Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlocked Q&A

On the 25th April Benedict Cumberbatch appeared at Sherlocked – the world’s first official Sherlock convention. Organised by Massive Events in conjunction with Hartswood Films the 3 day Sherlock event featured many actors from Sherlock including Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott (Moriarty), Louise Brealey (Molly), Rupert Graves (Lestrade), Una Stubbs (Mrs Hudson), Jonathan Aris (Anderson), Lara Pulver (Irene Adler) and Lars Mikkelsen (Magnussen) among others.

On the Saturday Benedict attended a one hour Q&A session. Below is a transcript (more or less) of that session:

BC11On his welcome

You could give Hall H a run for its money.

On auditioning for Sherlock

The audition itself was lovely. I was a little bit nervous to the point that Beryl was offering so many cups of tea and biscuits to me that I think she thought she was playing Mrs Hudson. I just remember having a good time and being very relieved that Mark and Steven found it quite funny when I was reading the lines that they had so beautifully written. It felt good. When I first heard about the idea I knew that they were keen on me but I didn’t know who they were. Then I knew who they were and I knew that it was Mark and I knew him from The League of Gentlemen and as for Steven my parents had been in Coupling so I knew the Vertues as well because of that and I thought this is a great stable for what could be a very tricky idea. Why fix something that ain’t broke? 

Sherlock as it stands is a wonderful, iconic, incredible canon of work form Conan Doyle which has been so successfully embodied in the Victorian era for many many years and many incarnations before. So it has better be good. And then I found out who was doing it and read the scripts and loved it and we had fun at Beryl’s flat and they liked what I did. I sort of pootled off on my moped as it was then thinking “yeah this will be amazing if it works out” and here we are…

Holmes is nothing without his Watson

There were some fantastic people who walked through the door and the minute he started reading with me I felt that I had to up my game basically.  It was that simple he made me play better and he’s brilliant in himself obviously. I was a huge fan of his work in The Office. I’d actually seen him on stage when he’d just started out of drama school. He was in Mother Courage and I think Volpone at the National. I’d already marked who he was and I was a fan but the minute we started reading together I thought this would be a fantastic fit. There was great chemistry and I thought it would be a great collaboration and it’s proved true.

On the Pilot

I really liked it. I had different hair. I sort of have a more moddy haircut, a slightly Indie moppy haircut and he was slightly looser. He was more adolescent in a sense, jeans rather than a suit and there was a jacket and obviously the coat. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the idea of it being so condensed in that one hour format. And then well I think the story is fairly well known. It was then up to the BBC and Hartswood about how they wanted to evolve it. It’s great to have a pilot. Then when it came back in the form we now know I couldn’t have imagined it would be much better but it really evolved. We felt like we were making one and a half hour films and with Paul McGuigan at the helm the visual world around it just exploded. Coky did a fantastic job but Paul’s universe just expanded it and it became even richer, more ambitious and really groundbreaking. Literally groundbreaking in its music, its effects, its editing, God bless Charlie, and it was an amazing evolution just there and that seems to be the standard we keep setting ourselves every time we tackle it to just get better and better and better.

On shooting out of synch and transitions between series

Just having done the pilot. Getting to have already played a lot of what had been established is a huge gift for all of us as actors. Sometimes when we shot out of sequence for the next three series it was tricky. I found the transition from the first series to the second series difficult but the second to the third it felt comfortable the minute we were on set. But the first time after we were out of the gate so to speak and started and it had had this reception and become this thing beyond our wildest expectations it felt a little bit like I was acting opposite someone who I thought was really good as Watson in something I’d watched last summer. It felt very surreal. Already it had taken on a life and it just felt a little bit weird and difficult to get into. It was Hounds of Baskerville and it was only a couple of days at the beginning of that shoot but it took a bit of time to find a rhythm and for it to feel natural again.

