Mark Gatiss on the Enduring Fame & Charm Of Sherlock Holmes
Reaching the end of BBC’s Sherlock season three (S3), fans are anxious to know of what comes next for the great detective. Luckily there’s a season 4 in the works; co-creator Steven Moffat has confirmed it. No matter how long it takes to make it – as the two leading men of the show are currently busy with their own projects – fans will definitely continue to wait eagerly.
Meanwhile, we can probably wait by checking out all of co-creator and co-writer Mark Gatiss’ favorite Sherlock Holmes incarnations that inspired him and Moffat on the series.
“Our favorite was always Basil Rathbone in the films of the ‘40s because those films seemed to us to have more of the true spirit of Conan Doyle than a lot of the other adaptations,” Gatiss confesses to us via phone from Liverpool. “Having said that, Jeremy Brett was amazing; he was the definitive Sherlock Holmes for a whole generation. We love those stories well and Peter Cushing and Douglas Wilmer in the ‘60s… there are loads and loads of them. But I think the Rathbone and Nigel Bruce films are the ones that we keep coming back to. That plus the Billy Wilder’s film, The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes, in 1970. Those are the big touchstones for us.”
Mind you, though he says “favorite”, all of it comes with a bit of disclaimer… “It’s very hard to say because everybody has their favorite and people get very upset if we name someone else!”
In addition to the Guy Ritchie films from 2009 and 2011, plus the American TV series featuring the detective (Elementary), modern audiences are spoiled for choice when it comes to watching Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters in live action format. Gatiss has a good theory on the phenomenon.
“It has to be almost entirely down to the fact that the original stories are so brilliant. Arthur Conan Doyle is a genius writer, probably the best short story writer we’ve ever had. He was just a master of the form,” Gatiss muses.
He also credits Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson’s relationship for being one of the main attractions of the stories. “The characters of Holmes and Watson have endured so much because it’s one of the great friendships in literature and people always respond to that. They shouldn’t be friends but they are and that’s what makes it brilliant. I think the fact that we see Sherlock through Dr. Watson’s eyes, as it were, means that he always appears as a slightly god-like figure. And that’ an enormous part of the appeal.”
Speaking of the detective and the doctor, Gatiss appears to be quite proud of his show’s co-leads, whose works can be seen in the interim during Sherlock’s hiatus.
Martin Freeman’s US TV series Fargo (based on the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-nominated film) will premiere in April in the US. The Oscar-nominated short film The Voorman Problem that he starred in will also play in XXI Short Film Festival (13-16 March 2014). Benedict Cumberbatch stars in plenty of films; The Imitation Game is the new one planned for release in 2014. Both will also grace cinemas at the end of 2014 in The Hobbit: There And Back Again by Peter Jackson.
“From the beginning, we’ve always conceived it as a co-lead and Martin Freeman is, as well as an astonishingly good actor, the heart and soul of the show,” Gatiss says proudly of his stars when addressing the matter of Cumberbatch’s popularity. “I think what’s happened is that Sherlock made Benedict a star while Martin was already a very famous in the UK. But in terms of why the women go for him so much… I think it’s an old story, really. It’s probably one of the things made Sherlock Holmes popular in the first place. It’s also a version of the Mr. Darcy story. He’s cold, unattainable and apparently uninterested in the opposite sex. I think that’s the oldest recipe in the book, isn’t it? There’s something Byronic about him, about Benedict’s looks in particular.”
Concluding the Cumberbatch discussion, Gatiss ends with: “He’s sort of a Lord Byron type figure. He’s cold, unapproachable, distant, rude, arrogant… you know, Mr. Darcy – that’s what it is. He may have certain personal charms but I can’t comment about that!”
Not just attractive stars, though. The deductions, too, might also play a part in feeding the fantasies of so many Sherlock enthusiasts. “You want to be able to go out on the street and be able to work out, from the way someone ties their shoelaces, what they do for a living. It’s an exciting possibility that you’re able to do it!”
If only we were all masters of deduction in real life, because we couldn’t tell without begging Gatiss for an answer at the very end of our call session whether or not the producers are planning the much rumored Sherlock Christmas special episode. Gatiss’ answer, however, much like Mr. Holmes’ more cutting remarks to the people around him, may hurt or disappoint.
“I don’t know anything about Christmas Special,” he answers, “and *I* would know.”
On a brighter note, he confirmed that they were trying their best to make SHERLOCKED, the first official Sherlock convention, happen. “I can’t tell anybody about the convention because we’re trying to sort it out,” Gatiss responds to the query cryptically, “but we’re trying to make it happen.”