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Posted at 11:02 AM ET, 07/11/2008

Friday Poll: Holmes vs. Holmes

By Liz Kelly

Who is Holmes? Sacha Baron Cohen (left) or Robert Downey, Jr.? (Photos: Reuters, AP)

Both Robert Downey Jr. and Sacha Baron Cohen will play Sherlock Holmes in upcoming movies.

Downey, fresh of his "Ironman" high, will don the headcoat in director Guy Ritchie's reimagining of the prototypical detective, while Cohen -- best known to the world as bumbling Kazakh Borat Sagdiyev -- will team up with Will Farrell for a comic take on the classic Holmes/Watson duo.

What will these fresh takes on Holmes bring to a character listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as "most portrayed?" Over 70 actors -- from the classic Basil Rathbone (Video: Basil as Sherlock in 1939's "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.") to Sir John Gielgud to John Barrymore to Snoopy to Nicholas Rowe as a teenaged Holmes -- had tried their luck at bringing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation to life. Is there room for one or two more adaptations?

Well, Baron Cohen has got the whole British thing going for him, but Downey proved his accent mettle in "Restoration." And, crass though this mention may be, Downey may be better able to tune in to the opium-addicted Holmes's motivation. Still, Cohen did do a nicely rounded affect period character in last year's "Sweeney Todd."

Not since "Capote" vs. "Infamous" have we faced a bigger box office showdown. Solve this mystery -- who will come out on top?

And, for a bonus quasi-Friday List, share your candidates for the ideal Watson. Though Will Farrell is already set to join Baron Cohen as the character, casting of Downey's sidekick is still open. What actor do you see as Holmes's quintessential helpmeet?

By Liz Kelly  | July 11, 2008; 11:02 AM ET
Categories:  Friday Lists, Insta-Polls  
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Comments

ooohhh I'd like to see Paul Giamatti as Dr. Watson. That would be great. I'm definitely more excited to see the RDJ Sherlock than the "comedic" version. Sherlock Holmes should just not be funny. It doesn't really make sense.

Posted by: TheBard | July 11, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

How about neither? Is neither a choice? Unless maybe Sasha Baron Cohen's Holmes solves The Case of the Mysterious Bag of Human Feces.

It's probably more a testament to my age, but they both seem a little too young for Holmes. I always think of him as older - 50's, at least.

Posted by: epony | July 11, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

oops. Ignore that previous paragraph. I'll read for comprehension next time. The SBC version is a comedy. Sounds reasonable to me.

Posted by: epony | July 11, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, Sherlock doesn't do funny. This will be a travesty of the Holmesian legacy. He was the guy who followed logical reasoning to the bitter end. This is the antithesis of comedy.

Posted by: ep | July 11, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Having just finished all the SH Mysteries/stories & novels, I have to say RDJ does not do it for me. I just checked his height, and at 5'9", I think he's too short to play SH. I have decided that Richard Armitage (the actor not the former State Dept. honcho) should play SH (RA is 6'2"), and RDJ is a suitable Watson, provided he can pull off a respectable British accent which I believe he's proven he can.
I agree that Paul Giamatti would do well as Watson in the event my previously stated casting wishes are not adopted. (And fat chance of that.)

Posted by: methinks | July 11, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I think that, for RDJ, either Whoopi Goldberg or Verne Troyer would bring the needed gravitas as Doctor Watson.

Too unconventional, you say? Okay, how about John Cleese?

Posted by: ftl, dts | July 11, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Peter Sarsgaard, if he could pull of a character who's not creepy.

Paul Bettany might have some great reparte with RDJ.

Or James McAvoy. Way too young and not right for the part, but I love me some James McAvoy. I'd bagpipe his Scottish viper.

Posted by: musicgeek | July 11, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Rupert Everett did an amazing job as Holmes in a BBC movie that came out a few years ago.

As far as a sidekick goes, how about Andrew McCarthy? Heck, why not fill all the roles with former brat packers?

Posted by: Stuck@Work | July 11, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Paul Giamatti as Watson?! He's supposed to be a big guy! A strong guy! Giamatti would be awful. He weirds me out, but I did love him as John Adams.