BC5On his breathing techniques and how to deliver pages of exposition

The difficult thing is learning it and getting it right and getting the detail right. I have good days and I have very bad days. I think when it works the physicality of it really feeds it and you have to do it like that. You have to bring an energy and a focus and the thing of doing it all in one breath it’s kind of just a necessity and theatre training helps. You have to be very articulate and your diction has to be clipped and incredibly precise because when you’re speaking at that speed and volume you can’t slur and I really notice when I do. I watched the last episode last night (His Last Vow) and I could hear a bit of slurring and I was cross with myself because normally it is so so crisp and it has to be because you can’t take in that information anyway. It really takes a couple of viewings to get in every detail of what he’s talking about and the firework of it is great fun for an audience. You sit there thinking “fuck that was intense.’ I think the thing is the immediacy of the fun of it. The great thing about all of these scripts and the detail of the deduction however spurious and silly some may be is that you really gain from repeat viewing. You really do. But you try and serve it up as an instant hit something that people can get first time around.

On the Best Man Speech in The Sign of Three

That was wonderful to do. It was almost a week, 5 days that we were in that green orangery thing a lovely conservatory near Bristol. It was extraordinary as everywhere I looked there were these well cast actors and I have to say the most extraordinary supporting artistes we had in as well for that whole scene. Because I was basically doing it for 5 days, not the same bit as we segmented it. There were certain bits that flow, certain bits that needed complicated camera moves and cutting points and it became almost like doing a one man show to the most surreal audience of people you know. It was this sort of solo flight. I had to lock myself away. The cast was there together in Bristol having a great time and I just remember the first drink I had with all of them at the end of the week and the relief of being a human being again as I just did have to isolate myself but the rewards of it were really rich if slightly bizarre at times like slapping myself and having slightly schizophrenic episodes in the middle of it where I’m talking to Mycroft or myself or talking to some sort of internal mental reel of film in my head and then having to snap back into being the best man again. It was hard to get right and really exhausting but incredibly good fun. Really good fun to do.

Would he cross the road if he saw Sherlock coming towards him?

Yeah absolutely. He doesn’t have a lot of time for pleasantries or niceness and I quite like people who are polite.

He keeps severed heads in his fridge.

There’s that. Well it’s his speciality. You gotta give the guy that. It’s his hobby. He’s fine. I understand that. Everyone has their hobbies

Could you live with someone like that?

No. I really don’t think I could. I’m not saying I’m polar polar opposite to him but… people want to cutify him and cuddly-fy him and make him something thats sort of approachable and I understand why because I think in reality he’s vicious, ferocious, brilliant, funny and attractive because of all those things but he’s a brutal human being. He has to be to be at that level of his game and have that level of mental alacrity and to maintain that skill set and focus and I know other people who are brilliant in my life, I’m married to one and they’ve very wonderful people. Personality wise he’s a tricky mother thingy and it would be very hard to be cosy with him and have a pint and just sort of take the edge off things with him. He’s always on the edge. Its a very front foot energy and I think he’s ruthlessly duplicitous as well. There are those who are incredibly close to him that he is fiercely loyal to and that I can completely understand but at the detriment of letting other people in to the point of being very very cold. And also he would just take me apart. He would rip layers off me in a second and I don’t really need that in my life to be honest.

BC10Molly – why didn’t she tell him to sod off when he asked her for help?

It’s like Bond. It’s like a lot of these outsider hero characters the romance of them is that “yeah but if I was the person looking after him he’d be alright I could make him into a cosy thing” And I think Molly does suffer from that but theres a more mature understanding between them now to an extent I think I really do. She saved his life.

She was also having it off with Moriarty

I don’t think Sherlock was jealous of that.

Cheerfully indulges the moderator and audience by doing a Chewbacca impression despite stating that he has a head cold.

“Its more like a Scooby Doo yawn.”

What was Harrison Ford like?

Really lovely, charming, nice guy. He had to leave early and I arrived late so we didn’t get quality time on that sofa (on the Graham Norton show) but he’s a really nice guy. I’ve met him a couple of times socially and he’s such a hero. He seems to be indestructible. Yeah crashing planes on golf courses and getting away virtually unharmed and bits of set fall down and he comes back ruling the day. He’s a force to be reckoned with that man.

How does it feel to come back to Sherlock and shoot the special after making such big films?

