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20 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downey Jr. is Sherlock Holmes

Known for his incredible deductive reasoning, an astute mind, and level-headedness, the classic literary character of Sherlock Holmes has become quite famous since his first appearance. The product of the genius British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he became known as one of the greatest deductive minds of literature and one of the most famous detectives in the world. Along with his noted friend and companion, Dr. Watson, Holmes solved some of the most intriguing crimes of Victorian England.

Throughout the years, the character has been brought to life on both the big screen and television. Each portrayal by various actors over the years still maintain the core of the character. With the possibility of director Guy Ritchie helming his own version of the detective, audiences knew the end product would be something extraordinary.

With an all-star cast including Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams, the cast managed to breathe new life into the character, making him more action-oriented as well as still being a brilliant mind. The movie Sherlock Holmes hit theaters in 2009 and soon became a fan favorite. The film was so well-received that Warner Bros. approved the sequel to be made immediately. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows premiered just two years after the original. There is even a third movie in the works, with a highly anticipated release date of 2020.

Although the end product was indeed worth the time, these crazy behind-the-scene moments will certainly expand your knowledge of the Sherlock Holmes world.

Here are 20 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of Sherlock Holmes.

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20 Robert Downey Jr. Was Considered Too Old To Play Holmes

SHerlock Holmes Movie Robert Downey Jr

Many stars, especially actors with extensive careers, eventually hit a wall where their age becomes a deciding factor for movie roles. Whether these Hollywood professionals aren’t old enough or too old, they tend to be overlooked for roles regardless of their star power and talent.

Downey, for example, made a tremendous comeback in his career after several hiccups in his personal life. Since his star power skyrocketed after Iron Man, his status as an elite actor in Hollywood returned very quickly. However, even Downey’s star power almost wasn’t enough to be cast in Sherlock Holmes.

Ritchie, focused on creating a younger version of the detective, almost didn’t consider Downey Jr. because he was too old. Thankfully, his talents proved too great.

19 Rachel McAdams Was Considered Too Young To Play Irene Adler

Sherlock Holmes with Irene

As we discussed earlier, the role of Sherlock Holmes almost become a movie focused on a much young detective. Similar to the developing journey of Batman in the rebooted series, the younger Holmes would also have been on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. However, with accepting RDJ as the lead actor, the story retained a somewhat younger detective, but a much more experienced one.

In a twist of fate, actress Rachel McAdams faced the opposite problem when it came to considering her for the role of Irene.

Despite her body of work, she was considered too young for the role. Thankfully, Downey stepped in and vouched for her portrayal of the character, insisting she would not look too young to be his character’s love interest.

18 The Original Screenplay Was Blacklisted

Screenwriters and producers work together to try to find a home for their projects. Usually, potential scripts are passed around from studio to studio until it falls into the lap of the right people. Even if a studio passes on a project, that doesn't necessarily mean it's not good.

The Black List was created as a secret way to promote unproduced scripts that were favorites among industry insiders.

The unproduced script for Sherlock Holmes resided proudly on this list in 2008, alongside other future critical or commercial hits like Foxcatcher, Up in the Air, and Inglourious Basterds, proving its potential even back then.

17 Downey Dropped Major Weight For The Role

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark in Iron Man

Taking on the role of Tony Stark in the Iron Man franchise gave Downey's career the comeback he desperately needed. He embodied the character entirely and added his own touches to his onscreen portrayal. Can you imagine anyone else filling his shows as the quick-witted and slightly irresponsible billionaire genius? Yeah, we can’t either.

Not only did Downey fully capture the character’s personality and muscled physique. However, the role of Sherlock Holmes called for a much slimmer body type. To accommodate the requirement, the Iron Man actor found himself dropping the muscle he put on for the Marvel movie and slimming down for the role of Holmes.

Considering the filming took place in between Iron Man movies, he definitely had his work cut out for him to bulk right back up again.

16 Law Wanted Watson To Be Tougher

Sherlock Holmes Jude Law

The character of Dr. Watson served as the calmer and collected force in Sherlock Holmes’ life. Serving as his partner and friend, he could be found at the detective’s side as he solved the various mysteries that had to face.

Actor Jude Law felt there needed to be a change in the public’s view of the character, though. Sherlock Holmes gave Law the opportunity to portrayal Watson with a more interesting perspective.

Rather than the dim-witted, goofy sidekick of other Holmes adaptations, Law's is level-headed and tough.

As reported by MTV, Downey stated their Watson was “much more right from the book. He's had a military career, a decorated soldier, a serious doctor, a bit of a womanizer, a bit of a gambler. And I think that makes him a much more interesting foil for Holmes."

15 Downey's Real-Life Quirkiness Made Him The Best Choice

Robert Downey Jr from Sherlock Holmes

There is no question that Robert Downey Jr. continues to prove to be quite a character. From his quick wit to unique quirks, he has become a standout star in Hollywood. In fact, thanks to his ability to “stand out in a crowd,” he managed to secure the role of Sherlock Holmes.

