Last night was the official French premiere of the season 2 of Sherlock, to be aired on France 4 in March.
A screening of A Scandal in Belgravia took place in presence of Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue and the show’s co-creator gave a 30-minute Q&A after the projection.
3xcusemyfrench.com was graciously invited by France 4 and we’re now giving you a full report of Steven Moffat’s answers to the fans’ questions.
Note: this is not always a word-to-word transcript.
If you take quotes from this article to post there elsewhere, please link to this post as the source. Do not repost in its entirety.
Many thanks to France 4 for organizing this event, giving us an invitation, and their warm welcome!
About Sherlock facing love, fear, and death in series 2:
I’m not going to say much about the other episodes because they’ve not been on yet. This is the moment he contemplates the first of his three great enemies: love. In The Hounds Of Baskerville, he encounters fear. And in the last one he encounters death and doubt, and Moriarty again. That never ends well.
About the differences between series 1 and 2. Season 2 seems to be more about the duo formed by Sherlock&Watson, while season 1 was more about Watson learning to know Sherlock.
There wasn’t much of a shift. It’s always starring the friendship, principally featuring the two of them. The first series was a little bit about the redemption of John Watson from damaged war hero and the second series is more about the fall of Sherlock Holmes as he encounters all his frailties, all the weaknesses he thinks he’s not vulnerable to.
About modernizing more iconic characters after Jekyll, Sherlock Holmes and Tintin:
There aren’t more characters. It wasn’t my plan to go around adapting all the Greats, or ruining all the Greats as many would say. Jekyll came up as an opportunity and I really liked it. Doctor Who came up and I’ve always been a Doctor Who fan. Then Mark and I wanted to do Sherlock Holmes. It’s not a plan. I’m not exhuming all of Britain’s finest and obviously Belgium’s. I don’t exhume Belgians.
About his involvement in the music of Sherlock and Doctor Who:
I think it’s up to the composer! We’ve got Murray Gold for Doctor Who, and David Arnold and Michael Price for Sherlock and they’re brilliant, properly world-class brilliant. I’m gonna be honest: I’m rubbish at music. I’m awestruck by what they do. I wouldn’t say that any of my musical insights are empowering their imagination. The director is certainly more involved in the music than I am, but with those guys I just mentioned… they don’t need a lot of help. My contribution and the director’s is mostly giving them stuff to write to.
About his interpretation of James Moriarty as a character and about Andrew Scott who portrays him:
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson we start very close to the original, we just updated them. The problem with Moriarty is that every single super villain since Doyle wrote him is basically a rip-off of Moriarty. They all talk like him, they all have the same mannerisms as him. You read The Final Problem, it’s practically Goldfinger. So there’s no way of doing Moriarty now as he was then without him being a walking cliché, even though he’s the original. So we elected to go very different, in a psychotic, scary way. Moriarty wasn’t originally in The Great Game, only in the part of Gay!Jim, the guy who comes by the lab. But it turns out later that he’s Moriarty in disguise. We had to cast someone to play that part, who could then be psycho-Moriarty later. So we wrote an audition piece for Moriarty. Andrew Scott played it so brilliantly that we decided to write the audition piece in the actual episode. And that became the swimming-pool scene at the end of The Great Game, which wasn’t originally there.
What could Sherlock have given to John as a Christmas gift?
I don’t imagine he bothered. He’s Sherlock Holmes and I’m sure he woke up that morning completely oblivious to the fact it was Christmas Day and bemused at anyone expecting a gift from him. In fairness, I doubt John gave him any gift either. They’re blokes, they’d have a Christmas present truce.
Whose idea was it to include so much text on screen?
It was Paul McGuigan’s. The very first episode to be shot was The Great Game, the third episode of the first series. And in that there was a lot of texts, and Paul doesn’t like to cut away to phones so he elected to put the text on the screen, which I thought sounded awful. But then, walking past the cutting room, I saw it, and I thought it looked brilliant. At the time, because I’m always very late with my scripts, I was still writing A Study in Pink. And I loved it so much I wrote it in. We used it during the pink lady deduction scene, it displays all the things Sherlock is seeing. So I slightly expanded Paul’s brilliant idea. Now of course everyone’s at it, we all try to find new ways to use text on screen but 99% of the credit goes to Paul McGuigan.
