Sherlock Holmes - Jude Law
Sherlock Holmes - Dr John Watson (Jude Law) © Warner Bros

Jude Law’s movie career took off in 1999 with his role in Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley which brought him both an Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, as well as a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was later honored with nominations for Best Actor for the Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA for Cold Mountain.

He’s currently portraying Dr John Watson in Guy Ritchie’s re-imagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes opposite Robert Downey Jr as the renowned detective.

What was it about this take on Sherlock Holmes that attracted you?

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and Dr John Watson (Jude Law) © Warner Bros

When I was asked to get involved Robert was already set as Sherlock and Guy was directing, and I knew then that it was going to be a different take on the older films of Sherlock Holmes.

It fascinated me, and obviously they were coming to me not to put on two stone and put my foot in wastepaper baskets, they came and asked me to play him with a bit more edge.

I hadn’t read the books as a boy, and it was intriguing to go back to the books and realize how much of this new rediscovery was also in the source material.

It was a happy juggle between going back to Conan Doyle and relishing all the accuracy that had perhaps at times been in the past overlooked, and also looking to the future and adding a new energy to a audience that we hope will discover Sherlock Holmes for the first time.

When was your first introduction to Sherlock Holmes?

My second job on TV was in the Sherlock Holmes TV series, I played a stable boy.

What kind of research did you do into Watson?

Dr John Watson (Jude Law) © Warner Bros

He’d been in a brutal war and has experienced horror and physical pain. With that military background in mind, I really wanted him to represent the slightly more buttoned-up, polished professional, with Holmes being the slightly more wayward, eccentric dilettante. But Watson is far from just bumbling along; he’s in the middle of the action – sometimes tearing in ahead of Holmes.

Watson has always been, and remains, the eyes of the audience watching this great man unravel these extraordinary knots of clues. He definitely gets his hands dirty in their cases together, but he is also in awe when Holmes just lets loose with his incredibly photographic memory or ability to decipher exactly what transpired and how it was done.

What did you want to bring to the part?

I think the essence I wanted to bring – and what I know Guy and Robert looked to me for – was a yin, if you like, to Holmes’ yang. Robert and I talked a lot about how we could balance out each other’s character so that together they make a perfect whole, and many of the descriptions of the two of them in the books convey that they are incredibly powerful together because they support each other so, and their friendship is so deeply rooted.

We could also at times be incredibly humorous because there’s a part of Holmes that infuriates Watson and vice versa.

What was it like shooting on the streets of London?

Dr John Watson (Jude Law) and Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) © Warner Bros

The production design did an amazing job embellishing what were already pretty historic sites. We would turn up every day and the detail was exquisite. And it’s always fun to be out and about in film, rather than in a studio. With Sherlock Holmes the kernel of the story is a domestic drama, and you see them still delving and unpicking cases on a cerebral level, but they are also out and about getting their boots dirty and their knuckles sore. And it’s always fun working in the U.K., I always love coming home and making films here.

What do you think the audience will take away from the movie?

It’s certainly an adventure, just as the stories seemed to me when I first read them. There’s still the cerebral intrigue and science and suspense of the original stories, but there’s also the brawling and mayhem that is faithfully brought in from the novels. My great hope is that Conan Doyle fans really enjoy it because I’ve become a huge fan myself and I am very respectful of the legacy.

I do think we’ve been faithful, but we’ve also injected our characters with dimensions that have never been brought out before. Guy Ritchie is brilliant at making drama physical and incredibly skilled at keeping the energy high.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane