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Robert Downey Jr. and Noomi Rapace Talk 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows'

Along with Jared Harris and Director Guy Ritchie


Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law return as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson with director Guy Ritchie back behind the camera in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The 2011 sequel to the 2009 box office hit finds Holmes and a very reluctant Watson (who is supposed to be on his honeymoon) going up against the incredibly intelligent criminal mastermind, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). The game is afoot when Austria's Crown Prince is found dead which leads Holmes to deduce there's more going on than meets the eye.

Director Ritchie uses the action style that worked so well in Sherlock Holmes in this sequel. And with franchise newbies Noomi Rapace and Jared Harris along for the adventure, this Sherlock Holmes tale in an attempt to up the action ante. But Ritchie and company not only aim to satisfy action fans but also to satisfy fans of Arthur Conan Doyle's. And at the LA press conference for the Warner Bros release, Downey Jr explained how they go about putting together a Sherlock Holmes film.

"Well, you just keep Doyle in mind, because I just respect the guy more and more," said Downey Jr. "I think the other thing is oftentimes what’s required, particularly if you’re in any central position, is you just have to let go. You have to let go of the things that are darling to you. You have to take the focus off yourself and put it on the shape of the scene and the intention of what everyone else needs. You have to give people something to actually write music to, so that you’re not just running your mouth all the time."

Robert Downey Jr., Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris and Director Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Press Conference

What was the challenge to recreate Sherlock Holmes and take it to another level?

Robert Downey Jr: "Oh, well, after the first one worked out pretty good, we were pretty much doing the press tour talking about things we would like to improve, other directions we could go, blah blah blah. And then there’s the reality of doing it. Anybody who’s ever been involved in making the second part to a first that worked, there should be a whole online support team for this. We happened through it. We were just thinking about this over lunch, too. There’s so much to learn and, again, I think the greatest disguise was us disguising ourselves as consummate by-the-numbers professionals when in fact we’re all kind of incredibly eccentric. And Warner Brothers has given us the opportunity to try to do something that’s complicated and needs to tick a bunch of boxes and all that. The great thing we had this time is we had Noomi and Jared."

Talk about your lovely transformation into a woman.

Robert Downey Jr: "Okay, so I guess we’re not talking about this as being one of the most important films of the year? Uh, I put on some makeup."

Guy, why did you want to come back?

Robert Downey Jr: "Why? Why?"

Guy Ritchie: "Even he answered that for me. Why? Because we enjoyed it so much the first time. And I waited with some anticipation for the box office results for very different reasons than everybody else, because it was such a cathartic experience the first time around and an enjoyable one that we just wanted to do it again."

Noomi and Jared, as the newcomers to the franchise, what was it like? Was adjusting to Guy’s style of directing easy for you?

Noomi Rapace: "Okay, yeah. From most movies I’d done before, I’ve done a lot of preparation. I’ve known about them long before and I’ve prepped and I’ve changed my body and I’ve done research, all things you can imagine before. But on this one, I met Robert and Susan maybe six weeks, seven weeks before we started to shoot. It was a good, quick meeting in L.A. We didn’t really talk about Sherlock Holmes, but we talked about movies and dreams."

"I remember Robert asking me, 'How do you want to work and what movies do you want to make?' It was really super intense and I walked out of that meeting and called my manager. I was like, 'Wow, those two are amazing. I would love to work with them.' Then Warner Brothers wanted to send me over to London to meet Guy Ritchie. I was there for an hour, we talked and it was really also very intense. I came out of that meeting and I was like, 'Whoa, I would love to work with those people,' but I didn’t expect anything. I think it was like a week later, two weeks later they wanted me to do this role. Then we started to shoot like three weeks later, so I just kind of jumped into it."

"It was super intense and so much fun. I was really nervous before. It was my first English-speaking movie and I didn’t talk English...I didn’t speak English three years ago. So I didn’t really know how to deal with it and how it would be for me. The way Guy works, it feels, they were all very open. It was very playful and easy and creative, so it felt like you embraced my ideas, and it felt like we kind of created this character together in a way. I was surprised the way they just opened their family for me and I became one of the boys pretty much. And the way Guy works, I don’t remember a single situation when I came on set and Guy said, 'Okay, this is what I want you to do exactly.' He always asked me, 'How do you want to do this, Noomi? How do you see this? What do you think Simsa would’ve done?' That’s pretty much the way I love to work, in a very searching, creative, open way. So you always need to use in what kind of shape are we today and what do we feel? What’s the energy today? And we use the energy today and go from there in a way. So it was fantastic."

And Jared, what about playing the iconic character: Moriarty?

Jared Harris: "I was a fan of the first movie, and you could see from the first film that they had taken such a fresh approach to how they were treating the characters and the period and the subject matter. It was exciting because you knew it had to be a re-imagined version. It needed to be a different version of the character than we’d seen beforehand. It was a big mountain, in the sense that the character has to pose a formidable problem to Sherlock’s character. If it’s just about defeating a paperboy on a paper route, it isn’t a big enough challenge. He has to be formidable in that sense. How that was going to be achieved, I didn’t know. But I knew it had to happen."

Guy, how did you collaborate with Hans Zimmer on the musical score?

Guy Ritchie: Hans and I like the same music and are influenced by the same origins, I suppose, of music. We’re both big fans of gypsy music. In fact, we tried to get some gypsy music in the first one but organically it popped up in the second one. But music in no small way plays an enormous part in these films, and Hans and I have spent many a drunken evening talking about these things."

Noomi, how has your Hollywood experience been?

Noomi Rapace: "Well, I think I’m really spoiled now. This was the first American or English spoken movie I did. I didn’t know what to expect before, but the way those people worked and the way we worked together was just amazing and the journey we went on together felt like - you said that we were in London all the time. I kind of forgot that because it felt like we were in different places. But it felt like we went through things together. It felt like you and me and Jude came closer and closer in this group. It was really fantastic."

"I’ve heard that you’re waiting around and you sit in your trailer and wait, then you go in and do something and then you go back to your trailer and wait. I don’t remember waiting at all. I was extremely happy, and then I went amazingly enough straight into Ridley’s [film]. I started to prep Prometheus straight after and I was in that movie for five, six months. So it was a really intense year, and now I’m here. I’m really grateful for you, for those people that they believed in me and gave me the chance and invited me to this journey. So I’m extremely grateful and proud."

Guy, what was it about Noomi that made you cast her?

Guy Ritchie: "I think we all saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at about the same time and there was sort of an unconscious collective agreement by the time we got on the phone about Noomi. After a very short meeting with Noomi, that was confirmed. Our desires were confirmed and we pretty much wanted Noomi from there on. She ticked all the boxes and she took it pretty seriously. All the actors took it very seriously and no one was late - very rare. She had all the prerequisites and it wasn’t a tricky decision."

Robert, did you and Jude improvise a lot?

Robert Downey Jr: "You know, I think the goal is to make a well-written scene seem like it’s improvised and/or to come up with things that you find in the room that you couldn’t have known until you get into the real situation, just try to improve things as you go along. Jude, by the way, would’ve been here but, uh, his son had a soccer game."

Were there a lot more physical challenges? Did you have to train a lot more?

Robert Downey Jr: "As far as me being in shape, I think you and I should probably talk about that for a half an hour as it is my favorite topic."

Noomi, what was the most difficult scene either emotionally or physically?

Noomi Rapace: "I like doing fight scenes and those more physical scenes. I always enjoy that and I try to do as much as they allow me to do of the stunt stuff and the more complicated things. So, I think that’s always quite easy. You just have to kind of crack on and do it. Of course, you’re bruised and your body is aching. You hurt yourself a lot sometimes, but that’s kind of a part of it. I’ve done fight scenes and stuff like that before and I always find it quite amusing in a way."

