Sir Ian McKellen – Mr. Holmes

August 14, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

Over the course of his 50-year-long television and film career, two-time Academy Award nominee Sir Ian McKellen has taken on a handful of iconic characters and molded them into his own in a way very few actors can do with as much consistency and class. From Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield to Shakespearian principal roles like Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III and King Lear to larger-than-life characters including Adolph Hilter (1989’s Countdown to War), film director James Whale (1998’s Gods and Monsters), and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises, it’s hard to imagine McKellen shying away from any challenge as an actor.

At 76, McKellen continues to impressively tackle these significant roles and seems to be getting better with age. In “Mr. Holmes,” which is adapted from Mitch Cullin’s 2005 book “A Slight Trick of the Mind,” McKellen portrays a retired Sherlock Holmes, the fictional London-based detective made famous by the novels and short stories written by Scottish author and physician Sir Author Conan Doyle in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this most recent version of the character, Holmes, at the age of 93, looks back on his career and reminisces about his last unsolved case.

During a short telephone interview with me, McKellen discussed his own thoughts about retirement and how the strength of a film’s script indicates whether or not he will accept a role in a movie. We also talked about other recent Holmes portrayals and how his would stack up in both case solving and combat.

Has playing the role of a 93-year-old, retired Sherlock Holmes made you ponder about what you’d like to do yourself when you hang it up as an actor at the age of 93?

(Laughs) Well, acting is a great job because you don’t have to retire. There are always old roles needed, but they’re not often as good as this one. I did take some time out about five or six years ago to wind down. I stopped acting and thought I’d get on with life. (Laughs) But I found out that life wasn’t as interesting as acting. I don’t take every job that I’m offered, of course, but if it’s a really fantastic script like this one was, then I might.

If your Sherlock Holmes character and the versions played by Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch went out together to investigate the same case, who do you think would solve it first? I have to say, I’d put my money on you.

Absolutely, absolutely. They’re dear boys, but they don’t know the half of it. (Laughs) The conceit of this film is that Sherlock Holmes is a real person. There is no fantasy about it. I’m playing what it would be like to be that man with the overdeveloped ego and overdeveloped brain. He discovers over the course of this movie as he looks back to solve the last case that he actually has a heart. There was love there and he missed it. It really is about regret. But something considerable that he learns is that it’s never too late. You can always learn something new about yourself.

Along with solving a case before Downey Jr. and Cumberbatch, could I also count on you to be victorious in a fistfight?

Oh, I think so, absolutely! But I am the most peaceable man possible. I used to get out of boxing when I was a kid in school. I had a bad ear is what I used to say. I can’t bear seeing people getting hit. But, in metaphorical sense, I think I would [win]. (Laughs)

Was everything you needed to portray Sherlock Holmes in the pages of the book “A Slight Trick of the Mind” or did you have room to add some of your own personality and characteristics?

Well, when the script is as good as this one and is based on a novel that is as good as [“A Slight Trick of the Mind”], it doesn’t really need an actor to come along and say, “Oh, I can give this something different.” They probably already thought about it and decided not to include certain nuggets of information the actor might come up with. It was the same with “The Lord of the Rings.” What the actor brings is an embodiment of the character. He gives him a face, a voice, a walk, a look, a mind. The basis for all that is the script. You can’t make a good movie unless you have a good script.

Mr. Holmes

July 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker
Directed by: Bill Condon (“Kinsey”)
Written by: Jeffrey Hatcher (“The Duchess”)

Nineteenth century writer Author Conan Doyles’ beloved sleuthing character Sherlock Holmes is revisited during his twilight years in “Mr. Holmes,” a sophisticated, sensitive and well-written drama featuring the brilliant detective at his most vulnerable, but still sharp enough to give audiences reason enough to care about what has become of the famous detective long after he’s stopped solving mysteries. Credit to two-time Oscar-nominated actor Ian McKellen (“Gods and Monsters”) for giving Holmes new life in a subtle and endearing manner. It’s a performance that takes an iconic character and humanizes him in a way literary fans will be pleased to see.

