Sir Ian McKellen joins the Sherlock Holmes acting club. (Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures; Courtesy of …
The foot traffic at 221B Baker Street must be getting crazy.
Yet another actor will be playing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's brilliant, unhinged detective Sherlock Holmes. None other than Gandalf Magneto Sir Ian McKellen is taking a turn as the much beloved sleuth in the upcoming Bill Condon (yes, that Bill Condon) film "A Slight Trick of the Mind," but McKellen's take on the cultural icon may just be – for a variety of reasons – the most unique portrayal of the character yet.
Realistically, the 74-year-old McKellen cannot play Holmes in his physical and mental crime-solving prime. (That's a stretch, even by Hollywood casting standards.) So what's with the age up?
The film is based not on Conan Doyle's stories, but on author Mitch Cullin's 2006 novel of the same name, which takes place in the detective's twilight years. This Holmes is a far cry from the hyper-intelligent, witty-yet-wounded figure that has recently been taking over both the multiplex and the small screen.
First of all, Cullin's vision of Holmes is one without the detective's stalwart sidekick, Dr. Watson. Secondly, Cullin's Holmes struggles with mental deterioration; without his genius-level powers of deduction, Sherlock becomes an arrogant, judgmental man. To see a more vulnerable Sherlock, especially one embodied by the always-fantastic McKellen, is sure to be a refreshing take on the venerated character.
That said, do we really need another Sherlock Holmes? We've already got three very high profile and very different takes on Holmes in our modern media: Robert Downey Jr.'s blockbuster swashbuckler in the (maybe, maybe not trio of) Guy Ritchie movies, Benedict Cumberbatch's "high-functioning sociopath" in the cult BBC hit "Sherlock," and Jonny Lee Miller's prickly but secretly very sweet recovering addict on CBS's "Elementary."
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Last year, the Guinness Book of World Records announced that Holmes is the most portrayed literary human character in film and television. He's already been seen on small and big screens a whopping 254 different times, played by actors including Sir Christopher Lee, John Cleese, Christopher Plummer, and Charlton Heston.
Holmes might be the hottest property on both film and TV, but when it comes to just film portrayals, everybody's favorite bloodsucker, Dracula, takes the Guinness crown with 272 cinematic turns. Based off the character from Bram Stoker's classic novel, everyone from Frank Langella to Gary Oldman to, that's right, Sir Christopher Lee has popped in some fangs to play the granddaddy of all vampires.
Lest you believe that the immortal Count is slipping behind in the pop culture consciousness, never fear: a Dracula origin movie starring Luke Evans is coming out next year. Oh, and naturally, there's also an upcoming NBC TV series premiering in October, starring the ruggedly brooding Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the vengeful vamp.
So okay, at least in the movies, Holmes has some catching up to do. And hey, maybe it was meant to be: with McKellen in the mix, the current crop of Sherlock actors is proving to be a professionally incestuous bunch. McKellen and Cumberbatch worked together on "The Hobbit" films (along with fellow "Sherlock" star Martin Freeman), while Cumberbatch and Miller both played Frankenstein in Danny Boyle's 2011 stage play.
To tie it all together, the last time McKellen and Condon worked together was on the film "Gods and Monsters," which was about the director behind the "Bride of" – wait for it – "Frankenstein."
Now all we need to do is get RDJ into the club. So far as we know, "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" is still casting…
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- Sherlock Holmes