A Nicer Sherlock With a Bigger Star Than Benedict Cumberbatch? Really BBC?

Benedict Cumberbatch as BBC Sherlock with blowtorch and goggles reading computer over John Watson's shoulder

Over at Deadline London, Ben Stephenson, BBC drama head, confirms that if Sherlock had been made with a focus on international sales it would have been with different casting, specifically someone other than Benedict Cumberbatch. The article states:

If Sherlock had been made expressly for international, Stephenson told me recently, it would have been cast differently. In the early days of the show, he said there were concerns that Benedict Cumberbatch’s high-functioning sociopath would not be embraced. “Couldn’t he be slightly nicer? Couldn’t you have a bigger star?” are questions he said were bandied about. “Ultimately it was the courage of convictions. It made Benedict a star and people love those rough edges.”

Why am I thinking that “the courage of convictions” were Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss throwing polite but firm fits at casting “a bigger star” instead of using the right actors?

Although, I do have to mention a recent “Happy Hour” conversation I had with someone who said she couldn’t watch Sherlock because “he’s just so mean to people.” I should mention that this person is a graphic designer who announced in the same conversation that she had just used Adobe Photoshop layers for the first time. After I picked my jaw up from my cheese plate (she’s not that young or a new designer), she explained she used Illustrator for all of her design work and used Photoshop to crop pictures. In other words, this is not someone who handles change in her life, or contradiction, well.

Fortunately, a large part of the prime PBS demographics disagrees with her and likes a character who says what we all wish we could say but are too polite to do so.

“What’s it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring.”— Sherlock Holmes in BBC Sherlock, A Study in Pink

Taxes nearly done. Class materials prepared (and class starting tomorrow). Alas, I won’t be able to make 221B Con (despite having a membership), but I will get a chance to work on the fanfic and some more captions this weekend. Ta for now.

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4 thoughts on “A Nicer Sherlock With a Bigger Star Than Benedict Cumberbatch? Really BBC?

  1. Sami (@pirategirljack)

    I…just can’t even imagine a BBC Sherlock being done any other way. I mean, this is definitive–it is *definitely* the best choice to have made, and I’m one of the ones who adores that he’s not very nice and kind of a jerk, but still has all these depths of complexity that make a character so interesting.

    My, how the last few years would have been different in my life without Cumberbatch being everywhere…

    I’m sorry you can’t make 221b Con! I can’t either, but I’m hoping it catches on so I can make it next year.


    1. Watson Post author

      Well, I’m old enough to have started with Basil Rathbone movies on the telly and I still think Jeremy Brett is the most definitive canon Sherlock Holmes (rather like Joan Dixon’s Miss Marple and Suchet’s Poirot), but Cumberbatch has totally captured the character in a modern setting. He’s got the mannerisms from the original stories, the original enthusiasm of Sherlock Holmes, the internal conflicts and the hunger for true friendship (and a post on this is in the works by this weekend). I look at all the other attempts to make Holmes “nicer” and it just doesn’t work. I believe Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law play beautifully off each other and captures a lot of the “Boy’s Own Adventure” of much of the canon, but miss the rationalism and scientific anchor of Holmes, while others seem to focus on the “mature rational Holmes” and miss the adventurousness and wit of the characters.

      I held on to my hotel reservation until April 1st when taxes (and a fabulous online class I’m taking called “The Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior”) made me realize that it would be wiser to save the US$1,500-2,000 it would cost me to attend 221B Con and apply it to my UK trip to see Season 3 Sherlock, Christmas in London, and Hogamany in Edinburgh.

  2. Elizabeth

    I for one couldn’t envision anyone else breathing life into Sherlock Holmes set in this day and age but Benedict Cumberbatch. He takes you on the journey of his character-of looking through a prism and turning it round to see the possibilities and choices that challenge him. You watch his characters’ reactions to other characters-change, go back, and change again-like testing the waters-just like a “real person”. You watch him “grow”. The other characters John Watson, Mycroft,Greg Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, Molly Hooper, Mike Stamford, they form his “family”. And we know how he reacts when anyone threatens a member of that inner circle. We should all be so blessed. Thank you Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss for holding on to your selection of actors.

    1. Watson Post author

      Totally agree, Elizabeth. Benedict Cumberbatch makes the character so real, you completely forget you’re watching video. And, of course, it helps that the rest of the cast are excellent, and just the right choices as well. Cumberbatch and Freeman take the script and draw you completely into the story and out of yourself the way a very well written book does.

      Thanks for the lovely comment!

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