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Posted December 10, 2015 by admin in Resource
 
 

Catatan Produksi Film Mr. Holmes (2015)


About the Production

Ian McKellen leads a stellar cast including Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan, Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour, Phil Davis and newcomer Milo Parker in Bill Condon’s MR HOLMES. The film reunites McKellen with director Bill Condon after their collaboration on the Academy Award-winning Gods and Monsters.

Based on the novel A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, MR HOLMES reimagines Sherlock Holmes as a real person whose adventures have been turned into best-selling novels by his friend and partner Dr John Watson. Now old and in failing health, the famously rational detective is forced to engage for the first time with his emotions as his mental powers dwindle.

It was the theme of ageing that appealed to director Bill Condon when he was approached by producer Anne Carey to board the film. Says the director: “I thought Jeffrey Hatcher’s screenplay was incredibly dense, rich and poetic. The film has the form of a Sherlock Holmes mystery in that there is a case from many years before that the detective wants to solve but it’s about ageing and the mystery of Sherlock Holmes,” says Condon. “That’s the mystery that he ultimately solves. It’s such an intriguing premise – who is Sherlock Holmes if he no longer has that amazing mental acuity and who are any of us without the qualities that define us as we enter the last stage of life?”

Hatcher agrees that the appeal of Mitch Cullin’s story lies in its imagining Holmes’s future after Conan Doyle retired him to Sussex to tend to his bees. There he has to forge new relationships while also coming to terms with his fading mind. “Holmes was always surrounded by supporting characters – Mrs Hudson, Dr Watson, Mycroft, Inspector Lestrade – and here they have all died and Holmes is the only one left. He has to form new relationships. One always felt he was lucky to have found Watson, Hudson and the others. For a man of limited emotional skills the thought of building new relationships is a frightening thing.

“It’s about a very flawed Holmes,” continues the writer, “which started to be revealed in the 1970s in films such as The Seven Percent Solution and Naked is the Best Disguise – Holmes there had more cracks in the facade. So the idea of a flawed Holmes is not new but in this case he’s also losing something of his intellectual capabilities, the tumblers aren’t quite clicking as they used to, so not only is he struggling with relating to other people, he is also wrestling with his talent failing him. He needs to find someway to revive those powers otherwise he can’t make sense of his life, he doesn’t know why he’s retired, he doesn’t know why he’s with these people. He can feel the despair and the guilt and the loneliness because he can’t remember how he wasn’t able to solve that case 30 years ago. He knows he failed but he doesn’t know why and without knowing why he can’t move forward.”

Producer Anne Carey also responded to the themes of identity and mortality. “I love that it’s about the real man not the celebrity,” she says. “Holmes is the man behind the myth contending with his own mythology. I also really like that he was the best at what he did, the master of science and logic and order but at the end of his life those things had failed to provide him with what he needed and that’s what he comes to discover. It’s a little bit of a cautionary tale in that regard.”

Hatcher also admired the novel’s deft handling of the temporal shifts, from 1919 and the unsolved mystery that forced him into retirement, to the story’s present day in 1947 when he has just returned from a trip to a ravaged post-war Japan in search of a life-enhancing plant. “The book also plays this wonderful game of shifting time,” says Hatcher. “Placing the story in 1947 is a stroke of genius because by that point Holmes is something of a forgotten hero, but by flashing back to 1919 we are reminded of the period of the classic Holmes/Watson thrillers and this balancing act is done with great panache. Holmes is a man of intellect, a problem solver and he believes in the morality of good versus evil so it’s not peculiar to think that the horror of Hiroshima is the outcome of pure intellect trying to destroy evil. Although it’s not stated overtly there’s something about Holmes visiting the wasteland of his mind when he goes to Hiroshima and in a sense when he returns to England he’s trying to rebuild his life and his memory. It’s a way of trying to reconnect with roots and experiences that have been so repressed over the years – how do you return from ashes and reconnect with life?

