There seems to be constant debate about which actor best captured the essence of Holmes on screen, writes Charlotte Anne Walters.
As worthwhile as this subject is, I can’t help wondering about whether we should be concentrating on the future a little more. Who will be the next actor to take on the role and what new form of dramatisation would Holmesian admirers like to see taking shape?
I am naturally rather biased on this point as I want to see my own novel converted into something visual – whether this is a film or a television drama – but eagerly await the next phase in representation all the same.
But who did I see as Holmes and Watson during the writing process? Well for Holmes that was particularly difficult and I cannot really say that I saw anyone except a man who was completely of my own imagination. Sometimes I saw a young Jeremy Brett (prior to his illness), sometimes the gentle sophistication of Basil Rathbone or the rather more rugged Richard Roxburgh (Holmes in BBC’s Hound of the Baskervilles in 2002). I certainly didn’t see Rupert Everett who played a very unconvincing Holmes in the BBC’s The Case of the Silk Stocking in 2004, and couldn’t get my head around Robert Downey Jnr either.
I did play around with the idea of Steve John Shepherd who has the right look for Holmes and is currently doing a great job of playing a simpering complex character in Eastenders (Michael Moon). He plays an immaculate, manipulative, intelligent emotional mess very convincingly, but as he seems to now be a regular cast-member on the soap I don’t think audiences would be able to take him seriously as Holmes.
It was only this week that the idea came to me of who would be the perfect actor to be the next Holmes – Ralph Fiennes. He is excellent at playing brooding characters with great sensitivity and I think he would be able to give the depth of performance required to portray someone as complex and contradictory as Holmes. So if Ralph or his agent happen to be reading my blog (I know, not very likely really) kindly get in touch and I’ll happily send you a copy of Barefoot.
As for Watson, I did have a clearer idea of who I would like to play him but it only really came to me towards the end of my long seven-year writing process. Prior to this I pictured a strange mix of Ian Hart (who actually played a very good Watson in the BBC’s Hound and Silk Stocking) and a young David Burke. I would happily enlist Martin Freeman but he is already taken by Gatiss and Moffat.
Then, sudden inspiration hit me after watching the BBC comedy Rev. The central character is a very middle-class vicar who is sent from a rural parish to inner-city London and struggles with all the problems this brings. The Rev is played by Brit actor Tom Hollander who manages to portray a man who is quintessentially English, middle class, intelligent and kind but struggling at times to keep his veneer of respectability intact when all around is chaos. Solid and dependable but human too – the perfect Watson.
Hollander carries this combination off perfectly and is a very experienced pair of hands in which to place Watson, as well as being physically suitable on account of his rather short stature. He has played period characters before, most notably Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley, and John Ruskin in the BBC’s Desperate Romantics. Hollander would make a perfect Watson and I’m really surprised that no-one else has thought of it before.
So there we have it – my dream-team for the next Holmes and Watson dramatisation (hopefully my own) – Ralph Fiennes and Tom Hollander. Do let me know what you think or any other suggestions . . .
Less than three weeks to go now until Barefoot on Baker Street is published. Here are some of the ways you can order it.