About the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies:
I really liked it. I did. I thought I’d hate it when I saw the trailer for the first one. I haven’t seen the second one yet. I thought it’d be too far away from Sherlock Holmes for me. But when I saw the actual film, I really really liked it. I think in terms of adapting Sherlock Holmes as a Hollywood action blockbuster, that’s the right way to do it. And by the way, I have no problem with someone doing that. I think you should be radical in your adaptations. All the faithful, reverent ones have been done. I thought that was good and it expanded what Sherlock Holmes could do. The only reason I haven’t seen the second one is I’ve had my head full of our series for quite a few months and I thought I’d just sit in the cinema with my arms folded thinking “this is not what we did.”
About getting into Sherlock’s head when he’s writing him:
You can’t, ‘cause he’s just made up! I think the whole point about Sherlock is that you never quite know what’s going on in his head. If you did, there would be no magic to the character. You know what’s going on in John’s head, everybody else’s head, but he remains a few steps away. Does he fall in love with Irene? We don’t know. Sort of, I think a bit. Likes her. Fascinated by her. But we don’t know. You never quite know. And if you ever did know, then it wouldn’t work. All the original stories are told from the point of view of Dr Watson, except two, which are written by Sherlock Holmes, and those two don’t work.
About working with Mark Gatiss:
We happily call ourselves co-writers but technically we never are. We always write our own scripts. The way that we collaborate is that we talk endlessly first about what’s gonna be in it and how we’re gonna do it. Sometimes we have these conversations before we even know which stories we’re gonna do. We have them about stories that neither of us writes. There is one scene, not telling you which, when the two of us sat and wrote together. Once. But for the most part, we write separately, but talk endlessly first. I kinda think it’s more efficient that way. We can both write Sherlock. We don’t need to be in the room to write the dialogue together. But we do need both of us in the room to shape the story of the series and of the individual episodes. So that’s how it works for us.
About the humanization of Sherlock Holmes in series 2:
I think if you look at the original stories, he progresses from being a sort of amoral, autistic, cold, humourless man to, I’d never say he’s quite a hero, and he’s certainly not a nice man, but he becomes a kinder, warmer, braver, more heroic version of himself. So yes, we are letting him go down that path and this year is very much about exposing him to the big scary emotions and seeing him become more of a man I suppose. Both a man in the sense of humanizing, and in the sense of growing up. This isn’t the fully-formed Sherlock Holmes. As Mark and I keep saying, he’s 20 years from the full Rathbone and he’s still developing.
About fanfictions and writing Sherlock Holmes stories on other media:
No, we don’t read fanfictions and I’d rather not get sued so let me be very clear, no we don’t, so that’s never gonna be a source for us. We do like to be influenced, not only by the original stories, but sometimes the more revered film adaptations like The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and some of the old Universal movies that we’re very fond of. As to moving to multimedia, it’s not impossible. We have stuff from John’s blog on the site, various other things and we did put up an Irene Twitter feed. Now expired, obviously. I regret to say fanfiction is not a source, I think Sherlock is fanfiction in itself, it doesn’t need any more.
Question from the artistic director of the French dubbing: about Sherlock’s speech-rate, was it planned or something that came up with Benedict while shooting?
Well, sorry. But no takeback. You don’t want those long speeches – well maybe you do – to take forever. You don’t him to seem smug, or to be giving a lecture, you want him to toss it up like that. And Benedict was very very keen, at first, to do that. I mean, look, I sympathize with your actor sitting there but Benedict has to do it without the script. And there have been times it’s been hard. Because nobody thinks as fast as Sherlock Holmes speaks. So, tough, carry on, but come on, the French speak like trains!
About if he heard about #BelieveInSherlock and what he thinks of it:
Yes, I’m aware of that. We’ve been sent the pictures and that’s thrilling, that’s viral marketing that we don’t have to do. We had no idea it’d have this kind of impact. But I do wonder what people who’ve never seen Sherlock are making of it. “Sherlock Holmes was real? Wow! That’s big news! What about James Bond, was he real?” It’s great, very exciting. And Moriarty was real as well.
About the CBS upcoming new show, ‘Elementary’, also a contemporary version of Sherlock Holmes:
END OF Q&A.