There is also a lot of gentle fun in the film as the filmmakers pay playful homage to the early cinema incarnations of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. “In the 1940s we have a Holmes who knows he is a popular cult figure,” explains Hatcher. “Holmes makes fun of Watson’s writing up their adventures together and Bill thought it would be fun if we also make Holmes aware of all the movies so I wrote a scene where Holmes goes to see a B-movie, not unlike the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Terry ones, based on the same case from years before that Holmes couldn’t solve. He sees the theatricalised version of himself on screen enacting something like the story that he can’t quite remember.”

The experience of working with Condon was one that Hatcher, like the other members of the creative team, recalls with fondness. “Bill is a wonderful collaborator,” says the writer. “You know perfectly well, as a writer/director, he could write script changes himself but he has a great respect for the script and it’s organic nature and he’s one of those people who makes all the people he works with think his best ideas are their ideas. It also help that we have all the same reference points, so if I quote a B-movie from 1954, he knows it. Bill picked up on all the changes that had been made in the screenplay over the years and re conceptualized them, as he would have solved those same problems. It’s about finding language that is akin to one another and finding what the commonality is.”

“Bill is really great with character and plot,” adds Anne Carey. “He’s such a self assured gentleman film maker and it was a movie that needed to pitch to a place emotionally that I thought he could get. He turned it into much more of a cinematic movie – he really transformed it from book to movie and it’s been a fabulous process with him.”

With the writer and director on board as well as film finance and production outfit AI Films, Carey then brought in Iain Canning of UK/Australian Production Company See-Saw Films. “Once I realized that the producer, director and writer were not English, I reached out to Iain Canning as I admired the way he had made films over the years and asked him to become our English legitimacy.”

“Anne and I had been looking for a film to collaborate on,” says Canning. “We had met through Anton Corbin – she produced The American and I executive produced Control – so it was very exciting to work on a UK project with her. They were keen to preserve the authenticity of the project and we, being English, were able to pick up on any strange cultural inconsistencies that appeared in the script. Not that Jeffrey Hatcher needed much help in that department! And with all the Sherlock hysteria out there no one had quite told this story. The film explores whether there could have been a fork in the road where Holmes could have led a different life away from logic and perhaps a bit more towards connecting emotionally with people. Through the mystery of the case from his past he manages to unlock the mystery of himself. The film is unique in that it explores the man rather than the detective.

“Bill has a brave approach to the films he makes,” continues Canning. “He brings an elegant dynamic to stories that on paper don’t appear obvious immediately. There is a compassion in his filmmaking, he’s interested in real emotion, and his directing style is all about the performance. With MR HOLMES he’s bringing together the talent he worked with on Gods and Monsters.”

Indeed, one of the key elements that made MR HOLMES such a pleasure for Bill Condon was the opportunity of reuniting with Ian McKellen after the success of Gods and Monsters. In both films, the focus is an elderly man – hugely famous in this film, of cult notoriety in the earlier film – forced to face up to his disintegrating mind and impending mortality, and how he finds solace in the burgeoning friendship with a younger person in the prime of their physical and mental health. “Having made Gods and Monsters 17 years ago, Ian and I had always wanted to work together again and I had never found anything I ever thought worthy of sending to him. When I read this script, I thought this would be great for him and was so thrilled when I got the call back that he said it was a part and a half and he jumped right in as he did on Gods and Monsters. We were joking that when we did Gods and Monsters he was in his mid-late 50s playing James Whale towards the end of his life and now here in his 70s he’s playing Holmes at 93. I do have this knack for making him older than he is so we were saying all that is left is Methuselah which we can do when Ian is 90.”

McKellen was intrigued by the slow burn of the story. “It’s a mystery, a thriller,” explains the actor. “We find Holmes aged 93 living in retirement in the south of England where he keeps bees and is looked after by his housekeeper who has a son. That’s the beginning of it. The story creeps up on you and gets more complicated as it unfolds.”

“Holmes is not traditionally portrayed as a happy man,” continues McKellen. “Though he has enviable qualities no one really wants to be him. A little bit of that is true of our Holmes – he’s 93 and he’s troubled and in an enforced retirement, forced on him by himself. There are wonderful relationships between the central characters – the housekeeper, the doctor, inspectors, detectives and others – and the way they all meet within the familiar Conan Doyle storytelling is a delight. It’s a very cunning script and I think the fun will be getting to know the characters and what motivates them and seeing how dramatically and schematically they all come to resolve the problem that’s on Sherlock’s mind.”