I can't wait. I am just now reading all of them (go Barnes and Noble series!) and had no idea Watson got married. I'm really excited for the Downey version...

Posted by: Sigh | July 11, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Oh and Watson's stories of Holmes spanned from when they were really young to when Holmes was a retired beekeeper or something. So someone middle aged would be a good compromise there.

Posted by: Sigh | July 11, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Matthew Macfayden, who played Mr. Darcy opposite Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett in 2005's Pride and Prejudice.

Posted by: musicgeek | July 11, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I have nothing against Sacha Baron Cohen, but any comedy starring Will Farrell will no doubt stink to high heavens.
Go, Robert Downey Jr.

Posted by: Lisa1 | July 11, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Ralph Feinnes as Watson to RDJ's Holmes.

Posted by: musicgeek | July 11, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Some time ago, there was movie out about Sherlock Holmes where Watson was the brains behind the duo. It was pretty funny. I can't remember the title.

Then, there was a Disney version called (I think) "Young Sherlock Holmes", which I liked, too.

BTW, I'm a Sherlock fan but not a Baker Street Regular.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 11, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I like Sasha's height for the role but I think RDJ would be a better Holmes. If there wer a recast Alfred Molina (sp?) would be good. Also, I don't think it should be done as a comedy at all.

As for Watson, how about Sean Astin or the man who played Hercule Pirot, although he might be older than the role calls for.

Posted by: petal | July 11, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

One of my problems with casting Sherlock Holmes is that I really love the books and characters and I want the movie to stay true to them and it won't.
I love the book The Last of the Mohicans, but the movie was awful. They changed the entire story.
Some of the casting was terrific (Wes Studi as Magua was out of this world) but when they went and changed/merged characters, well, they lost me.
Even with good casting, I'm not hopeful. And I'm usually an optimist.

Posted by: methinks | July 11, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Ralph Fiennes would make an excellent Watson. But, Dudes! and Dudettes! For a less traditional approach, how about Matthew McConaughey? We'd have no trouble believing RDJ when he said, "Elementary, my dear Watson."

Posted by: Red Dragon | July 11, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

And there could be a THIRD Sherlock Holmes portrayed by Mike Holmes of BBC Canda's and HGTV's Holmes on Homes! It might take some plot reworking so he could find clues hidden inside bad half-completed home improvements, but what the hey!

Posted by: Red Dragon | July 11, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Sacha Baron Cohen and Will Ferrell in the climactic scene of Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Mysterious Bag of Human Feces:

HOLMES: "Elementary, my dear Watson: *you* are the Mysterious Bag of Human Feces."

[Who gives a celinedion what Ferrell does? Fade to black.]

Posted by: byoolin always wanted to direct. | July 11, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

While he's all beefed up, Matt Damon. Watson is supposed to be kind of thick-set but still fairly handsome (he obviously scores with the ladies). I'm not sure he could do a credible English accent, though.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Robert Downey, Jr. is an actor. Sacha Baron Cohen is basically - for all his characters - a one trick pony comedian/satirist. I'd rather watch Robert Downey, Jr. anyday and twice on Sundays.

As for Watson, you need a really solid character actor. I'm gonna say Jason Isaacs (who, when not playing bad guys plays really engaging nice guys). Because Watson is basically the narrator. A very famous one, but a narrator nonetheless.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | July 11, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget the version made with John Holmes and his sidekick, Wadson.

Posted by: M Street | July 11, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Oh, wait - I'd rather see Ralph Fiennes as Holmes, now that I think about it :D

Posted by: Chasmosaur | July 11, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Liz, there should really be a "who gives a celinedion" choice.

Posted by: Pebbles | July 11, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

How about either of the Fiennes boys as Holmes (Ralph does have bit more natural gravitas), and Sean Bean as Watson?

Posted by: BxNY | July 11, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I nominate Gerard Butler for the Watson role. Assuming he can take the accent a few hundred miles south, that is.

Posted by: WDC | July 11, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I always thought Ralph Fiennes would be pefect as Holmes - that razor-sharp profile. And for Watson, Ian Hart, who did a terrific job as Watson to Rupert Everett's Holmes a few years ago.