We dream big with Sherlock so it doesn’t matter what scale of work I’m doing anywhere else in the world. We want to give you something to turn your telly on for and that has to be on a level to match anything else that I might be lucky enough to be a part of. Though sadly we don’t have the budget of a Star Trek or a Doctor Strange we do quite a lot of good stuff with the budget we have. I love it is the short answer and I don’t see a disparity in quality or scale I really don’t. It may be for the small screen but most of the episodes that I’ve seen first off have been screened at the BFI and it holds up on the big screen. It’s cinematic stuff in every aspect, its editing, its shooting style, its music and its ambition in storytelling I think. I love it is the short answer. I love going back to it. It’s a very familiar family now and it’s a great role and as long as we all keep it fresh and keep enjoying it and keep evolving it and getting it better and better and better it’s going to be something we all want to come back to.

What was your favourite episode to shoot and what was your favourite episode to watch back?

I’m really crap at favourites. I’ve got favourite bits which is dodging the question slightly. The rooftop stunts were great fun to do. Both the falling and the landing. That was great fun. Chases in London are great fun. Scenes with Lars in the last episode were incredibly fun to do, he’s an extraordinary actor. As was Phil Davis in the first of the first (A Study in Pink) as in Martin in every scene. There’s stuff we’ve just done that I can’t really talk about which was good fun.

I think overall, to do, the wedding episode although not necessarily everyone else’s favourite I really did love because of the turn in it because of how at ease you were with him and also I just thought it was stunningly crafted. The idea that something that seems to be getting schmaltzy is actually just a springboard not only for the most extraordinarily complex understanding of the resolution of the case or mystery but also the expectation of where it leads you and where he then goes in the third episode His Last Vow and I did really enjoy that. Having said that playing the violin for the waltz was probably my least favourite thing of acting for all time ever. Ever. Because I feel so phony doing it. Any of you who are any good at playing musical instruments or the violin have been very kind to me saying “no you’re doing better” but its a nightmare. I’m so bad at it. People do it since the age of 3 and are at concert level and say “yeah I play a bit of violin” and I can barely hold the thing so to try and pretend that I’m that good at it it feels so… It’s just agonising. I feel like I’m such a fraud. So by turns that was the best and the worst. The best to watch?  I enjoy watching all of them I do. I never like watching myself but after a while I can get involved and enjoy it like the rest of you I guess for what it is which is something to be really proud of.

BC2How does it feel from going so small to so big and having all these people wanting to see you?

I’m just thinking about what you mean by so small. Lots of things spring to mind. Am I a grower not a shower? I would say it feels pretty extraordinary but this is what’s very bizarre. Even though I’ve got a microphone and am speaking to however many this is normal. This isn’t normal what am I trying to say? This normalises it a little bit because I get to speak to you in my own voice. I’m not having a very self conscious episode walking through a shopping centre or gallery and knowing that people are noticing me rather than what they’re supposed to be doing. The thing of that side of being big or being visible is still weird and taxing and strange and something that I’m adjusting to. I don’t think anyone ever really quite adjusts to it but being able to feel comfortable enough to speak to you now like this and talk openly and honestly about it that feels like I’m the same person I would have been before this began with what I’m saying and how I react to it. So I guess I try and do things and keep people around me who to an extent normalise what is in one sense a very abnormal situation to be in on that level. And I’m just talking about fame here. Not the extraordinary experiences and riches and fun of my work and where it’s got me. I just mean being in front of many people instead of being in front of a smaller group of people.

When he reads the scripts for Sherlock were there any bits he was nervous about doing?

The deductions thrill me. The opportunity to be given that kind of challenge as an actor is rare so actually it’s a treat. And while I may make a meal of it sometimes or be exhausted or be behind on my learning that is still a great, great treat for an actor to have which is why it has to be treated with respect. With these scripts I get the thrill that the audience gets, Martin and I are the first audience for these scripts in their final edit, their last draft so we’re getting verbally what you then get at the end of an episode and it’s so enjoyable. And you want the challenges to increase. Having gained a certain amount of confidence in your ability to achieve certain goals in your previous episodes you want to do more. You want to be given the challenges, you want to be stretched. So perversely with this job I get very excited at the difficult bits in the script and it’s the equivalent of being given a bit of music and thinking “christ this is a really difficult passage but it’s going to sound amazing if we get it right” and it’s that simple really. It just requires a lot of work. Other jobs very much so. When you get the role you get very excited about it and then you think “oh my god I’m actually going to have to be I don’t know Khan in Star Trek or Doctor Strange in Marvel”. It’s exciting for a brief millisecond and then the fear of responsibility descends and the need to make someone’s faith in you real. But with this role I really, really enjoy the challenges in the script. It’s what you look forward to.