"I think that the emotional scenes, in the end when I lose a person that I really love and I feel kind of guilty for letting him down, that was quite complicated because you need to really get into that situation. It was like a lot of people around me, it was a room full of people and everybody was watching. You feel like in a way you just want to hide and do it really private, but of course you need to do what’s real in the situation. I think it’s always the emotional situations that are more tricky to nail and to get into because I don’t want to pretend. Weird enough, I don’t like to pretend. I try to use things in me and translate them into the situation and the characters. So it always needs to run through my own veins in a way. So it was the emotional scenes that were more difficult to find into because I’m really self-critical as well, so I don’t want to pretend."

Guy, did you aim to make it a romp?

Guy Ritchie: "Yeah. I mean, they are fun to make. They’re also very hard work, but I don’t want anything to take away from the fun factor, and the work that everyone else here does. So they are tremendous fun to make. They’re pretty spontaneous. A lot of the film is spontaneous in terms of the levity and the humor, the spontaneity of the humor. A lot of that is organic; we’ve got something on the page [and] what we try and do is trump it. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. Just the game of trumping keeps everyone stimulated."

Have you ever had a guy friendship or bromance like Holmes and Watson?

Robert Downey Jr: "Yeah, well, Jude and I are pretty close but Guy and I are practically brothers which makes things really interesting. There have been times when I’ve wanted to lop off his head with a machete, but it’s just because I love you so much. You know what I mean?"

Guy Ritchie: "Yes."

Robert Downey Jr: "There’s no one you love more really, is there? Think about it?"

Jared Harris: "The first time I saw these guys, they were standing in front of each other and they were playing this sort of flinching game with each other where they were taking little kicks at each other. They both do martial arts training… at each other’s nuts. You lost if you moved out of the way. It’s like the karate version of Russian roulette. "

How did taking on this franchise change your approach, and how did it change the second time around?

Guy Ritchie: "You know, I started making music videos for 250 pounds and incrementally worked my way up the ladder. So by the time I got here, zeros weren’t as intimidating. The most intimidating thing I ever made was a music video for 250 pounds, so much so I shared the blame with another director. But after you get over the initial shock, then zeros become zeros and it all becomes ambiguous after that. What I’ve found is, I’ve made films where I’ve struggled against almost everyone - and I didn’t have that issue with these two films. I’ve sort of had the reverse process that most independent filmmakers are supposed to have, which is you wait until you work for the man and then the man beats you down. I had exactly the opposite of that. I’ve had nothing like the man beating me up. It’s a bigger sandbox with more friends. So from my perspective, it’s the direction in which I’ve enjoyed going in. I’m not sure if the pressure’s there any more than it was on my 250 pound music video. You set out to do something and you set out to do the best that you can do, and you try and cross those bridges as elegantly and as creatively as you can. That’s the only thing that occupies my time on a daily basis."

Robert and Jared, what was it like doing the first scene as Moriarty and Holmes? Did the relationship grow as you had more scenes?

Jared Harris: "We had about, what, six weeks before we actually started shooting and we shot the very end first. That was the first thing we did, so that kind of helped in terms of focusing our attention on what needed to be in the other scenes before you got to that one. I think the rapport that was there is he’s a lovely guy. The inclusion and the welcoming of ideas that Guy and Robert had makes you feel right away that you’ve got something worthwhile. Even if they don’t like your ideas, they’ll sit there and nod politely; they just never circle back to them. But bad ideas are good ideas because any idea when you’re looking for an idea is welcome. Sometimes it might be some sh*tty idea that you came up with and three weeks later a little kernel of that is used somewhere. So you feel part of the group."

