Robert Downey Jr. has an admittedly difficult history with London. “I was here 20 years ago and the food sucked,” he says, though he’s quick to add, “I kind of sucked 20 years ago. Far be it from me to say what was good when and where. I barely remember any of it.” But with his new Sherlock Holmes set for release next week, he’s feeling better about all things British.
In bringing a new version of the famous detective to the screen, Downey was expecting more of the pressure of history. “It’s funny. Sherlock Holmes would be the one you’d think has the most onus on it,” he says of the characters he’s played. But during filming, he insists he got the distinct feeling they were doing everything right. “Sometimes you just feel like you’re in the right groove, and you feel the history and the legacy of something,” he says. “Sometimes you just feel like you’re being silently approved of from some other place and time.”
A key element in rounding out Holmes was finding a Watson he worked well with, and Downey insists he couldn’t have asked for a better co-star than Jude Law. “I’m used to people saying, ‘Well you and so-and-so who’s female have this great chemistry,’” Downey says. “They’re talking about Jude and I like we should be doing romantic comedies together.”
While Downey’s Holmes might not be something audiences necessarily find familiar, the actor insists it’s a more accurate portrayal. “We were reinterpreting that character by actually going back to the source material — what he looked like, how he behaved, that he was a martial artist,” Downey says.
While talk of martial arts and fighting has several Hollywood observers nervous, it was the bare-knuckle boxing scene that sealed the deal for Downey. “By the time we were done shooting that scene, I felt like we really had a handle on the movie,” he says. “Not because we finally top-lit me and I showed my rippling abs and all that self-important garbage, but because it was a really bold thing and it could’ve gone really poorly, in which case the rest of the movie is trying to recover from a bad Guy Ritchie idea. But it was literally perfect, and I think it set the tone.”
Looking forward, Downey is more than happy to be tied up with a successful pair of franchises. “Ideally, the Iron Man thing will pan out another time or two, a bit of Avengers going on. I have a feeling Sherlock is going to make a comeback. I think it’s going to be well-received and do business.”
But he admits he sees himself doing more than just acting. “I’d just like to parlay doing a bit of that stuff into making movies or doing stuff outside the realm of directly having to make faces for cash and chicken all the time.”
• Sherlock Holmes hits theatres next week