When you got the part of Sherlock did you go away and read all of Conan Doyle?

Yeah. That was the first time I really read all of them and they’re the best best best blue print. I really read them between the pilot and the first series and it’s just the most wonderful handbook for an actor playing that character. You have a doctor who’s incredibly observant and acutely detailed not just about the physicality but the mood swings, the temperament, everything about him which you could then bring to what’s on the page written by two incredibly knowledgable fanboys. I mean it’s a golden formula. And every time I come to a series that’s kind of how I refresh him. I don’t normally look at what we’ve just done, what we’ve come from I look back to the books.

What is your favourite part of the complexity of the relationship between Sherlock and Moriarty?

That they’re two sides of the same coin really. That there’s a lot of reflection. He’s like the dark shadow self of Holmes. He’s Holmes without any of the, what he sees as can be a weakness, the heart the feeling, the necessity to try and do good even if it is by bad means. I think noone can humiliate him, better him, confuse him, trouble him and give him a harder game to get better at than Moriarty. Andrew is the most phenomenal actor. When I met him and he was cast in this, I knew him from theatre work so I knew who he was and I was just so over the moon about it because I knew about his uniqueness. I knew what he could bring to it which would make it so exciting to play off and just dazzlingly dangerous for all of us to watch. The only time that I feel like an utter fraud really and have to work really really hard as Sherlock (hopefully not as an actor) to become something better than that. Everyone needs an adversary. Everyone needs a nemesis. Something that is going to excel them to be a better version of themselves. That’s why it’s such fun to have someone like Moriarty as a villain because there ain’t noone better than him. Except for maybe Sherlock.

BC9You had a fantastic actor playing Charles Augustus Magnusson. He was vile.

There was a certain specificity to his cruelty. He’s a bully. He does things to control people and he does it by really base means which all of us can recognise having been children. Flicking someone’s face, licking someone’s face. Flicking licking. He didn’t tick anyone. He should have ticked someone’s face. He’s a master of manipulation. He does it by incredible means and a master of intellect and great ability but to carry out the most asinine, childish, pathetic level of playground cruelty and that’s why you can hate hate him. Whereas Moriarty is so off the rails he is dangerous and don’t think for a second that he’s cosy but in comparison I think there’s something really anarchic and entertaining about that in a way. You don’t necessarily want to see him destroyed, you want to see the battle continue as you know there are going to  be fireworks but with Magnussen you really want him taken down.

And you do.

Yeah yeah I take him down. (At audience response) I don’t know if applauding a character shooting someone is a good thing. It’s a tricky one that. Sherlock kills someone to win, well not just to win but to save. He does kill out of love. It’s a sacrificial killing if that makes sense. It is done with a purpose. It’s not just about the game at that point it’s about protecting Mary and John and the unborn child so it’s a sacrificial act of violence but still. He’s a beaten man when he does that. But he doesn’t win really in my mind. If a bully makes you do something more desperately violent then they have won.

On Mrs Hudson

She is the mother figure in many many ways. Una has known me since I was born. She’s friends with my mum and dad. She is the mother figure of the mother ship. She’s 221B’s captain really. She’s extraordinary as a human being, an actress and as a character and it’s just a joy having her there. She’s a beam of twinkly, very naughty light. We just love her.

On attacking the CIA agent to protect Mrs Hudson.

It showed his humanity. That’s what’s special about having this everyman figure this very special everyman but someone more normal than Sherlock who can guide him. As brilliant as he is he makes Sherlock a better person and therefore better at being brilliant.

BC8Whose idea was it to have your parents play your parents and what do they think of the series?

