Guy Ritchie's version of Sherlock Holmes is still over three months away from hitting theaters, but Warner Bros. is already planning a sequel (previously hinted at by star Robert Downey Jr.). Maybe not too much of a surprise there; putting things in motion for a sequel means it obviously moves along a lot quicker and costs comparatively less than it normally would.
However, the most interesting piece of news about the Sherlock Holmes sequel is that Brad Pitt's name is once again looming over the role of Holmes' legendary enemy, Moriarty. It was only last month that Pitt was rumored to appear as the villain in this first Holmes movie, after a source at the British tabloid newspaper The Mirror said that a "studio exec" ordered Ritchie to re-shoot the movie with Pitt appearing as the villain, even after stars Robert Downey Jr. and Co. had finished principal photography. Of course, the rumor came from a British tabloid and (as usual) turned out to be totally false, as evidenced by a statement from Warner Bros.
However, one rumor doesn't stop the show, and word comes from The Hollywood Reporter that people, "familiar with the project," are saying Pitt HAS had discussions with the studio to appear as Moriarty in the Holmes sequel. No official deal has been signed at this point, but at least we know there's the strong possibility. Director Guy Ritchie told MTV at the end of the last month - not long after the first rumor of Pitt as Moriarty was reported - that Moriarty (he didn't say either way whether Pitt plays him or not) does have some sort of appearance in the first movie, but that could be anything from a peripheral mention (in a newspaper, for example) to a cameo that sets him up for the sequel. Those familiar with the script have said the villain is in there somewhere, but he is, "in the shadows and cannot be recognized."
Warner Bros. is poised to bring screenwriting duo Keiran and Michele Mulroney (pegged to write the studio's Justice League: Mortal film) on board to script a draft of the Holmes sequel. Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Lionel Wigram and Simon Kenberg all worked on the first movie's script (I wonder why the studio is not using them again...), which took the detective character in a different direction (incorporating the character's often forgotten/ignored martial arts background). There's no word yet on whether or not this now planned sequel will follow the new direction, or lift directly from the classic Arthur Conan Doyle stories to bring it back to what people are more familiar with (I personally doubt the latter).
Okay, so as mentioned, maybe the studio planning a sequel for Sherlock Holmes isn't all that surprising, but it is a bit of a risk on their part. Sherlock Holmes is still over a quarter of a year away from being released, and even though the studio has been pushing the flick pretty hard in the marketing department (and that's only going to increase as we get closer to the day of release), there's no guarantee it will be a huge box office smash.
Robert Downey Jr. is certainly a box office draw (particularly after Iron Man), Jude Law is usually bankable and the Holmes character as pretty well known (or at least recognized) worldwide. Even though those are three good reasons for the studio to have faith that Sherlock Holmes will make money, it's still not a guarantee. This isn't a superhero movie (although it's considerably more "actiony" than previous Holmes incarnations), and maybe (slim maybe) it won't make as much money as the studio is hoping. On the long chance the the film flops, would the studio still go ahead with the sequel? Somehow I don't think so.
Having said that, I'm just trying to look at the worse case scenario. I'm pretty sure Sherlock Holmes will make enough money that a sequel will be in order, and having Brad Pitt in there certainly isn't a bad idea. I'm not saying he's perfect for the role of Moriarty, but I'd certainly be all for him giving it a shot. But that's just me.
What do you think of the studio planning a sequel to Sherlock Holmes before the first has even been released? Do you think Pitt should play Moriarty, if not who should play the villain instead?
Sherlock Holmes is set to hit theaters on Christmas Day, 2009.