Sir Ian McKellen on playing ‘Mr Holmes’ at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival
Sir Ian McKellen is a Met Film favourite, having worked with some of our MA filmmaking students recently on a short film for the charity ‘Stonewall’, Ian spent time in Berlin this month to celebrate the screening of his new film Mr Holmes.
Mr Holmes is a charming feature film directed by Hollywood legend Bill Condon, which creates an unusual narrative around Sherlock Holmes nearing the end of his life, reflecting on who is he and what secrets lie in his past, constantly shadowing his thoughts and actions. The screenplay, adapted from the best-selling novel ‘A slight trick of the mind,’ gives a delightfully quirky take on a character who has become something of a national treasure in the UK.
Sir Ian McKellen spoke about how he came on board for the project following the screening at this year’s Berlinale.
What made you choose this project, Sir Ian?
Well, like every English person, I had an idea of who I thought Sherlock was. It didn’t just stem from reading the books either, there are so many TV and film adapatations and even radio. I felt as though I was well equipped. There was a difficulty however, in that playing the part of someone older came too easily for me!
I know Bill (Condon, Director) and he called me up to talk about his new project. I said yes before I even knew the story. Sometimes it’s enough to know the person behind the film and knowing that there is that trust there.
How much is Sherlock’s character relatable to you, as an actor?
All the world’s a stage… (laughs) In all seriousness what seperates human beings from animals is that we can act and they can’t! We can present and disguise ourselves in the way that we believe is appropriate. Our behaviour is controlled and we can confuse others into letting them believe that we feel a certain way when we do not.
It was this tension between Holmes’ public persona and his real character that drew me into the story, it’s what we all do but he is very blatant about how he does it, and the audience can relate. To me, it was less about being ‘Sherlock Homes’ and more about the idea that a film starts at the end of a character’s life. The angst of the doomed love affair in the film reminded me of Brief Encounter, one of my favourite films of all time, there is a traditional quality of British reticence in the script that I found delightful.