They’re huge fans. They’ve loved it right from the pilot. I remember Mark mentioning to me first, I don’t know if I can give him credit for generating the idea after that or if it came from Sue or Steven or Beryl before. But I remember Mark having a conversation “You know we’re thinking of introducing Sherlock’s parents” and I said “Well I have two acting parents”. And he went “I know” so I was thrilled at the idea of that. It was the first of the third series and I was frightened because it was our first day on set. They were nervous because they didn’t want to get it wrong, bless them and they are huge fans of the show. They were stepping into something they had followed and admired and were very proud of me being in and doing and then had to deliver stuff as actors in that show having been fans and the parent of the actor in front of them and delivering Mr and Mrs Holmes. So it was a nervy first day but they got into it and we had a great time by the end of the scene and the stuff with the Christmas scenes went really really well and that was at the end of the entire shoot pretty much so they sort of spanned the entire series. I can’t explain what a magical thing it is to be on set with your parents. It’s incredible. To do the thing that you both do together.

What is the first time you’d acted together?

Yeah pretty much. I’d said to them – look I’m doing a little marriage scene in Atonement and it’s just round the corner and I know you guys might be in town and they’re looking for people to play my parents. They’re trying to match up extras to play my parents and why don’t you come in and they said “yeah OK what would we be doing?” And I said well it might just be the backs of your heads but we’d be on film together and they said yeah lets do it as who knows when we’ll get the opportunity again. I don’t think they would have done that if they’d known about this as it literally was the back of their heads and they were being herded around like poor supporting artists usually are. And it was a wonderful moment but we thought that was it but it wasn’t work because it was a flashback scene in itself let alone us having any dialogue together but yeah properly that was the first and hopefully not the last.

How is he like Sherlock?

When I play him my mother has had to put up with quite Sherlockian behaviour. She says “You do get quite brusque with me when you’re playing this character. You’ve very short and you talk a lot and then you disappear from rooms “ Not to the point where she has had to wedge her foot in the door I should add that, like she does in our series. Things speed up a little. I have to get the alacrity of thought going so mentally I have to be a little more gymnastic. It evolves when I’m playing it. I become much more similar to him. On paper there are very few similarities. I have time for things he doesn’t have time for. I don’t have the same abilities he has. I don’t have the same black curly hair he has. I can’t play the violin and I don’t live with, well he doesn’t live with a man anymore and I have a family on the way. Huge differences. Massive differences. All of his priorities are different to mine. It’s all work and a very specific type of work. Someone should ask this question again to someone else who works with me because they would give a much better question than I can looking at myself.

You play a lot of intelligent characters like Sherlock Holmes, Julian Assange and Alan Turing. How do you differentiate your characters? Do you bring a bit of Holmes into Turing or the other way around? Is it difficult to differentiate between the two characters?

No. They’re very different. I am who I am and I look the way I look so there are limits but I tried very much to distinguish between those two characters in particular. Holmes is a very flamboyant extrovert in his field and a show off. He has prowess that he wants people to be impressed by and doesn’t really keep his talents close to his chest. Turing for reasons you find out in the film keeps himself closed off from a world that has been cruel to him as a receptor of who he is and what he does. He’s much more isolated and certainly not one to shout from the rooftops about his achievements. Whether in our version of the film or reality which was very much the case. This man he should have been a household name in his science never mind what he stood for after the war and during the war and before the war with what he did with computable numbers and the basic computer handbook for the modern computing age. That in itself would have got him Nobel prize status if he’d pushed in his field. But he didn’t. He wasn’t interested in doing that. He was interested in doing work that interested him at the time and then he would move on and he certainly wasn’t interested in self publicity or enlargement. He wasn’t someone who was self aggrandizing. I do look for differences. Because if you’re doing a really lazy Venn diagram you can go “Oh look he plays a lots of intelligent characters”. Well so what? Lots of characters in stories are only worth telling because they have intelligent people involved and the intelligence comes in all forms, whether its book learned or whether it’s wisdom gained through life or whether it’s innate intelligence or whether it’s something very peculiar and special like Sherlock’s. And apart from the fact that they’re smart I don’t see much correlation between them at all.