The compelling screenplay wasn’t the only draw for McKellen. His experience making Gods and Monsters with Bill Condon was so enjoyable that he jumped at the chance of reteaming with the director on this new project. “As soon as Bill mentioned he had a script I said when do we start,” laughs the actor. “Gods and Monsters was one of the great joys of my life and this had a whiff of the memories of making that film – it was a short filming period as an independent film on a striking subject so it was irresistible before I’d even opened the script. And that it was being shot in England was very appealing to me as I’d been away for such a long time.

“Bill’s merits as a director are obvious when you see his films, but when you work with him there is an enthusiasm above all else which is infectious. He isn’t a director that comes down from on high and instructs and tells you what to do; he’s charismatic and wonderfully intelligent and innately modest and this is the beauty of him. There will be a conversation but Bill gets things done his way because his way always seems to be the best way. He’s very persuasive in a gentle and modest and humane way. He has so many merits as a person and it’s reflected in his work. His sense of humour is wonderful, his giggle a great feature of any time you spend with him and reflects how ridiculous and amusing he finds life and that’s why he likes telling stories he likes imagining people in situations and how they are going to get out of it.”

The character of Sherlock Holmes has never been more popular. The stories have been rebooted recently both on film and on television with versions that have delved deeper into the emotional complexity of the character, and thanks to their success, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson have arguably never been more popular around the world. McKellen isn’t surprised by this: “People are intrigued by the private lives of detectives. Conan Doyle may have started that but Agatha Christie with Miss Marple and Poirot followed on. There have been endless books about detectives and their personal problems, which may be at odds with their public image. That is certainly true of Sherlock I think that’s why people go back again and again to Holmes.”

That the story presents Holmes as a real character whose adventures have been turned into a series of detective novels by his late friend Dr Watson is a conceit that amused McKellen – and one that afforded him and the filmmakers an opportunity to play with the image of Holmes. “The real Sherlock Holmes that we meet is not like the fictional Sherlock Holmes that Watson wrote about. Sherlock in our movie complains that the Sherlock of popular imagination created by Watson has been an embarrassment, a distraction and an annoyance. That being the case it would have been perverse to go for an image of Holmes that was immediately recognizable. Our Holmes claims he never wore a deerstalker or much likes smoking a pipe. We weren’t burdened by looking back at images the audience already knew, which are not from the books but from the illustrations. I could look like anything – I could be bald, totally rotund, smoking cigarettes, chewing gum. Holmes has a celebrity that goes with a particular image – it’s an image of uprightness and intelligence, something inward rather than outward.”

The actor was also intrigued by the notion of playing Sherlock at such a grand old age “The character being 93 was appealing as there aren’t that many wonderful screen stories around about the life of an old man,” he says. “At my age, I’m inevitably interested in what it’s like to be an old man, surviving your friends and trying to make new ones and trying to understand a sometimes alien world. It’s not a fantasy world that he lives in but a very real world and is interesting to me as I overlap with it as it starts in 1947 and I would have been 6 or 7 then and could have met this character.

“Part of the charm of the film is that you get to see the character at two different ages and he’s very different in both. You also get to see the world as it was and as it is for the characters and you see a fictional world too – it’s a nice complication of the storytelling and all the strands unite to solve the mystery at the heart of the film.”

McKellen’s stepping into the shoes of the title role went a long way to enriching the themes of the film, according to Condon: “It’s a complicated and delicate movie and in Ian’s hands it’s a study of the last stage of life. With diminished powers things come into focus and given the opportunity to overcome limitations someone finds a way to do something new with their life. This is truly an icon playing an icon. Ian’s fiercely intelligent and to have the opportunity to watch him playing that was very satisfying.”

Playing alongside McKellen is Laura Linney in the role of housekeeper Mrs Munro and newcomer Milo Parker as her teenage son, Roger.

