As Cool As A Fruitstand

…and maybe as strange. A movie blog.

The Casting Couch: Dr. Watson

Posted by Hedwig on September 2, 2008

One of my most popular posts ever was that about the still-uncast role of Mr. Rochester in the upcoming Jane Eyre adaptation with Ellen Page in the title role. And like Hollywood, I know what to do with a good thing: sequelize it until all the originality of the original is but a vague memory.

When I first heard that there was going to be a “re-interpretation”  of Sherlock Holmes, putting more emphasis on his action-hero side and less on his powers of observation, I didn’t see how it could be anything but a disaster. The choice of Guy Ritchie as a director didn’t do much to alleviate my fears: while I do think his take on current London is interesting and stylish enough to make me wonder what he’ll do with a much older incarnation of the city, I don’t want to see Sherlock Holmes done Lock, Stock style. But then Robert Downey Jr. was cast in the title role, and I began wondering if it might actually work, at least a little.

The problem is: rumors are Russell Crowe might play Dr. Watson. And that, my friends, is a bad idea. Not that Crowe is a bad actor: I might not like him much, but it’s undeniable that he has star charisma and a rather wide range. But that star charisma is exactly the problem. Watson isn’t just any second banana, he’s THE second banana: he’s colorless, unremarkable. Oh, he’s smart, he can write, and he often provides the key to the case, but he’s someone you don’t see when he’s standing next to Sherlock. And Crowe is just impossible to miss.

Luckily, Ritchie seems to agree. In an interview with Empire Online, he said:

I don’t have a Watson. Somebody just told me that I have Russell Crowe lined up but that’s news to me. I suspect that hasn’t happened and I’m still looking for my Watson.

Well, I have some suggestions for him after the jump.

Peter Sarsgaard might look a bit young for the part, but Downey Jr. is also younger than the image I have of Sherlock, so if it’s an “early years” story, it might work very well. And while I think he’s quite attractive (very much so, in fact), Sarsgaard CAN blend into the background, while at the same time making it credible that he has a very active inner life. Truth be told, I like seeing him in pretty much everything, but he’s my top choice for the part: smart, silent, and a good foil to Downey’s more exuberant personality.

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Admittedly, my second choice, Gary Oldman, never would have occured to me without Nolan’s Batman films. Oldman was always larger than life, and most of the time insane as well. His performance as Commissioner Gordon however was so grounded, world-weary and quitely intense that if he added a beard, you could call him Watson right away.

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My third choice, aka. my out-of-left-field choice, might surprise you. But Simon Pegg has the advantage of actually being British, he could serve as the light comic relief usually injected into action blockbusters without being annoying, and he’s been moving into more less outrightly comedic acting lately with his part in the upcoming Star Trek movie (he plays beam-me-up Scotty). He would be a goofier Watson, but I think he can play smart enough to be a doctor, and if he turns out to have chemistry with Downey Jr., he might even be the most inspired choice.

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What about you? If you were the casting director with your pick of the litter, who would your ideal Dr. Watson be? And will this post be as popular as the one on Rochester, or are Sherlock fanboys less rabid than Jane Eyre fangirls?

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7 Responses to “The Casting Couch: Dr. Watson”

  1. I think Crowe could conceivably turn the volume down to the point where he could almost disappear… He seems to be moving into “character actor” territory these days, little by little, and this would be a significant step in that direction.

    That said, your choice of Oldman would rock. In fact, now that I’ve seen that possibility, I hope that happens. I honestly don’t have anyone who even comes close to that choice.

    Like you, I’m still amazed Guy Ritchi is going to make a Sherlock Holmes film, though.

  2. Summer said

    I like the idea of Pegg as Watson. Saarsgard as a distant second in my book. I love Gary Oldman, but I don’t really see him as Watson. I would rather prefer Oldman as Holmes.

  3. Kaj said

    Oldman is also British, actually. Check Backwoods for another great, grounded performance of him. He would be a great choice. But like Alexander Coleman, I do believe that Crowe could pull it off. The first name that I can think of though, is Stephen Fry. Not sure that fits in with the more action oriented approach of Ritchie though.

  4. Lanchka said

    What about David Thewlis aka Lupin? He struck me as so colourless…not at all the way I had pictured Lupin, but perhaps that would be good for Watson.

  5. Lanchka said

    wut??? the grauniad reports that variety sez tht jude law is in talks to play watson??? ummmm…okay.

  6. Kaj said

    David Thewlis colourless? You should see Mike Leigh’s Naked, as anyone should. Also, he’s Knox Harrington, the famous video artist!

  7. Lanchka said

    i meant that thewlis’s lupin was colourless. haven’t seen his other work, just thought that he did a really good job of portraying blandness in harry potter. lupin’s my favourite grown-up in the books, but on screen he was, to my mind, rather boring.

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