Ones a gay man in an intolerant time in a war with very different prerogatives to the 21st century version of Sherlock. They’re very very different. But maybe it’s just shades because of who I am because of limits of what I can do as an actor that makes them seem like similar roles. I’m always keen to do stuff that’s different whether its playing Billy Bulger in Black Mass or the dragon in The Hobbit or Doctor Strange who again may be a doctor who’s smart but with a very different trajectory to what Holmes is about or Turing or any of the other smart people I’ve played. You know Van Gogh was brilliant and smart but in a very particular way about painting and closed off from that world in a very obsessive mental loop at times but a really brilliant mind whether it was in paint or in talking it doesn’t really matter. He was incredibly intelligent but you wouldn’t necessarily twin him with the other roles I’ve played that are intelligent. What a long dreary fucking answer. Sorry! So boring. I play stupid people from time to time I’m happy to admit. Patrick Watts in Starter for Ten. I’ve just played one recently in something else which I can’t talk about. Hurray for stupid.

On a scale of  one to ten one being a nice picnic in a park and ten being eaten by a shark how are you feeling about becoming a father?

What’s the best on that scale? A picnic in a park? But sharks are amazing as well. All of it really. I feel like I’m about to have a really nice picnic with a shark in a park. I’m very excited is the answer.

BC7Did you take any inspiration from past actors who have played Sherlock?

No. I grew up watching Rathbone and Brett and they are unsurpassable in those incarnations but no absolutely not. I watched Robert Downey Junior’s film after we shot the pilot but before we shot the series. It’s not that they’re not inspiring it’s just that you can’t go to other performances for inspiration when you’re about to put your own stamp on an already incredible iconic character. Like I said before the books are my inspiration. That’s what I go back too. Mark and Steven’s scripts need very little inspiration. They’re the benchmark I aim for. If I can deliver that script I’m going to be fine and it’s a dangerous thing to toy with the idea of other people’s performances. It’s not to say that I don’t appreciate or enjoy them but you have to retain a creative difference or you’re just reflecting what has already been done which would be boring for everyone.

If you had to ship any characters in the series who would you ship and why?

Shipping? That means when you move containers or bits of furniture. I would happily ship a location other than London into Sherlock maybe. That’s what I’d like to ship. Maybe we could ship New York over or Milan. Yeah lets go globe trotting with it. Let’s ship continents people.

How does he bring together his research and life experience when creating a character and can he do the dragon voice?

(As Smaug) I am not a performing monkey.

I suppose all actors are performing monkeys in a way but there’s a time and a place for dragons and now’s not it. That’s a huge question. See me after school. Oh crumbs. The answer is it’s different on every single project I’m afraid. I’m not going to go through each one. It depends on what the starting point is. If it’s a well known character or iconic fictional character or someone who is real there is immediately a different focus. You have expectations to deal with whether they’re real or fan based or imagined and you can’t take on all those expectations in your research but you have to have knowledge and you have to be part of what you’re seeking to portray whether it be Sherlock Holmes or Alan Turing. Whether his following in the world of science or his gay following or his political status as a war hero. And then you start to break it down. You start to put it into bite sized chunks and say what can I feasibly do in the time that I have because all the research that you do in the world is not going to make you comfortable to deliver a certain line in a given moment with another actor in a live space. That’s the centre of what it’s all about and it’s about marrying those responsibilities. A lot of the heavy lifting has already been done if you’re choosing a good script to do by the writer and the director and the producer and the costume department and the make up department. That all helps hugely. Lean on them, use the expertise of the brilliant people around you to help build the various pieces of the jigsaw of your characterisation and really pummel the script.

Really ask questions of what? why? when? who? where? Just be really specific about why you’re doing it and your intentions and your actions and what the effect of those are on the characters that you are with and be open to changing it on a dime because the people you are working with may have a completely different rhythm to you or have had a completely different day before he or she came into the office so you have to be adaptable is the other key element. So the amount of homework that you do is dependent on time, the importance or stature of your subject, it’s to do with how playable that is to do in a moment of drama and beyond that if you’re lucky enough to get rehearsals which thankfully I seem to then you can just fail. That’s what it’s about. It’s about doing it wrong and doing it wrong and doing it better and doing it slightly better then wrong wrong, then doing it slightly accurately then doing it more accurately and then doing it right. You never get there. You’re just failing better. Falling upwards.

Did the Victorian gear change the way you played Sherlock?

Absolutely. Like I said about costume it immediately affects you. The stiff starch collar really affects the pose. The hair, the movement of what you’re wearing.  All of it. The heaviness of it, the lightness of it, the heat of it and it’s extraordinary how without any effort at all you just morph into something which it was intended to be in the thing we’ve just done. Sorry that was me being coy. That was very bad coy acting students of drama. Don’t do it like that.

