After taking the lead on Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Guy Ritchie will not return to direct Sherlock Holmes 3. Delay after delay on Sherlock Holmes 3 means development is just now getting underway with an eye on a December 2021 release date. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are expected to return, and now, the sequel has a director. In July, Warner Bros. - the studio behind the first two Sherlock Holmes films - confirmed they have chosen Dexter Fletcher to direct Sherlock Holmes 3. But why isn't Ritchie coming back?
In a May interview with Uproxx for his latest film, Aladdin, Ritchie revealed where he stood with Warner Bros. in regards to directing Sherlock Holmes 3. When the subject of the film came up and mention was made about no director having been confirmed, all Ritchie could offer was: "You probably know as much as me. I have no idea what’s going on there." Ritchie didn't go further into detail but it's possible Warner Bros. was looking at Fletcher during this time. If there's bad blood over Warner Bros. not choosing Ritchie for the third film, neither party is showing it. Even if it is an amicable split between Ritchie and Warner Bros. (and we can't be entirely sure at this point), not having the director back for the third film is a surprising move.
Ritchie infused lots of his gritty, directorial spirit into Sherlock Holmes, making for the Baker Street sleuth a man, for example, who was as comfortable bare-knuckle boxing as he was playing the violin. The success of Sherlock Holmes led to a second film, also directed by Ritchie. Both films did well at the box office, each earning more than $520 million worldwide, respectively. By the end of 2011, Ritchie would have been a favorable bet for WB. However, things may have gotten dicey for Ritchie when he directed The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword for the studio. The success of Sherlock Holmes didn't rub off on either of these films; they were financial bombs. U.N.C.L.E. made $110 million worldwide on a $75 million budget. King Arthur did even worse with $148.6 million worldwide on a $175 million budget. Warner Bros.' faith in Ritchie to produce hits may have waned by the time King Arthur left theaters.
Fletcher's recent directing record is a huge selling point and it's easy to see why Warner Bros. chose him. Fletcher has played a pivotal role in the recent respective successes of hit music biopics Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, which have respectively earned critical and box office success. In the case of Bohemian Rhapsody, Fletcher stepped in toward the end of principal photography when the movie's first director, Bryan Singer, was fired for a number of on-set issues.
With Fletcher's guiding hand, Bohemian Rhapsody earned awards galore, including a Best Actor Oscar for lead Rami Malek. To date, Bohemian Rhapsody has earned $903 million worldwide while Rocketman has earned $175 million; Fletcher is good for business, too. Not only did both films require Fletcher to embrace big, theatrical visuals but he also had to work on bringing to life the stories of two musicians - Freddie Mercury and Elton John, respectively - whose legends seemed to enter a room before they did.
Helming large-scale films about men with big personalities seems to be perfect when looking for a director to take on the next Sherlock Holmes film. It's not all bad for Ritchie, even if he's not moving forward with Sherlock Holmes 3. Next, he will be working on The Gentleman, starring Hugh Grant, before it hits theaters in 2020. Given that production has already wrapped on The Gentleman, working on post for that film is unlikely the reason Ritchie isn't returning.
- Sherlock Holmes 3 (2021) release date: Dec 22, 2021