FILM: MR HOLMES
CAST: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada
Director: Bill Condon
‘Mr Holmes’ is a new twist on the world’s most famous detective. 1947, an aging Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) returns from a journey to Japan, where, in search of a rare plant with powerful restorative qualities, he has witnessed the devastation of nuclear warfare. Now, in his remote seaside farmhouse, Holmes faces the end of his days tending to his bees, with only the company of his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son, Roger (Milo Parker). Grappling with the diminishing powers of his mind, Holmes comes to rely upon the boy as he revisits the circumstance of the unsolved case that forced him into retirement, and searches for answers to the mysteries of life and love – before it’s too late.
‘Mr. Holmes’ reunites McKellen with director Bill Condon after their collaboration on the Academy Award-winning ‘Gods and Monsters’ in 1998. Based on the novel ‘A Slight Trick of the Mind’ by Mitch Cullin, the film re-imagines Sherlock Holmes as a real person whose adventures have been turned into best-selling novels by his friend and partner Dr. John Watson. Now old and in failing health, the famously rational detective is forced to engage for the first time with his emotions as his mental powers dwindle.
It was the theme of ageing that appealed to Condon when he was approached by producer Anne Carey to board the film. “I thought Jeffrey Hatcher’s screenplay was incredibly dense, rich and poetic.
The film has the form of a Sherlock Holmes mystery in that there is a case from many years before that the detective wants to solve but it’s about ageing and the mystery of Sherlock Holmes,” says the director. “That’s the mystery that he ultimately solves. It’s such an intriguing premise – who is Sherlock Holmes if he no longer has that amazing mental acuity and who are any of us without the qualities that define us as we enter the last stage of life?” adds the director.
“It’s about a very flawed Holmes,” says screenwriter, Hatcher, “which started to be revealed in the 1970s in films such as ‘The Seven Percent Solution’ and ‘Naked is the Best Disguise’ – Holmes there had more cracks in the façade.”
One of the key elements that made ‘Mr. Holmes’ such a pleasure for Condon was the opportunity of reuniting with Ian McKellen after the success of ‘Gods and Monsters’. In both films, the focus is an elderly man – hugely famous in this film, of cult notoriety in the earlier film – forced to face up to his disintegrating mind and impending mortality, and how he finds solace in the burgeoning friendship with a younger person in the prime of their physical and mental health. “Having made ‘Gods and Monsters’ 17 years ago, Ian and I had always wanted to work together again and I had never found anything I ever thought worthy of sending to him.
When I read this script, I thought this would be great for him and was so thrilled when I got the call back that he said it was a part and a half and he jumped right in, as he did on ‘Gods and Monsters’. We were joking that when we did ‘Gods and Monsters’ he was in his mid-late 50s playing James Whale towards the end of his life and now here in his 70s he’s playing Holmes at 93. I do have this knack for making him older than he is so we were saying all that is left is Methuselah, which we can do when Ian is 90.”
McKellen was intrigued by the slow burn of the story. “It’s a mystery, a thriller,” explains the actor. “We find Holmes aged 93 living in retirement in the south of England where he keeps bees and is looked after by his housekeeper who has a son. That’s the beginning of it. The story creeps up on you and gets more complicated as it unfolds.”
“Holmes is not traditionally portrayed as a happy man,” continues McKellen. “Though he has enviable qualities no one really wants to be him. A little bit of that is true of our Holmes – he’s 93 and he’s troubled and in an enforced retirement, forced on him by himself.
There are wonderful relationships between the central characters – the housekeeper, the doctor, inspectors, detectives and others – and the way they all meet within the familiar Conan Doyle storytelling is a delight. It’s a very cunning script and I think the fun will be getting to know the characters and what motivates them and seeing how dramatically and schematically they all come to resolve the problem that’s on Sherlock’s mind.”
FILM: SCHUKS! PAY BACK THE MONEY!
CAST: Leon Schuster, Desmond Dube, Ivan D. Lucas, Gerrit Schoonhoven and Bianca Le Grange
DIRECTOR: Gray Hofmeyr
After losing rugby’s holy grail, the Currie Cup, Schuks (Leon Schuster) sets off on a humorous journey to pay for what he has done. In lieu of a R1 million fine, the Sports Minister (Desmond Dube) offers Schuks a lifeline to create a documentary film that shows South Africa in a positive light.
As the documentary takes shape, the Currie Cup traverses its own perilous journey as it moves from two clueless crooks, Bossie (Ivan Lucas) and Savage (Gerrit Schoonhoven), to an enterprising traffic officer and a conniving pawnbroker, among others.
True to form, the “documentary” features a series of brand new candid camera gags for which Schuster is so well known, featuring unsuspecting South African citizens and a host of famous personalities and celebrities – both past and current.
Q&A WITH LEON SCHUSTER
How many times have you collaborated with producer Andre Scholtz and director Gray Hofmeyr now?
About seven times with each of them.
In this movie you also team up again with Ivan D Lucas and Gerrit Schoonhoven as the characters Bossie and Savage (who moviegoers last saw in 1991’s ‘Short ‘n Sweet’). Whose idea was it to bring them back and what was it like reuniting with them?
We were searching for a couple of silly crooks, and Gray’s son, Ziggy, came up with the idea of bringing the twosome from ‘Sweet ‘n Short’ back. They just form such a funny duo. Once again Ivan was the ‘clever’ one and Gerrit the dumb oke. You need a ‘dumb and dumber’ when you combine comedy couples like these. It comes from the days of ‘Laurel and Hardy’, ‘The Marx Brothers’, etc.
What is it that you enjoy about shooting candid camera films?
The challenge. Candid camera is like fishing. You can sit there the whole day, and then suddenly at three in the afternoon you hook a big one. It is that challenge that inspires me – it is not scripted stuff, so you have to improvise on your feet.
Some see it as a ‘cheap’ type of comedy, but believe me it is one of the most intricate genres of comedy.
I think my time is running out on candid stuff, so I don’t really know if I will make any more of these. Also I am a bit sick and tired of getting ‘klapped’, but I keep on looking for it, because I know it’s what the people want.
What’s the most challenging aspect of shooting candid camera films?
There are so many – my disguises, the fact that the people can recognise me, the fact that we have to hide the cameras, which limits camera movement, the fact that the people may spot the cameras and spoil the gags.
I once was caught on camera for speeding outside Colesberg. The guys recognised me and we had lots of fun. They begged me for some CDs which I gave to them. Then two young ‘laaities’ in a Porsche came speeding by and were stopped.
They saw me, saw the camera and said: “Ag this is bulls**t; there’s ou Leon and his camera; he’s trying to catch us out!” Finally I got them off the hook and they were ecstatic, because I think their fine would have been somewhere in the thousands.
Do you think there’s anything specific that sets ‘Schucks! Pay Back the Money’ apart from other Schuster/candid camera films?
It’s completely topical. It covers Eskom and load shedding, the re-location of where people live, etc. The movie has this Hollander who has come to South Africa to make a documentary. There’s a court case, a cocky Deputy Minister and many things that South Africans can identify with.