BC6Do you ever get nervous before a scene and do you have any tips for aspiring actors?

I get nervous. I get very nervous usually more with stage work. I get nervous when I know the time is running out or I know I’ve done something wrong and I need to put it right and my brain goes blank and then I get very nervous when I’m filming. Theatre work yeah there is always an element of it. You need it. You need a certain amount of adrenaline to focus. So part of my advice would be don’t be afraid to be afraid but with that let it embolden you to fail and not worry about that and like I said before get better by learning from your mistakes. That’s the only way you learn. And you can’t control everything. You really can’t. What other situations do I get nervous in? When I’m working opposite people who are just being brilliant and I think Christ I feel behind or I’ve got to match this. Or there’s a certain stunt or moment that requires a great fluidity or a technicality but if I get it wrong that’s a whole set up and we’ll have to start again. That can be pretty terrifying. The moment after you get a job is really terrifying. You have that millisecond of elation and then you think this is the work I have to do. I do get frightened and then I think a lot of fear is counter productive but you do need an element of it to energise what you do.

But yeah keep going at it. Write your own stuff, form a theatre group. Go and see a lot. Anything you can afford to see see. Don’t be wedded to one medium either. Go and see music and art as well as theatre, television and film. Keep your perspective broad and wide and bring as much of your experience into your work as possible. Be generous to the people around you. That sometimes comes back and yeah good luck!

What’s your most memorable moment when filming Sherlock?

There have been so many. Really extraordinary moments. The stand off on the roof top at Barts was one. The wedding scene definitely. I know we talked about that quite a lot but the best man speech was very memorable. Oh all sorts. The fun things. Jumping off that roof. The spirituality of that and the stunt itself. The running, the fights, the slow mo bit with the safe “Vatican Cameos” that was great fun to do, scenes with all of the baddies, scenes with Martin, first getting the job, first working on set, first walking on set in Victorian costume.. So many. Really loads and loads of really great memories. Whenever I catch a glimpse of it on the telly or watch it when it’s first out of the starting blocks whenever we screen it at the BFI it’s just an amazing rush of memory. Good times.

Would you have to like to have met Conan Doyle?

Yeah I think so. He was a very complex guy. He had so many seams and evolutions in his life. Before and after his wife’s death for example but yeah of course I would. I would have loved to have met Bell (Joseph). Would have loved to have met the inspiration for him and the blueprint for Holmes. But yeah I would have loved to.

BC1How was it filming Black Mass? How was it filming with Johnny Depp? And are you going to come back soon?

I’ll do it in reverse order. No, amazing, amazing. I love Boston. That’s not why I’m not coming back soon I’m just a bit busy at home at the moment. Not as busy as my wife but you know what I mean. Family imminent. So no travelling but I loved Boston. I really enjoyed working there and I saw a really wide swing of it as well. We were really welcomed by the Southie community and I met some of the more high end capitol hill types . I hope my accent meets your approval. I’m terrified. It was wonderful. It was a really extraordinary experience. A mind blowing story. And Johnny Depp was just astonishing. I didn’t meet him. I met him all the time. I mean Johnny. I met Whitey every day. I never saw him out of make up. He was in before me. The whole thing the prosthethics and the eyes and the make up and I didn’t know who Johnny Depp was. What was it like working with Johnny Depp? I don’t really know. I met him this year actually. When I went to visit the Star Wars set he was doing pick up on one of his films and I sat there in the trailer just staring at him and he went “You OK man?” and I went “yeah I’m just getting used to looking at you!” People would say “You’ve been cast as Johnny Depp’s brother?” and I’d say “No I’ve been cast as Whitey Bulger’s brother” and that’s the most extraordinary thing. He looks so much like Whitey Bulger and was astonishing in the role. Just preternaturally calm and dangerous. Just this constant undercurrent of menace. I think it will be a really interesting ride for him this year with that role. From what I saw working opposite him, I haven’t seen the film yet, it was a mighty fine performance and a really major piece of screen acting. The film itself I think is going to be fantastic. Scott Cooper is a bit of a genius and a wonderful director to work with and I had a great time in Boston. You gave me a royal welcome. Thank you!

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