Directed by Bill Condon (“Kinsey,” “Dreamgirls”), who disappointed with “The Fifth Estate” after getting the “Twilight Saga” out of his system, “Mr. Holmes” rejoins the aging detective after he returns home from Japan in search of a plant with healing powers. Holmes is frail and his mind isn’t what it used to be. He is living out his quiet retirement secluded in his seaside home with his glum housekeeper Mrs. Munroe (Laura Linney) and her spirited young son Roger (Milo Parker), who takes a liking to Holmes as a grandfather figure. While Holmes is still pretty sharp at deducing, he’s happy enough just tending to his honey bees and spending his final years at rest. When Roger, however, rekindles thoughts of his final unsolved case, Holmes is thrust back into the past to reassess what really occurred during his final investigation, which ultimately led to his retirement.

Emotions come flooding back for Holmes during this time and there no one better to take those years of grief and refine them quite like McKellen. If anything, “Mr. Holmes” is an exploration of self, accepting what has been lost over the years and finding comfort in knowing the world is a better place because of your contribution to it. Robert Downey Jr. might’ve had more flair in his two recent action film adaptations in 2009 and 2011, as does Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC series, but one could argue McKellen’s Holmes is just as stylish. The character lends itself to him in such an intimate way and McKellen pays tribute by being impressive.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

December 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage
Directed by: Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”)
Written by: Fran Walsh (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy), Philippa Boyens (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy), Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy), Guillermo del Toro (“Pacific Rim”)

When “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” was released in 2003, there was the sense of celebration, a victory lap for the trilogy as a whole capped off by a huge box office haul and Oscars for both the film and for newly-minted A-list director Peter Jackson. Here we were, right in the middle of a collective indifferent, angry shrug reaction to the “Star Wars” prequels, when along came a new fantasy trilogy to sweep us off our feet, selling enough extended edition DVDs to fill up Mount Doom. Fast forward 11 years, though, and Jackson’s own prequel trilogy based on the slim tale of “The Hobbit” has been greeted with a sense of resignation and, personally, relief that the whole thing is finally over.

Picking up where “The Desolation of Smaug” left off, the gold-hoarding dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is laying waste to Laketown. While others flee, Bard (Luke Evans) manages to fire the shot with the only arrow capable of slaying the dragon. Meanwhile, inside the Lonely Mountain, hobbit Bilbo (Martin Freeman, essentially wasted in this whole trilogy) and the other dwarves watch helplessly as their king Thorin (Richard Armitage) has caught “dragon sickness” from all of the gold and treasure and his search for the Arkenstone. At the same time, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is being rescued by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Sauruman (Christopher Lee), and Elrond (Hugo Weaving) as Sauron attacks. Back at the Lonely Mountain, armies of man, elves, orcs, and dwarves begin amassing at the gate, each looking for their share of the dragon’s gold.

Much has been said the last three years about the decision to extend the slight novel into a trilogy of nearly three-hour-long films, but by now the fatigue is real and it begs the question: “What would these movies look like if there were less of them?” The years spent bringing “The Hobbit” to the screen seem to have burned Jackson out. Where the “Rings” trilogy featured Jackson working at the top of his game, combining camera trickery and physical effects with state-of-the-art CGI, these “Hobbit” movies see a director willing to give in to shiny, physics-defying computer-generated effects, robbing the films of the handmade, visceral quality that made their predecessors so effective in the age of George Lucas’ misguided prequel trilogy and all its digital manipulation. Sadly, Jackson seems to be channeling the worst of Lucas here, filling the last film he’ll likely get to make in Middle Earth with grating, groan-worthy comic relief and endless fan service that does little more that connect the dots to the “Rings” trilogy that no one needed spelled out for them anyway. Thankfully the journey is over.