Would the real Sherlock please stand up. November 30, 2010Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: Basil Rathbone, Holmes and Watson, James Frain, Jeremy Brett, Jeremy Northam, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Natalie Dormer, Sherlock Holmes, The Tudors
All three bloggers here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders, are huge Sherlock Holmes fans. We even agree on who’s the best Holmes to date, and sorry, Jeremy Brett fans, it’s Basil Rathbone. But we all feel that Brett’s interpretation of Holmes as a twitchy, gleeful bipolar addict has redefined the character in such a significant way that no other actor can take on the role without taking Brett’s interpretation into account.
This was the fault we found with Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Holmes in the recent BBC series “Sherlock.” His marble features gave nothing away. We felt that Mr. Cumberbatch would make an ideal James Bond or Dr. Who, but he lacked the high-strung, jumpy, Gollumlike quality that informs Holmes’s character. Holmes is not just smarter than other people; he’s faster. By the time you could blink, he’d have leapt up, dashed out of the flat and into the street, and be off in a hansom. His thoughts and emotions would flash across his face like lights on a radar screen. Those emotions might resonate more with someone with Asperger’s Syndrome—high-functioning autism—than with your average guy; but there was never any doubt that Holmes’s emotions were in play and at a very high level.
So who would be our pick for Holmes today? For years, Silence and our friend Ben have championed Johnny Depp for the role, since he performed it so brilliantly as Ichabod Crane in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” If you weren’t told what film you were watching, you’d naturally assume it was a Sherlock Holmes adventure. Richard Saunders suggests that Jude Law, who played Watson to Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes, could play a brilliant Holmes in his own right.
But today, Silence introduced a new contender for the role. She’d been watching “The Buccaneers,” a BBC series based on an Edith Wharton novel, and had been struck by the performance of James Frain as the high-strung, eccentric Duke.
“Ben! Remember James Frain as Thomas Cromwell in ‘The Tudors’ and how fabulous we thought he was? There’s our Sherlock Holmes!” Silence effused.
Our friend Ben certainly did remember Frain’s beautifully nuanced performance, going from sensitive theologian to torturer, and I had to agree with Silence’s choice. James Frain would make a fabulous Holmes.
But in that case, who would be Watson? Starting with “The Tudors” made the choice obvious. The perfect pairing would be James Frain as Holmes and Jeremy Northam as Watson. Jeremy Northam played Sir Thomas More in “The Tudors,” and Jane Austen fans may recall him as Mr. Knightley in the Gwyneth Paltrow adaptation of “Emma.” He is a consummate actor, skilled at playing good-hearted, down-to-earth characters, and would make a marvelous Watson to Frain’s Holmes.
Richard then pointed out that Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who starred as Henry VIII in “The Tudors,” would be the perfect Moriarty, Holmes’s evil arch-rival. Which of course led us to the inevitable conclusion that Natalie Dormer, who was so great as Anne Boleyn in the series, would be an ideal choice as Irene Adler, the woman Holmes admires most.
So please, directors, listen up: Let’s see James Frain and Jeremy Northam as Holmes and Watson. Talk about a dynamic duo! Add Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Natalie Dormer to the mix, and your Holmes series or film would be unstoppable. With these talented actors in the roles, the game would really be afoot!