Berlin: Ian McKellen Calls Sherlock Holmes a "Great Englishman," Gandalf an "Oxford Professor"
Ian McKellen estimates that he’s played "around 250" roles on stage and film, including a number of renowned British figures.
But his turn as an elderly Sherlock Holmes inBill Condon’s reflective Mr. Holmes, having its world premiere Sunday night at the Berlinale, offered an interesting twist, he told a Berlinale press conference early on Sunday.
"Like most people in this room I have an image of what Sherlock Homes looks like," he said. "He’s one of the great Englishmen. And he never lived. It’s astonishing. Of course, I’ve played other great Englishmen, like Richard III of whom we’re not so proud."
And while the original birthplace of arguably McKellen’s most recognized onscreen character is shrouded in mysterious Middle-earth, Tolkien-esque history, the actor said that he considers the character a fellow Brit.
"I always think that Gandalf is really an Oxford professor," he joked to laughs from the audience.
Unlike previous incarnations of the Baker Street-dwelling sleuth, Mr. Holmes has the lead as a 93-year-old, long-retired and living on a remote British farm, reflecting on his previous life while tending to his bees.
"I said to Bill, 'Look, I’d be delighted to play Sherlock Holmes, but I am having nothing to do with bees.' And he said, 'No that’s fine.' And of course he then sent me on a bee training course," McKellen said. "I’m now proud to say I worked with the bees. I did my own stunts on this occasion. Those are my hands lifting the frames with the bees on them. I wasn’t wearing gloves, which is a dangerous thing to do. But I didn’t get stung and nor did anything else."
McKellen concluded: "No bee was harmed in the making of this movie."
Reuters) - Ian McKellen transformed himself from Gandalf into a nonagenarian Sherlock Holmes for "Mr Holmes" shown in Berlin on Sunday, giving the veteran British actor a chance to portray one of England's most treasured characters.
McKellen, making his second movie with Bill Condon, said he had leapt at the opportunity to work with the American director, with whom he last filmed in 1998 in "Gods and Monsters", and at the opportunity to portray Holmes.
"He's one of the great Englishmen and he never lived -- it's astonishing," McKellen said at a news conference after the movie was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Based on the Holmes spin-off novel "A Slight Trick of the Mind" by Mitch Cullin, the film, like other new iterations of the detective stories, picks up where Arthur Conan Doyle left off.
This one finds Holmes in retirement in the English countryside where he lives as a recluse, tending bees and looked after by a middle-aged woman, widowed when her airman husband was shot down during World War Two, and her son Roger.
Partly because of Roger's curiosity, the aged detective, who is losing his memory, tries to recall the details of a case involving a beautiful young woman whose husband had asked Holmes to track her movements. Her fate has troubled him ever since, and led him to give up detective work.
Condon said the project had been 11 years in the making and he had persisted because he wanted to work with McKellen again and because he believed in the script.
"It was such a delicate and beautifully told story and I have to say, too, secretly for 17 years I've been reading scripts constantly imagining that I could work with Ian McKellen and suddenly there is this script," he said.
American actress Laura Linney, whom McKellen complimented on her English working-class accent, said the setting in 1947, with part of the plot taking Holmes to war-ravagedJapan in search of a cure for his amnesia, gave it an extra dimension.
"She's a war widow from that period of time and the impact that the war has on everyone in this film is the sort of unspoken earthquake underneath the story," Linney said.
Child actor Milo Parker said he'd been thrilled by the opportunity to work with McKellen.
"I learned a lot from Ian on the basis that he's a really nice man and he's also an amazing actor and he's Gandalf," Parker said.