Robert Downey Jr: "All right, now let me tell you the other half. He would come in and we’d have a scene that he’s shooting in two days and he’d be like, 'Is this going to pretty much stay like this?' I was like, 'Not a word of it.' 'Can I have something that I can study the night before?' I’d say, 'I’m going to venture a no on the possibility of yes.' It would be like that and the stakes were so high in every scene, and then there’s complicated camera shots and stuff like this. It’s pretty terrifying, but what really happened is we noticed with Jared is he kept pushing toward it wasn’t personal, it wasn’t like I don’t want to be embarrassed and I want to do a good job and I want to come off great and I want great dialogue. It kept going back to this archetype that you were trying to represent. Then there would be stuff where we were all in a groove with a fight team and he’d come in and be like, 'Okay, we’re going to do this.' Guy was just introducing something the stunt team had found kind of by accident, a way of shooting something super super super slow as opposed to Phantom stuff we had done before. Next thing you know, he’s doing a rehearsal scene with our fight guys."

"Everything Jared Harris did in the course of making this movie was essentially thrown at him with very little time to prepare and also talked about a lot philosophically, as opposed to actually getting ready to do it in a professional way. So it was shock and awe. I think what he brought back with him was something that was just so particularly him and the essence of you while still being this character. It honestly is the main reason that the movie works, but it was also an exercise in trial by fire for you. And you were really quite nice. Once in a while you would say, 'I really just beg of you, if I could even have a semblance of knowing what I might say I guarantee you I could do a better job with it because I wouldn’t be like you, Robert, for this long scene that you just wrote wearing an earwig where someone’s telling you what to say in the other room. I would actually know what I was going to say.' I’d be like, 'Interesting, yeah, everyone has their own process.'"

"Guy told him to go home and he wanted him to come back singing a German aria the next day. Nobody learns a German aria overnight, except Jared Harris."

Having done two of these, do you feel a sense of ownership towards Sherlock? Do you have any interest in the other portrayals?

Robert Downey Jr: "Yeah, I kind of like everybody. Whenever I watch someone doing something, even if it doesn’t turn out so great, I at least admire their intentions and stuff. I know that there’s some kind of quintessential performances that have happened out there. I’ve heard more about the series than I’ve seen, but I’m intrigued by it. I think it’s important that we’re all part of the same collective of honoring this great writer and his stories."

How important is a character’s costume for you?

Noomi Rapace: "I think it’s quite important. The whole look, the body, it goes from the shape of my body, if I’m toned and trained or if I gain some weight, if I’m skinny. Whatever I need to do, I want to do it. I think together with a costume and the makeup and the hair, it kind of adds something to the character and gives me kind of a push into it that helps me. So I always do a lot of research and I prep a lot. I’m always very involved in the clothes and the whole outfit."

Was it hard to find room between Holmes and Watson?

Noomi Rapace: "No, it’s kind of the boys’ movie. They are such a strong couple and it’s Sherlock Holmes. But I felt like they really invited me and they gave me freedom to create my character and she on the paper in the beginning, it was not that clear who she really was and where she came from and what she could do. Then I worked with Guy and Robert and kind of nailed her. Then we decided that she was really good with knives. I wanted her to talk Romani instead of in the beginning in the script she had a French accent so she was like a French gypsy, but I wanted her to be from east Europe instead and use the old gypsy language Romani instead. So instead of doing this French accent, I added in Romani, some lines and some words, so it’s more stains of something instead of a whole accent."

Does it feel weird that there’s another Girl with the Dragon Tattoo coming out?

Noomi Rapace: "I felt so strongly that I was finished with her. Then all those rumors about the fourth film and a fourth book and, 'Would I consider doing a fourth film?' I said, 'No, I’m done with her.' Then the remake, the whole talk about the remake came up and then people asked me about that. I was like, 'No, I’m finished. It’s up to somebody else.'"

Robert, are you and Jude Law doing Some Like It Hot with Guy directing?

Robert Downey Jr: "That’s called act two of Sherlock 2: A Game of Shadows. No, the Mrs. [Susan Downey, producer] referenced that a while ago. That’s what it reminded her of. I thought I looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dwarf brother. That’s what I thought I looked like - and the lead singer from The Cure. Robert Smith, sorry. I should know that. It’s embarrassing."

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