As something of a Holmes purist, the idea of a comic version with SBC and WF just doesn't sit well.

Posted by: Arlington | July 11, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Holmes. He can physically transform himself into any character, and I think he'd do this one well.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Hey! What about Katie?! With Ralph Fiennes as Watson. He can knock her up in the scullery closet.

Posted by: possum | July 11, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Seth Rogan

Posted by: colorado kool aid | July 11, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I nominate Gerard Butler for the Watson role. Assuming he can take the accent a few hundred miles south, that is.

Posted by: WDC | July 11, 2008 12:24 PM

=============

YES, perfect - Gerald Butler as Watson.

I seem to think that Watson was indeed a Scot.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 11, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Anyone remember the Gene Wilder movie? I think it was called "Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother". I loved the Kangaroo Hop...

Posted by: lib | July 11, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Richard E. Grant and Richard Griffiths would make an excellent Holmes and Watson.

They wouldn't be nearly as funny as they were in "Withnail & I" (as Withnail and Uncle Monty, respectively), but they'd be perfect on Baker Street.

Posted by: byoolin | July 11, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe you left out Jeremy Brett -- the best Holmes since Basil Rathbone.

Posted by: b | July 11, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Philip Seymour Hoffman would make a great Watson.

Posted by: b | July 11, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I think John Rhys Davies would make a great Dr. Watson...or Alan Rickman! But we could do a tie-in and use Hugh Laurie (Dr. House as Dr. Watson)

Posted by: lydacole | July 11, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Jeremy Britt was excellent.

His characterization exuded Holmes' quirkyness.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 11, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

How about Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Watson?

Posted by: A.C. Doyle | July 11, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Sorry 'b' missed your comment there.

Posted by: A.C. Doyle | July 11, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Wow! This topic really brings out the pretentious bores!!!

Posted by: Who knew? | July 11, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Jeremy Irons as Holmes? Or am I just looking for a Jeremy Brett wannabe (with a nod to "b")?

Posted by: Nosy Parker | July 11, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

(with a nod to "b")

Should've written, with a tip o' the deerstalker to "b."

Posted by: Nosy Parker | July 11, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Definitely must include Hugh Laurie. But he's not the right body type for Watson. He's perfect for Moriarty, in my mind. Can I get an amen?

Posted by: WDC | July 11, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Jason Statham from the "Transporter" movies.

Posted by: ripariandweller | July 11, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

WDC - Amen.

Anything with Hugh Laurie is alright by me.

Posted by: Groovis | July 11, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge, I think you were referring to "Without a Clue" starring Michael Caine as (a bumbling) Holmes and Ben Kinglsey as Watson. It was the first thing that popped into my mind after reading about the SBC version.

And I'll cast my Watson vote for Jeremy Piven.

Posted by: gemmar | July 11, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Second to Hugh Laurie as Moriarty.
And I'll second Paul Bettany as Watson- not because I know much of what he's done as an actor, but purely for aesthetic reasons.

Posted by: Bawlmer is waist deep in sexy intellectuals and loving every second. | July 11, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, gemmar, I don't really see Watson as an angry, twitchy, frat boy.

Posted by: WDC | July 11, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Hit "submit" too early, then my browser crashed.

Re: Jeremy Piven, what has he done that makes him Watson-worthy? I only know him from PCU and Entourage.

Posted by: WDC | July 11, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't Jeremy Piven cut after the first season of Ellen DeGeneres' "These Friends of Mine"?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Or James McAvoy. Way too young and not right for the part, but I love me some James McAvoy. I'd bagpipe his Scottish viper.

Posted by: musicgeek | July 11, 2008 11:23 AM

Aaaaand my mouth just watered a little bit.

Posted by: Sully seconds that | July 11, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Has RDJ's chin always been that long?

Posted by: Sully has a question | July 11, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight: you Lizards are salivating over James McAvoy, a man who recently said this about the protein shakes he drank to bulk up for "Wanted":

"They are horrible and they make your bottom smell rather strange."

If you guys are into strange-smelling bottoms, why not go straight to the bottom and go after DaneCook?

