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Robert Downey Jr.'s Bad-Ass Sherlock Holmes

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Robert Downey Jr. chats about his role as Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie's upcoming movie.

By Matt Mueller

At the Tropic Thunder junket, Robert Downey Jr. strolled into a Four Seasons hotel suite dressed in wide-striped khaki trousers and a green army jacket with the name "Osiris" sewn into one of the pockets, the name of his character in Thunder. But in between the Thunder-thumping, Downey Jr. was happy to chat about his upcoming gig playing Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie's adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic sleuth. The Brit director has rewritten the script for Warner Bros.' reboot, which is inspired as much by Lionel Wigram's eponymous comic book as it is by Doyle's tomes; Holmes knocks the Victorian stuffiness out of the tale to buff up Holmes as a bare-knuckle boxer and martial-arts expert. Here's what Hollywood's hottest actor has to say about donning Sherlock's cap.

When do you start shooting?
October 6. Going over to England.

Have you had many meetings with Guy Ritchie?
We've definitely got to spend some time together, and I love his take on it. We're both martial arts enthusiasts and historically, in the real origin stories of Sherlock Holmes, he's kind of a bad-ass and a bare-knuckle boxer and studies the rare art of baritsu [fictional martial art created by Doyle for the final Holmes story, 1901's The Adventure Of The Empty House]. If you look baritsu up, they can't even really tell you what it is, so it gives us a lot of leeway.

What drew you to this take on Holmes?
I love the idea of doing a period piece without trying to be too stylized. I loved 300, but I think that that's been capitalized on in other films like that, so I like the idea of doing a period piece where you don't modernize it, you just realise how modern it was. In 1891, it was incredibly modern. And Sherlock Holmes is such a great character to be able to play.

How's the English accent coming?
It hasn't come to me yet. I've done R.P. [a.k.a. received pronunciation, a.k.a. The Queen's English] before in Chaplin and Restoration, but I don't want to just do that. I feel like Sherlock Holmes is out there somewhere, and I got my little ham radio on [makes like he's trying to tune in a radio station] to find his frequency, but I've got nothing yet.

So how does it feel being back on top of Hollywood?
Yeah, I'm so on top of it, I'm in the missionary position. I've been pretty much in every angle corresponding to Hollywood, and it's just great, you know? It's great, and it's a lot of work, and it's anxiety-provoking. Because be careful what you wish for — here I am, promoting a movie while my heart says I should not be promoting Tropic Thunder at all because I need to have my ham radio going for Sherlock Holmes. It's mandatory that I get this inspiration, and what if I miss that train? I'll be depriving the moviegoing public of what it is that I promise them I'll be able to do, which is, more often than not, deliver.

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