“Mrs Munro hasn’t been in Sherlock Holmes’ employ for very long but long enough to know a little bit about him,” says Linney. “She’s a widow with a young son. The movie is set at a very specific time, in England after the war, when parents and children behaved differently towards each other than they do today. She’s still grieving and is traumatised by the war and all that it cost her country and her family so they’re all healing. Roger barely remembers his father who was shot down during the war and his mother has protected him from as much of real life as possible. But, living in a house with this rather intimidating older man, Roger’s curiosity gets the better of him and he and Sherlock begin their own relationship.”

Linney has long been a fan of Holmes. “I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes and the whole world of Sherlock at eleven or twelve with the Basil Rathbone movies,” she says. “That led me to Conan Doyle. I had a sweatshirt made that had Sherlock Holmes on the back! I was a real nerd. Holmes is a mysterious genius and his mind works in a very unique way that we all envy and I think we all wish we could see assess things that quickly and see through things that quickly. He’s a bit of a loner, he’s dashing, he’s sexy – he’s a fascinating, brilliant, musical, troubled bachelor – it’s an intoxicating cocktail.”

Like McKellen, Linney was attracted by the idea of visiting Holmes in his twilight years. “What I love about this movie is that it takes such a heroic figure and puts him later in life when things are a little out of touch, his faculties are dimmed, he’s aware of what he’s losing, he’s aware of the passage of time, he’s reminiscent and haunted and yet still curious,” she explains. “There is something interesting about looking at someone who was once so powerful when they are past their prime.”

The prospect of working with Ian McKellen proved too hard to resist. “Ian and I have a mutual friend in [Tales of the City author] Armistaed Maupin so I’ve always felt a connection to Ian, as though he’s a distant relative. I loved working with him.”

Linney’s emotional depth impressed producer Anne Carey. “I have had the good fortune to work with Laura Linney before, on The Laramie Project and The Savages. She’s a wonderfully brave actor and brings full passion and deep empathy to every character she plays. It was a real privilege to be able to watch Laura and Bill and Ian McKellen find the soul of this film through the relationship that exists between Holmes and Mrs Munro. Laura has been a Holmes fanatic since childhood and it was an additional benefit that she brought all of that enthusiasm to set everyday. “

The third character in the triangle is Roger, Mrs Munro’s 10-year-old son who soon becomes Holmes’s invaluable helper much to his mother’s concern. Finding a young actor to play Roger was the toughest challenge Condon faced. “Because the film is a three hander with Laura and Ian so much depends on the chemistry between the three of them. Roger is enamored with Holmes and wants to be like him. Milo Parker is a complete natural, which is what you want in a child actor, but he was also very confident. My only concern was that he would struggle with portraying the pain and loss that Roger has been through but Milo was terrific.”

Certainly the young star impressed his co-stars. “Milo has such a sparkle to him and is such a sweet, good boy,” says Linney. “I was so impressed with him because he’s ten and yet he came to work every day completely prepared and patient and would take on board unbelievable amounts of notes that various people would throw at him and he would digest them quick. He’s been a real joy to be around.”

“At first Holmes disregards Mrs Munro and Roger and is quite selfish, he doesn’t think of them as friends,” says McKellen. “It’s Holmes’s relationship with Roger that opens up a friendship between him and Mrs Munro and they become an odd family of sorts. If there is a Dr Watson in this film, he is ten years old. The lad has met Holmes in the books and the Holmesian method of intelligence and detection intrigues him and now he’s meeting the real thing. Initially he gets a very dusty response from the old man who doesn’t want his life interfered with and that’s part of the story – the way those relationships change.

“Milo was full of the esprit of a young person,” continues McKellen. “He also has an unconventional face and wonderfully expressive eyes. He had no fear of the camera or of doing exactly what the director wanted when required.”

Says Anne Carey: “There are two sides to Roger’s story, the young man who is going to be aided by things he can learn from Holmes, and the emotional side of this boy who’s in need of a father figure. In Milo we found the best of both worlds. He’s a young boy but an old soul so we get the benefit of both. He’s not too cute and not too sassy, he’s just perfect and he engaged with Laura and Ian as a peer which is a tough thing for a kid to do.”

