SDCC: Downey defends Sherlock's new Holmes

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Robert Downey Jr. was ready to take on anyone who questioned his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes after showing off some footage from his upcoming new movie. Well versed in the many film, television and theater adaptations, as well as the Arthur Conan Doyle originals, Downey schooled purists on who Sherlock Holmes really is.

"My take is what the puritans would expect, if the puritans knew what they were talking about," Downey said today at a press conference in San Diego. "Several of the most surprising things right off the bat are that oft-associated props have never appeared in the short stories or novels. Even the long pipe is just something [William] Gillette used to not obscure his face onstage."

Downey even went back to original texts to add authentic Doyle lines to the script. "'It's tough to make bricks without clay,'" Downey quoted. "There's a million of them; they're the best lines to say. I really do think Doyle was an amazing writer and storyteller. I didn't quite know how great he was until we would keep reaching out to find quotes, things he said, descriptions he said, really more philosophical points of view that Doyle used through Watson and Holmes."

Known for bringing his free-spirited, sometimes improvisational style to films like Iron Man, Downey played things a little stricter for the Victorian-era sleuth. "It's never easy to be relaxed, but we work real hard at making it seem that way," he said. "We would write out dialogue to make it seem more natural and have a flow to it. The boundaries are it's Victorian England, and they're gentlemen, so it's not some of that wavy-gravy free-flowing stuff. It's more boundary-laden, which I think was a great challenge."

There were some more contemporary references for the relationship between Holmes and Watson. "I've heard this is a staple now," Downey said. "'We need a Butch-and-Sundance scene there," he said. "We need the Heat scene here.' We kept talking about Butch and Sundance. It's another thing entirely to get in the spirit of what does that mean. It means when people are so close they almost can't stand each other, but they can't stand on their own two feet without each other."

Sherlock Holmes is in theaters this Christmas.