The actor even commented in an interview with the BBC that “Holmes is such a weirdo.” Granted, the statement may seem like an offhanded comment against Holmes when, in fact, it speaks volumes about Downey himself.

Behind the quirks and strange behaviors, his wife, and producer on Sherlock Holmes, Susan Downey, immediately recognized her husband as being quite similar to the character. He recalled that she “said that when you read the description of the guy — quirky and kind of nuts — it could be a description of me."

14 The cast Did Most Of Their Own Stunts

Sherlock Holmes Downey Jude McAdams

Launching a new version of Sherlock Holmes meant significant changes for many of the characters and storyline. Although the essence of the characters remained the same, they were redone for a more stylish and action-packed portrayal.

With noted director Guy Ritchie helming Sherlock Holmes, audiences had come to expect the quick-talking, non-stop action sequences they had grown to love in his previous films such as Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.

With the challenge of bringing more action to the franchise, the lead stars also dedicated themselves to creating those action-packed scenes without help. Downey, Law, and McAdams performed most of their stunts themselves.

13 Ritchie and Downey Dropped Other Projects For The Sequel

Cowboys and Aliens

After Sherlock Holmes did well at the box offices, with most critics favoring the film, it’s no wonder the studio wanted to continue its momentum. Not long after the initial film was released, the producers moved on to developing a sequel.

However, due to Warner Bros. deciding to fast-track the next movie, both Ritchie and RDJ had to make a tough decision about their career. Ritchie had to drop out of the highly anticipated DC Comics film Lobo.

For Downey, his commitment to the sequel meant that he had to drop out of Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens.

Initially set to play the role of Zeke Jackson, the part was recast with James Bond actor Daniel Craig taking his place. 

12 The new Bond girls?

Bond Kissing Vesper

The mystery and intrigue of the James Bond franchise have captivated audiences for decades. With the suave and debonair Bond leading each movie, fans can’t get enough of the dashing lead and his womanizing ways.

Along with looking forward to the new Bond actor, fans also look forward to the new Bond girl, a love interest or enemy who was quickly disposed of after each movie. In the next movie, a new woman was introduced to captivate the secret agent. In the same vein, Sherlock Holmes producer Joel Silver hoped to include a “Holmes” girl in each film.

In an interview reported by Iamrogue, Silver stated, “We always felt that Bond was definitely a pattern for us, and the notion of every Bond movie having a new Bond girl or girls.” However, this new practice would negatively affect lead actress Rachel McAdams in the end.

11 The Sequel Was Supposed To Be A StandAlone Movie

Sherlock Holmes 2 Fight

When Sherlock Holmes debuted in December 2009, old and new fans of the character witnessed a slicker, more action-packed detective. From the witty dialogue to the heart-stopping action sequences, Downey and Ritchie redefined the British detective in one of the most entertaining movies of 2009.

To continue the success of the franchise, Warner Bros. quickly greenlit the sequel - well, sort of a sequel. Originally called Sherlock Holmes 2, the movie was supposed to exist as a standalone film. Audiences weren't required to have seen the first movie to enjoy the new movie.

Though the action does take place after the events of the first film, new fans can take in the plot of the second film on its own.

10 The Sequel's Plot Was Drastically Changed

Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows

The development of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows began soon after the successful debut of the original film. Pproducers of the movie found inspiration in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Final Problem". Interestingly enough, the development of the plot of the movie took a major turn from the initial press release that was issued for the film.

The release detailed the plot in a much different direction: "When Austria's crown prince is found dead, evidence seems to point to [taking his own life]. However, detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) deduces that the prince was [eliminated] and that the crime is but a piece of a puzzle designed by an evil genius named Moriarty (Jared Harris)."

Wow. Definitely a deviation from the final plot.

9 The french WWE star

Dredger Sherlock Holmes

Seven-foot-tall retired WWF wrestler Robert Maillet exemplified the perfect features and build to portray the foe Dredger.

One of his natural abilities was overlooked by Ritchie during filming.

Initially, his character only spoke English. However, upon discovering he was French Canadian, Ritchie made a change to his part.

Maillet recalled, "At first I only had a couple of lines, but the day of filming, they found out that I spoke French, so Guy Ritchie had this idea to make me into a Frenchman, and I got more lines."

It's funny how such a simple discovery led to such excellent results for the actor and his initial small role in the film.

8 Downey and Law Studied Hard

Sherlock Holmes Movie

Understandably, the pressure of playing legendary literary figures such as Holmes and Watson was no easy feat. Not only were Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law joining an elite list of actors who have played the roles, but they also found themselves putting Ritchie's unique spin on their interpretation.

Although the overall goal was to portray the parts in a new light, the core of these characters still needed to remain faithful to their roots.

Both actors decided to turn to the original stories and previous classic Holmes movies for guidance.