Working with the three actors was the biggest pleasure for Bill Condon. “It was thrilling to be re-united with Ian but also to work with Laura once again. This is the fourth time we’ve worked together and on none of those occasions was it just because I love working with her, but really because each time it’s been a question of reading the script and then putting together a short list and there was Laura right at the top of it again.”

Rounding out the cast are some of the best British characters actors, including Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour, Hattie Morahan, Patrick Kennedy and Phil Davis along with Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada. Such a quality support was no surprise to Ian McKellen: “When you reach Bill’s eminence, actors want to work for him. There was a tiny part for Frances Barber, who wanted to be in a Bill Condon film, as well as Nicholas Rowe who played in Young Sherlock Holmes. Frances, Roger, Phil, Hattie, Patrick – these are actors with astonishing careers who dropped everything to come and do a few days on the film to work with Bill.”

One of the key characters is Ann Kelmot, the tormented woman at the centre of the mystery that defeats Holmes 30 years before the film is set. “If there’s a model for the character of Ann, it would be Kim Novak in Vertigo,” says Bill Condon. “Ann is the ghost that haunts the movie and she’s left an impression that Holmes has never forgotten, and even though she only has one scene, she has to make the same impression on the audience. Anne Carey had seen “A Doll’s House” in New York and when I saw Hattie Morahan, I knew she was the one. She’s a wonderful actress and one who is on the cusp of fame; I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of her soon.”

Producer Anne Carey concurs: “Finding Hattie Morahan was a great stroke of luck. We wanted someone with an enigmatic quality for this woman of mystery who moved Holmes to the point of retirement and had such a big effect on his life. I went to see “The Doll’s House” and Hattie’s was just a stunning performance and super emotional and I told Bill he had to check her out. It’s so nice when those things happen – you can search and search and then the person just shows up and she’s great in the movie.”

Playing alongside the British cast is Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada, perhaps best known to cinema audiences for his action roles but whose turn in “King Lear” at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1999 and 2000 earned him an honorary MBE. “The character of Umezaki is Japanese but raised by an Anglophile so we needed an actor who was extremely comfortable speaking English,” says Condon. “I was worried that it would be too small a part for Hiro but it fit him so well and he’s a classically trained actor who maybe doesn’t get to show that in American movies. It was such a treat to see the immediate rapport between him and Ian and their mutual respect and some of those scenes in the movie represent really extraordinary work on Hiro’s part.”

“We got the best Japanese actor for the role,” says McKellen. “Hiro added such detail from his own experience and culture and I always felt I was with the real Umezaki, not the actor playing him. Hiroyuki was a real asset too as he brought authentic modes of behavior to the film.”

With the cast in place, filming began in July 2014 in east London and Sussex. The behind the scenes team was headed by cinematographer Tobias Schliessler, production designer Martin Childs, costume designer Keith Madden and make-up designers Dave and Lou Elsey. The composer is Carter Burwell.

Finding the locations proved very tricky for the team, partly because Bill Condon was keen to imbue the film with the feel of an investigator tracking a villain, as Holmes unravels the knotty mystery at the film’s heart, and partly because the team wanted to use locations that were unfamiliar to cinema audiences. Thus, locations to be used in London were key and after a search spanning several months, the team found a farm just outside Rye near the Sussex coast to stand in for the principal location of Holmes’s house.

“It’s always a challenge finding a UK location that isn’t familiar from other films and we had found a few great places not only in the London section, but also in Holmes’s house outside Rye,” adds producer Iain Canning. “In the dressing and design Martin Childs has created a life timeline for Holmes which brings consistency between the different time periods of the film. So, for example, there’s a chair that appears in both periods. The older Holmes gets, the older his world gets; the furniture, the house, the surroundings age as much as he does.”

