4 posts tagged sherlock holmes
4 posts tagged sherlock holmes
Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II, IV, VI; The Seven-Per-Cent Solution) talked with Hollywonk recently about the overlapping fandoms of Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes:
Well, Spock is surely another riff on Holmes, isn’t he? In Star Trek 6, he implies that he is descended from Holmes. When the movie played, and it was a very successful film, you could walk into any theater, and the moment Spock said this one line ( “An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth.”) half the audience roared because they got the reference. So that’s how I know Star Trek people and Holmes people have a big overlap.”
Which is only going to get bigger, with the modern-day Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) appearing in the much-anticipated Star Trek Into Darkness.
Star Trek’s fandom is legendary. It saved the show from cancellation, and had Paramount planning a sequel despite an expensive debut film – 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture – that turned out to be less than stellar.
But Nicholas Meyer wasn’t thinking about all that when he met with Harve Bennett to talk about a Star Trek sequel. He just wanted to make a movie. Bennett showed him the first Trek film, which cost $45 million and asked, “Do you think you could make a movie twice as good for half the money?”
Meyer’s response: “Well, I don’t know if I could make anything as good much less twice as good, but I do know they’ll never give me $45 million, so I could definitely do it for half the money.” He actually did it for even less than that, making Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for about $11 million, as Meyer details in his book, The View From the Bridge.
Becoming the savior of the beloved franchise, as he is considered by many, was the furthest thing from his mind. “I had never seen Star Trek, so saving it, the importance of saving it the possibility of saving it, were not what I was concerned with,” he said. But Meyer did know from franchises, and sci-fi: He had already earned an Oscar nomination for his Sherlock Holmes story, The Seven Per Cent Solution. And he had written and directed Time After Time, in which H.G. Wells chased Jack the Ripper from 1800s London into ‘70s San Francisco.
Meyer gave Star Trek a future by looking to the past – to the Hornblower novels he loved as a kid, and to lessons of his Oscar-nominated Sherlock Holmes story, The Seven Per Cent Solution, and Time After Time, in which H.G. Wells chased Jack the Ripper from 1800s London into ‘70s San Francisco.
Because he wasn’t too wedded to what Star Trek had been, he was able to reimagine it as something richer. Our conversation:
Some highlights, from Hornblower to script challenges, to taking his heroes seriously:
Nicholas Meyer discovered Sherlock Holmes as a boy, and always knew the legendary detective reminded him of someone. But it took a schoolmate’s question — is your psychoanalyst dad a Freudian? — to clarify things.
His father’s answer: “When a patient comes to see me, I’m not really applying any theories, I’m just asking a bunch of questions. I’m curious to know what people say, how they say it, what people don’t say. I’m curious about their body language, are they punctual. I am in short, trying to look for clues from them about why they are unhappy.” Young Nicholas knew he’d found his personal Holmes, an inspiration on many levels. “I said, it’s like detective work what you do. And he said ‘very like.’”
Years later, Meyer wrote a best-selling book and an Oscar-nominated screenplay that imagined Freud and Holmes crossing paths, and now, with Sherlock Holmes fever as strong as it’s ever been, The Seven Per Cent Solution has been released on Blu-ray. Meyer took some time to talk with us about the film, his deep involvement in its production, and how the flaws of Sherlock Holmes are part of what makes him such an enduring hero.
On The Seven Per Cent Solution, and Holmes as an addict rather than the confident hero:
It’s not a Sherlock Holmes story, it’s a story about Sherlock Holmes, which is not quite the same thing.
Holmes was a cocaine addict, and this is a story that tries to account for the origins and also the cure of that addiction. A lot of people said, “Oh, well you made Holmes a drug addict.” I say, “I didn’t make him a drug addict, [Sir Arthur Conan] Doyle mad him a drug addict. But let me just point out that you’re confusing heroes with gods.” A god is a superman of some kind, impervious. But without an Achilles heel, you can’t get very worked up about them. If a man jumps into a torrent to save a drowning child, he’s a hero. But if he does the same thing with a ball and chain, he’s a bigger hero in my book. And Holmes’ cocaine addiction is certainly that ball and chain. The fact that he manages to function usefully in the world, shackled to that thing, makes him a greater, not a lesser hero in my book. I sort of took it seriously, where a lot of people are embarrassed by the addiction.
On what he learned from his involvement in the making of The Seven Percent Solution film, directed by Herbert Ross (Goodbye Mr. Chips, Footloose, Steel Magnolias):
He was very, very susceptible to my sort of hanging around and being a part of the process. I wanted eventually to direct, and so I was involved in the casting and I hung around on the set and watched. And it was an interesting experience for me because I personally regarded the process of adaptation in this instance as an opportunity to improve the things I was dissatisfied with. I also came up against the conundrum of what do you do when you’re writing a mystery story that everyone has read as a book … so I took the opportunity to rejig some elements. I also learned as I was watching the film being shot, and sitting in the cutting room with it, that I was too verbose. One could say that they were smart words, and in some cases they were funny words, but there were too many of them. One of the things that no one would believe was that there was the writer, begging the director to cut words – speeches, lines – out of the movie because it was very clear to me that it was too much. And a lot of times I lost, because Herbert was so fanatically loyal to the book.
- Stephanie Reid-Simons
Coming soon: Nicholas Meyer on Star Trek, and how he saved the franchise with Wrath of Khan.
Neal Adams knows superheroes. He broke new ground with Batman, X-Men and The Avengers, and recently tackled ZvG: Zombies Vs. Gladiators, a project on the Amazon Studios Movie Development Slate (see the trailer here).
Adams talked with us about the best superhero movies he’s seen, plus Batman, Sherlock Holmes and what Superman needs to be super again.
Some highlights from the interview:
What do you think are the biggest pitfalls for studios looking to make a superhero movie?
Underestimating the audience. … They really have to look for good stuff. People are not thrilled necessarily with superheroes — they’re thrilled with characters with characters, just like literature forever. You need good characters. You can relate superhero movies directly to Shakespeare, or stories of the gods.
Of all the superhero movies that you’ve seen, which ones stand out to you as having done the best job?
Well, oddly enough, the last two Batman movies have done some of the best jobs, and Batman is not even a superhero; he is the antithesis of a superhero if you think about it. Nothing super about him …. Superman is probably the greatest comic book superhero, this god-like creature that’s out there. And Batman, created very shortly after that, is the opposite. He’s a superhero who is not a superhero in any way. He’s like an Olympic champion who is very much like Sherlock Holmes. And if you play him that way, then you’ve got a great character. Is he a superhero? Well, he does put on a weird costume. … Sherlock Holmes is a great character. No, he’s not a comic book character. Well, excuse me, I just saw the last two movies. He looks like a comic book character to me. In fact, I would say that of Raiders of the Lost Ark. That guy is a superhero — of a different sort.
What is Superman’s place in the world, in the 21st century. Some people say he doesn’t work anymore …
Superman is one of the most unrealistic characters. And he’s changed — he used to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, now he can leap tall planets. I think the future of Superman is to downgrade his powers so that he’s fallible and is someone who can be hurt. … I think you have to go in that direction. There are too many middle-ground characters getting too much traction. … If Superman is not making it people’s minds, but Thor is, something’s wrong and it’s gotta be fixed. And it will.
— Stephanie Reid-Simons