It turns out that Robert Downey Jr.’s interest in Sherlock Holmes stretches much further than playing the character in a blockbuster action franchise, as the actor has recently joined a research project set up at UCLA to track down and preserve as many Holmes movies as possible, many of which trace back to the silent film era.
The Avengers: Endgame star will be acting as the honorary chair of Searching for Sherlock: The Game’s Afoot, and Jan-Christopher Horak, who will be spearheading the initiative, gave some details of Downey Jr.’s new endeavor.
“Sherlock Holmes is really an international phenomenon. We decided that it would really be worthwhile to, first of all, do a research project and find out how many of these Sherlock Holmes films survived and in what condition, and what we at UCLA Film and TV Archive could then do to preserve some of them. It’s not like there’s a list anywhere. I’m assuming that the great majority of the films from the silent era, when the most were actually made, are actually completely lost. But there are films that survived – that we know have survived.”
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Tracking down the more obscure entries in the Sherlock Holmes back catalogue is a far cry from Downey Jr.’s usual involvement with the literary detective, with the two Guy Ritchie-directed entries in the Hollywood franchise earning over half a billion dollars each at the box office, but having an A-list star supporting the project certainly creates a huge amount of interest.
A third installment in the Sherlock Holmes franchise is currently gearing up to meet a December 2021 release date with both Downey Jr. and Jude Law set to return as Holmes and Watson, although this time, Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman’s Dexter Fletcher will be behind the camera after Ritchie decided against coming back for more.
Tracking down long-lost silent movies is a pretty big departure from the slow-mo and heavily-stylized fight sequences that have become the trademark of Downey Jr.’s time as the character, but with the involvement of one of the industry’s biggest stars, Sherlock Holmes 3 and Millie Bobby Brown and Henry Cavill’s Enola Holmes on the way, the continued interest in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless creation should give UCLA’s initiative a real publicity boost.