“There were dozens and dozens of locations and I thought there needed to be a sense of Holmes tracking his prey,” explains Condon, “and they are all about fifteen seconds long, but quite complicated to shoot, because you go from a bookstore to a chemist shop to a tea shop and in that case they were all within several hundred yards of each other. “

It wasn’t just the logistical challenges of the locations that tested cinematographer Tobias Schliessler’s skills. Perhaps best known for his kinetic work on Hollywood action films, including Battleship and The Taking of Pelham 123, Schliessler had to recalibrate his creative mindset. “Tobias is a very dynamic, cutting edge cinematographer and this film has a more classical approach,” says Condon. “It’s more about composition and light than it was about camera movement. He had wanted to do a smaller, more intimate, character-based film for several years and hadn’t had the chance. But he’s such a brilliant cinematographer and it was great to be able to watch him focus on those things. I remember the scene in the hospital with Ian and Laura just sitting against a wall and he said that was the favourite scene of any he’s ever shot – and it was just about composition and light.”

One of the pleasures of making the film for Condon was working with Martin Childs whose enthusiasm for films from the Golden Age of Hollywood in general and the films of Hitchcock in particular provided an aesthetic backdrop to the film’s overall look. With this as a frame of reference, Childs was able to toss in hints to previous films into his designs.

“Baker Street is almost a rite of passage for a production designer,” says Condon, “and we thought it would be fun to play with its celluloid portrayals, so there are two Baker Streets, the Hollywood 1940s version that is imagined in in the books by John Watson and the “real” Baker Street across the street from 221B Baker Street. Martin filled the street with clues to cases from Holmes’s career and turned it into a real homage to the Baker St that is described in the Conan Doyle stories.”

The filmmakers took that homage even further in including a scene where Holmes goes to see a film based on the Watson books in the cinema. The film he watches, Sherlock Holmes and The Lady in Grey, has characters that we have met in the film, for example, the very theatrical Madame Schirmer who is played in the film by Frances de la Tour and in the film-within-the film by Frances Barber who was more than able to give an already larger-than-life character even more Hollywood melodrama. In a playful nod to Young Sherlock Holmes, Condon cast its star Nicholas Rowe as the actor playing Holmes in the film-within-the film. “It was our way of tipping our hats to the Rathbone movies and Martin, with his love of film, really had fun with that,” says Condon. “It’s evocative and beautiful and was very good fun for me. The scene cuts between the film and Ian McKellen’s Holmes tutting and scowling at Nicholas’s pantomime portrayal.”

The contributions of both Martin Childs and Tobias Schliesser didn’t go unnoticed by the actors. Says Ian McKellen: “Tobias created a Holmesian England that we all recognize, full of nostalgia and darkness and sunlight – it’s England at its best. Martin’s work is unsurpassable – the detail on the set was a thrill, everything you see looks what it should be. The location of Holmes’ house, on a rise in the South Downs looking down onto the sea, was exquisite. It was a pleasure to go there every day looking at this wonderful view. I haven’t made a film in and around London since Richard III in the mid-1990s and it was a great pleasure.”

Laura Linney was also impressed with the film’s setting. “It’s almost as though the location outside Rye was in the mind’s eye of both the writer of the novel and the scriptwriter, it was so perfect. It was beautiful, eccentric and graceful and aged in the perfect way. And the location at Seaford for the scenes on the cliffs is certainly one of the most spectacularly beautiful places I’ve ever filmed in. Filming there was really special and I hope is branded in my mind for a very long time.”

When it came to costumes and make-up, Ian McKellen had some fairly firm ideas about the character he was playing. “I was certain that Sherlock would have been thin all his life,” explains the actor. “One wants an ascetic look, a neurotic look – someone concerned with his look but who doesn’t look the picture of health, so a pale, thin, bony look with an oversized suit. Costume designer Keith Madden had thought about it all very carefully and found costumes that were made in the period the film is set which he then had altered and copied. As an actor, you feel very assured when you put on the hat, collar and neck-ties, and you see the crafting on top of the walking stick – all this helps the actors believe they are in the world they are supposed to be.”

Madden’s meticulous research and attention to detail made an impression on the actors. “Keith Madden was fantastic, it was the best first fitting I’ve ever had,” says Linney. “It was easy, it was spot-on and was so beautifully selected for its reality, its texture, colour, palette, fit and how it would fit into the world. Those things are incredibly helpful.”

