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'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' Jared Harris interview

By
Actor Jared Harris

© Rex Features / Picture Perfect

Though he's best known as a mild-mannered accountant in Mad Men, Jared Harris is quite outspoken - perhaps not surprising given that he's the son of legendary rabble-rouser Richard Harris.

In Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows he was Professor Moriarty, a man hell-bent on chaos and as the film comes to Blu-ray and DVD on May 14, he cuts loose and reveals why Robert Downey Jr isn't such a wild man after all.

You said you always thought you were destined for villain roles...
"Well, I have red hair and an English accent, which are two very strong cards to have if you want to be in the villain camp."

Are you happy to be in that camp? Most actors say it's more fun playing the villain.
"That all depends. It depends on whether the focus of the story is villainy or not. If it is, then every actor knows they are the best parts to get and they'll trample each other to get them. A case in point being Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men, or Michael Douglas in Wall Street, Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs.

"Those are fantastic characters. There is another side of villainy where you're just a function of the story and that can be quite tough because they want you to be really original, but at the same time you find yourself in a box and you have to fight your way out of that."

Moriarty seems like an aimless kind of villain, a rebel without a cause. Is that fair to say?
"Aimless! You mean he was some sort of drooling psychopath who likes pulling the wings of flies, that sort of thing? Well, I would say that people who are that manipulative are incredibly charming and they don't seem like they're that kind of person - otherwise we'd spot them, wouldn't we?

"The reason why they're successful is because they like themselves and they find a way to justify what they're doing and they manage to convince other people of the same things, until it's too late and they suddenly realise they've gotten into bed with devil. But by then, he's got you."

Watch an exclusive Blu-ray clip of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows with Robert Downey Jr below:


Moriarty is also an unusual Hollywood villain because we aren't given his backstory.
"Thank f**k for that! What a f**king bore that is, when they bleat on about how they were taken off the t*t too young. I mean, it's ridiculous. It's also crap as well, as a justification. You know in one version of the script I read - the one before I came on - there was some dreary explanation, about his tortured childhood, but it was so dull.

"As soon as you open your mouth to say those lines, the audience is going, 'Oh God, I've heard this one before...' you know? It's so clichéd that Mike Myers sent it up in Austin Powers as Dr Evil, talking about having his balls shaved by a Zoroastrian monk."

He's also an unusual terrorist, because he doesn't have a cause, apart from causing chaos...
"Again, that's something else where, as soon as you start trying to account for his actions, every single one of the audience will think [that] they've heard this a thousand times before. I think it's more interesting not to know why someone is doing what they're doing, or to be given a reason and then find out that it was just a line, and it's really something else. It's the mystery that keeps you excited. It's the dark that's scary; once you turn on the light you see it's just a room, and it's empty."

Audience aside, it must have been important for you to know what his problem is.
"Yes, and I know what it is. It doesn't matter to anyone else. I'm not going to tell you!"

Robert Downey Jr has a reputation for being an intense actor. Could you look in his eye-line?
"Hah! You know I've heard stories about people like that but I've never known any, or worked with them. I don't know where these stories come from. I've never encountered it myself. Robert is great fun. He's very, very lively and he's got a very positive and very friendly atmosphere around him.

"He's very excitable. When he's on set he gets excited because he loves what he's doing and there's a sense, I think, of an athlete stepping onto the court to play. He's always on his toes, on his game, and there's a lot of adrenalin and his mind is firing, and it's fun. More than anything else, it's fun."

Sherlock 3 was greenlit even before Sherlock 2 came out. Have you seen a script?
"Ah, hah-hah! You're crazy, right? Why would anyone? The studio won't release that information. No way. I don't know anything about it, but even if I did, that's not something they would want to get out. I would imagine that the script is in flux right now. Someone who's in it now might not be in it later. They'll still be working it out, I imagine."

Are you hoping Moriarty survived the fall? I think if Sherlock can survive it, Moriarty can.
"Ah. Now, here's the thing about that - a couple of things. Firstly, of course, it was a great experience and I would love to work with everybody again. I also think that in stories like this, jeopardy must be real or else people will stop believing in what they're watching. Now, the other thing is that Moriarty has a twin. He has a twin brother who, quite unimaginatively, his mother named James Moriarty as well. That's in the novel and the short story.

"There are two James Moriartys, so... I don't know. I have no idea what they're doing. I'm not at that level of importance, or access, or pay grade where they would be talking to me about that stuff at this stage. Those are conversations that are occurring between Robert and Guy [Ritchie, director] and the producers."

I think the two of us might be speaking again about Sherlock 3.
"Ah, well. From your lips to... um... ?"

God's ears?
"No, I don't think it would be God. It might be Guy Ritchie's and Robert Downey Jr's ears. And the producers, Lionel Wigram and Joel Silver's ears! Those are the ears that count."

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is available on Blu-ray Triple play, DVD and digital download from May 14. Pre-order here.

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