before?” I was like, “I’m going to venture a no on the possibility of a yes.” It would be like that stakes were so high in every scene, and there’s complicated camera shots and stuff like this so it’s pretty terrifying. What really happened as we notice with Jared is he kept pushing toward it wasn’t personal. It wasn’t like, “I don’t want to be embarrassed and I want to do a good job and I want to come off great and I want great dialogue.” It was more like it kept going back to this archetype that he was trying to represent.
Then were would be stuff where we were on a group with a fight team and he’d come and he’d be like, “Okay, we’re going to do this,” and Guy was introducing just something that the stunt team had found kind of by accident in the way of shooting something super, super, super slow as opposed to phantom stuff we had done before. Next thing you know he’s like doing a rehearsal scene with our fight guys like everything Jared Harris did in the course of making this movie, was essentially thrown at him with very little time to prepare and also talked about a lot philosophically as opposed to actually getting ready to do it in a professional way so it was shock and awe. I think what he brought with him was something that was just so particularly him and the essence of you whilst still being this character. It honestly is the main reason that the movie works, but it was also an exercise in trial by fire for you and you were really quite nice. Once in a while, he would say, “I really just beg of you, if I could even have a semblance of knowing what I might say, I guarantee you that I could do a better job with it because I wouldn’t be like you, Robert, for this long scene that you just wrote, wearing an earwig where someone’s telling you what to say, in the other room and I would actually know what I was going to say and I’d be like ‘Interesting. Yeah, everyone has their own process.’”
Guy told him that he wanted him to go home and come back singing a German aria the next day. Nobody learns a German aria overnight, except Jared Harris.
Along the lines of the philosophy behind the performance, you took a risk to try to take on a classic character in the first film and I think you were both successful with the mainstream audience and with that kind of diehard Sherlock-ians. What are the things you keep in mind as you try to stick the basics of Sherlock but also blow it up a little bit differently?
Well, you just keep Doyle in mind because I just respect the guy, more and more. I think the other thing is oftentimes what’s required particularly if you’re in any central position is you just have to let go of the things that are darling to you, you have to take the focus off yourself and put it on the shape of the scene and the intention of what everyone else needs, you have to give people something to actually write music to, so that you’re not just running your mouth, all the time.
And having done two of these now, do you feel a sense of ownership maybe towards Sherlock and do you have any interest in the other portrayals maybe like Basil Rathbone or Benedict Cumberbatch’s
Yeah, I mean, I kind of like everybody. Whenever I watch someone doing something, even if it doesn’t turn out so great, I at least admire their intentions and stuff and I know that there’s some kind of quintessential performances that have happened. I’ve heard more about the series than I’ve seen, but I’m intrigued by it. I think it’s important that we’re all part of the same collective, honoring this great writer and his stories.