The mythos of the iconic Arthur Conan Doyle sleuth Sherlock Holmes have been ripe for interpretation for years lately, what with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Emmy-winning take on the character in the BBC series Sherlock and Robert Downey Jr.’s recent Sherlock Holmes franchise. An altogether different angle is explored in Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes, which stars Oscar-nominated actor Ian McKellen (Gods & Monsters) as an aging Holmes. Fresh from the warm reception it received after premiering at the recent Berlin Film Festival, distributors Miramax Films and Roadside Attractions have announced plans to release Mr. Holmes on July 17, 2015.
The film posits the world’s greatest sleuth as a pensioner living in a remote farmhouse haunted by a case that forced his retirement shortly after visiting a post-World War II Japan. The film takes place in 1947 and sees Holmes living solely in the company of his housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her young son (Milo Parker). Jeremy Hatcher (The Duchess, Stage Beauty) wrote the screenplay, which is based on the novel A Slight Trick of the Hand (the films’ original title) by Mitch Cullin. Scott Foundas, in his favorable review of the film in Variety said, “While the good detective himself hobbles about with a cane, Mr. Holmes the movie glides smoothly back and forth across decades and continents as it follows these disparate plot strands through to their eminently logical conclusions.”
The films marks a reunion for McKellen and director Condon, who previously collaborated on Gods & Monsters, the acclaimed 1998 bio of Hollywood director James Whale. That film earned McKellen a Best Actor Oscar nomination and won Condon a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Condon also previously directed co-star Linney to an Oscar nomination with the 2004 period bio Kinsey; the actress also had a small part in Condon’s poorly received 2013 fact-based film The Fifth Estate. Aside from biographical films, Condon previously wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay to the Best Picture-winning 2002 musical Chicago, wrote and scripted the 2006 Oscar-winning musical Dreamgirls, and directed the last two films in the Twilight franchise. The director is currently in pre-production on Disney’s live action update of Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson (Noah), Dan Stevens (The Guest), and Luke Evans (The Immortals).
An atypical summer release for sure, Miramax and Roadside seem to be aiming for a smart, counter-programming tactic with the release for Mr. Holmes right in the center of all the noise and chaos from the summer movie season. With its warm early reviews, expect an awards campaign to follow. The film opens on July 17th.