Adds producer Anne Carey: “Keith Madden’s work was spectacular. Bill and I both felt he was the guy for the job after our first meeting and Bill knew that Ian would respond well to him, which was obviously very important. Keith’s eye is great and his work is beautiful. Martin Childs the same, he’s brought a great level of taste, period movies are just second nature to English creatives.”

Husband and wife Dave and Lou Elsey designed the makeup and hair for all of the actors in the films. That included radically deglamorizing Laura Linney as the overworked Mrs. Munro and ensuring that John Session’s Mycroft Holmes resemble his better-known brother. But the biggest creative challenge came from the fact that the film takes place in two eras separated by more than 30 years.

Condon worked with the Elseys to design two distinctly different looks for Holmes, while limiting the number of prostheses. “We veered toward reality with his appearance,” the director says. “We didn’t want the makeup to be distracting as it’s a film in which you are so present with Ian and believing in him. There was a lot of fooling around with making Ian, who falls between both ages, look both younger and older while making sure we wouldn’t have him spending hours in the makeup chair.”

For inspiration, the Elseys turned both to Sidney Paget’s iconic illustrations of the original Sherlock Holmes stories and to Watson’s description of the great detective as written by Arthur Conan Doyle, which reads in part: “In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller … and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision.”

“The main thing was to make the two designs distinct from each other, while keeping the essence of Sherlock Holmes intact,” explains Dave Elsey, who won an Oscar for his work on 2010’s The Wolfman. “Ian McKellen already possesses many of Holmes’ attributes, so it was just a matter of polishing him up. His nose is rather flat, so we designed and built an appliance to get the classic Holmes silhouette.”

For the younger Holmes, the Elseys designed cheek appliances that smoothed out the areas around his eyes and a good portion of his face. “Then we corrected some of the skin tones and evened out the color,” he explains. “We also emphasized his cheekbones to give him the rakishly thin look that Watson describes.”

“For the older Holmes, we applied a product called Green Marble that emphasizes the lines in the skin,” adds Dave. “We also used lots of painted effects like shadows and liver spots to break up his skin tone.”

A steely grey wig completed the look. “We changed his hair significantly as we aged him,” says Lou. “Ian was great about it. He generously allowed us to shave his hairline back quite a bit and bleach the hair white. It was amazing how much older that made him look.”

The Elseys have also included sly references to earlier portrayers of the legendary detective, including Basil Rathbone (who appeared as Holmes in 14 films), Peter Cushing and Eille Norwood, the very first cinematic Sherlock. “We hope that real fans will be able to recognize and appreciate the little nods we’ve given them,” Dave says.

The flawless makeup helped McKellen transition into the iconic character at two stages of his life. “I didn’t have to look the part, but rather be the part,” says the actor, “which is more interesting.”

The final element of the production was the score. Condon’s long-time collaborator Carter Burwell came on board as composer. His skill, according to Condon, is his emotional empathy. “I’ve always described Carter as an actor’s best friend because he has the ability to dig deep into what’s going on underneath the surface and bring it to the surface,” says the director. “Ian described this score as plangent and that’s a good description. Carter doesn’t tell you what to feel, he just reminds you of what you are already feeling. He also manages to connect the dots of the story, and this story is happening on many different levels, in different time periods and in different cultures. So, for example, the Japanese instrumentation will appear in places that are not specific to that storyline, but that evoke the horror and loss that we see in Hiroshima. Ultimately there’s a delicacy to the film and ideas that you can’t quite put into words but I hope you leave feeling that sense of possibility and mortality and that gets most reflected in the score.”

For Condon, the different creative elements of the film – from the acting to the design, from the locations to the music – successfully combine and merge to bring life to the story’s complex narrative themes. “MR HOLMES is such an intriguing premise,” he concludes. “Who is Sherlock Holmes if he no longer has that amazing mental acuity? And who are any of us without the qualities that define us as we enter the last stage of life? It’s a complicated and delicate movie and with Ian McKellen as the centre, it’s a study of the last stage of life – how even despite diminishing powers of the mind, important things come into focus and, if a person is given a way to overcome limitations, they can do something new with their lives.”

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