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Sherlock Holmes Director Guy Ritchie on Building Up a Drumroll for Moriarty

Sherlock Holmes Director Guy Ritchie on Building Up a Drumroll for Moriarty” width=”560″/>

The helmer of such indie hits as Snatch and RocknRolla delves into the occult for Sherlock Holmes, his first mainstream flick. Ritchie defends his vision of Holmes as an old-fashioned superhero and explains the difference between technology and magic.

Q: Why did you choose Sherlock Holmes as your first mainstream movie?

A: Partly because it allowed me to sort of hold on to English identity, but at the same time explore some American muscle. It just seemed like the perfect segue between what I’ve previously done to going bigger and broader… and more brilliant… and beneficent!

Q: When the trailers hit, some Holmes fans were up in arms that you turned the character into an action hero.

A: Well we couldn’t just do the same old thing, could we? It is after all a contemporary piece. And it is an action movie — I’ve never pretended it was going to be anything other. But Conan Doyle clearly created an icon that’s endured for centuries, and Holmes was an action man as well as an intellectual genius, which was really why I was attracted to this project in the first place. It’s broadly acceptable and entertaining at the same time.

Q: In a way, your Holmes is like the world’s first superhero then.

A: I think if Conan Doyle could have been a screenwriter, he would have been. He made Sherlock Holmes a very popular figure, but in not such a conventional way. If you think about all the attributes that Holmes embodies — the first Western martial artist, he also liked to chase a bit of Charlie, he was vain and proud and somewhat intellectually arrogant — that all of those attributes of the ego seem quite justified by his brilliance. There’s nothing so simple about Sherlock Holmes — there’s nothing singularly dimensional about him. And I think that makes him a compelling individual.

Q: The treatment for this movie was written as a comic book. Did that shape the tone of the movie for you?

A: It didn’t matter, honestly. I was told that, but it doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m not sure that because the treatment was written as a comic or whatever it was that it needed to be that. The question for me was, can I turn that into a movie? And you can tell me whether I’ve succeeded or not.

Q: Why did you choose to make the villain Lord Blackwood rather than go straight for Moriarty?

A: I think Moriarty needs more of a drumroll, and I think Blackwood is Moriarty’s drumroll. Also, if something can be said it’s that we took liberty with the size of the plot. Usually Holmes plots are more localized, and this was about taking over the world. And when you’re painting on a larger scale as we are, then I suppose that’s something inherent in the equation that you have to up the plot size. Otherwise it’s just a storm in a teacup. So Blackwood was simply the conduit through which the breadth of the story could be told.

Q: This movie delves into black magic and the occult. What sort of research did that entail?

A: Well, that’s all taken out of black magic books, so I bought a few books on black magic. [Laughs] Lots of the designs and diagrams we came up with are straight out of 14th century German magical books. If that other unseen world does exist, I think we’ve been relatively fluent in utilizing its language. It was very difficult, but to a degree that was all very influenced by Conan Doyle, who had his own interests in the occult as well, which unconsciously percolated through his stories. And hopefully we’ve picked up on that.

Q: Your movie is very conscious about pointing out England’s technological advancements during that period of history. Is that to balance out the black magic?

A: What’s really the definition of technology? It makes our lives easier by reducing time, which reduces space. So certainly life is becoming less magical, and at the same time more magical because how does any of this s–t work? So Holmes by definition would have to be interested in such an engine as that. The ultimate rationalization is the eclipsing of whatever so-called magic is, which is simply the space between unseen cause and revealed effect. I’m sounding relatively pretentious right now, but I think it’s quite clever! [Laughs]

Q: Is there any truth to the rumor you’re talking to Brad Pitt to play Moriarty next?

A: [Looks to publicist, who’s circling her finger clockwise] That means move on to the next question. [Laughs]

Q: Fine. What’s the latest news on your adaptation of your own comic, Gamekeeper?

A: [To his publicist] What am I doing about Gamekeeper? Do we have a writer, love? [Publicist nods.] I don’t believe you. We’re in development. I’d like very much to do Gamekeeper. But I don’t f—ing know what I’m doing next.

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