As reported by USA Today, Downey stated that "initially, we were just infusing the dialogue with Doyle-isms." To keep track of this original dialogue, Law would jot down some of his favorite lines to incorporate in the movie when he could.

7 Downey's kung fu skills changed the movie

Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes

The basics of the Sherlock Holmes character are pretty much laid out: witty, insightful, astounding deductive reasoning. Although the necessary foundation of his persona had been firmly laid out in literature and film, his personality and quicks can still be open to interpretation.

As such, Robert Downey Jr. added his own spin to his portrayal, adding certain quirks and personalized idiosyncrasies to make the character feel like his own. In addition to developing his personality through acting, his personal interests also affected not only his portrayal, but the character’s background as well.

Holmes’ historical fighting style was Bartitsu, but as Downey is trained in Wing Chun kung fu, we saw that in the film instead.

6 Constant Improv on set

Sherlock Holmes Downey Jude Richie

The groundwork for the first Sherlock Holmes movie was in place when filming began. However, with great lead actors such as Law and Downey Jr, their input and opinions definitely influenced the filmmaking. Their interpretations of their character reach far beyond the prepared pages of their scripts.

Both men are known to be quite witty and capable of coming up with impromptu dialogue and actions. With the addition of the talents of Guy Ritchie leading their every move, the three worked closely together to continue to develop the story

Collider reported, “In the spirit of improvising, the core collaborative team of Robert, Jude, Ritchie, and the producers gathers together every morning to work on the scene for the day. Even if it’s a good scene that they’re happy with, they’re always trying to think of ways to make it better.

5 McAdams' Trick to sabotage her corset

Rachel McAdams in Sherlock Holmes

The Sherlock Holmes movies took place in historical Victorian England. Complete with era-accurate sets, detailing and fashions, audiences were plunged into the world of Holmes and Watson.

Although the actors donned suits and attire befitting the times, the actresses found themselves in period dresses that included long skirts and corsets. However, actress Rachel McAdams devised a plan to avoid the restrictions of the tight garment.

McAdams shared her strategy with The Star: “I started to cheat, to push my stomach out or eat a big breakfast of oatmeal so it wouldn't be as tight. However, they caught on to me."

You have to admire her creativity in trying to avoid discomfort.

However, it was back to the bustles, hoop skirts, and restrictive corsets after that.

4 Downey Got Knocked Out Cold During Filming

Sherlock Holmes Fight With Dredger

Robert Downey Jr. is no stranger to intense fight scenes in movies. During his time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe alone, he has taken his share of beatings from his future teammates and ever-growing list of enemies. His experience with fight sequences developed over the years in his career and came center stage during the Sherlock Holmes movies. In fact, the movies depicted Holmes as a very skilled combatant.

During one particular incident, however, Downey failed to live up to expectations and actually got knocked out while filming.

According to Express, “The Iron Man actor was filming a fight scene with seven foot (2.1 metre)-tall co-star Robert Maillet when the big man threw a punch that left Downey Jr. ‘out cold.'"

However, he didn’t go to the hospital and wanted to continue filming. That’s dedication.

3 Rachel McAdams Hoped For A Large Role For The Sequel

Rachel McAdams Sherlock Holmes 2

After becoming a fan favorite in the first movie, Sherlock Holmes, Rachel McAdams hoped her role would be increased for the next film.

Producer Joel Silver explained that “It was complicated getting (Rachel) to come back on board. She liked the experience (of the first film), she loved being with us, but she hoped to have a bigger role. I think at the end of the day it worked out fine.”

In fact, her character was written out in a tragic way at the beginning of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and the film found its new female lead in Noomi Rapace.

2 Big Parts of the story were left out

Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law Sherlock Holmes

The legend of Sherlock Holmes began back in 1887 thanks to the creative mind of British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Known for his logical reasoning, a keen eye for detail and excellent observation skills, this fictional detective became known as one of the most brilliant minds in literature.

Not only has the character become legendary, but so have elements of his characterization - including his unmistakable deerstalker hat and the famous line, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

However, when Guy Richie decided to helm the new films, he decided he didn’t want to include these familiar elements of the Holmes legend. In his eyes, this interpretation of Holmes was "more action-oriented than incarnations we have seen in the past.” As such, antiquated elements like his hat, catchphrases, and even his coat didn’t fit into the new vision.

1 The Last Minute Casting Of Moriarty

Well-known actors were considered for the role of Professor Moriarty, including Brad Pitt, Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman and Javier Bardem. Although each actor was insanely talents and capable of the part, they were simply not the right fit. I

n fact, the process to cast the Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows character became such an issue that the role was eventually cast mere weeks before production was scheduled to take place. The part finally went to Mad Men alum Jared Harris. However, his celebration was short-lived as filming for the movie would take place soon after.

In an interview with Collider, it was revealed that “Harris landed the part of Moriarty at the very last minute. Shooting began a week or 10 days after he found out the part was his."

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Do you have any other trivia to share about the Sherlock Holmes movies? Let us know in the comments!

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