Posted by: Sasquatch Le Pew | July 11, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't say he's proven Watson-worthy, but he has about the right build and he has definitely done more than PCU and Entourage. I'm thinking the combination of the straight (albeit bitter) character from "Old School" and some guy with heart he played in a teenybopper movie.

Not saying I love him, just like him better than some of the others that came to mind.

Posted by: gemmar defends her vote | July 11, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I think that, for RDJ, either Whoopi Goldberg or Verne Troyer would bring the needed gravitas as Doctor Watson.
**************************

We know Verne Troyer has a, ahem, range of acting experience.

How old is Donald Sutherland now?

Posted by: Angela | July 11, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

How about Jason Stathom as Watson?

He is a great narrator in all of Guy Ritchie's good films.

He is hot as the Transporter, so the kick ass attitude is there.

Come to think of it... Jason Stathom would be super awesome.

Posted by: unmute | July 11, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Crap, I need to learn to spell. I meant "Statham".

Posted by: unmute | July 11, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Re: the James McAvoy fascination

Two words: Atonement, tuxedo.

I'd also like to believe that, Wanted being released, he's off the protein shakes that make your celinedion go nuclear.

Posted by: musicgeek | July 11, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Word.

Posted by: Sully kindly and respectfully requests that Sasquatch not mention anything to further dampen the fla | July 11, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Dag!! The Man cut off my tagline.

Posted by: Preview, Sully, preview. | July 11, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

My vote goes to Rachel Griffiths.

Or better yet Emily Watson.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I say that Kelsey Grammar and David Hyde Pierce should reprise their Frasier odd-couple act as Holmes and Watson.

Posted by: Sasquatch | July 11, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I have to go with Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Watson. His Capote was Amazing!

Posted by: BullyLover | July 11, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I say that Kelsey Grammar and David Hyde Pierce should reprise their Frasier odd-couple act as Holmes and Watson.

Posted by: Sasquatch | July 11, 2008 2:48 PM

Which would play which? Or can they go both ways?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Is it time to go home yet? I totally thought the poll was going to be Katie-related, and only voted grudgingly. However, I do agree with the RDJ and PSH combo.

Posted by: Fruitfly | July 11, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

If Matt Damon were Watson, would Sarah Silverman be the mysterious young lady with a secret who needs Holmes' help?

Posted by: Red Dragon | July 11, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh, please, NOT Will Ferrell... he will RUIN THE MOVIE. ANYONE but him..... ANYONE.... What a mistake to cast him. How about the guy who plays "House".....

Posted by: Pinky | July 11, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"Which would play which? Or can they go both ways?"


Yes.

Posted by: Sasquatch | July 11, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Horny, pretentious bores.

No wonder the members of this bunch will be sitting around the basement alone tonight. Enjoy the Cheetos!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Horny, pretentious bores.

Posted by: | July 11, 2008 3:29 PM
************

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

No wonder the members of this bunch will be sitting around the basement alone tonight.

Posted by: | July 11, 2008 3:29 PM

Let's not bring Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz into this. I was having a perfectly good Friday.

Posted by: musicgeek | July 11, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

John C. Reilly
or for a more suave watson,
Matthew Goode

Posted by: hermespal | July 11, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I hate to be picky, but Sherlock Holmes only had an opium addiction in the films. In the short stories and books he injected cocaine, because he saw opium as dulling the mind and not stimulating it, while cocaine stimulated.

Posted by: Sir Arthur | July 11, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Pinky, did you see "Stranger Than Fiction"? Completely turned around my thinking on Will Ferrell.

That said, why are we talking about all these Americans to play ACDoyle characters when are there so many yummy yummy brits available?

Posted by: WDC | July 11, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

The idea of a "comic" take on Sherlock Holmes scares me a bit. The best part about the original stories, in my opinion, is how they come off in such an intelligent way. I think the comedy version will simply come off as a farce.

Posted by: Hinori | July 11, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Whatever. Cheetos rock. I'm actually really excited to sit home tonight since I was out like every night this week. I'm actually very popular :)

And if only pretentious bores like Holmes, that makes a celinedion-ton of people pretentious bores. But I'd rather hang with the pretentious bores in this little internet world than people that post only to say how boring others are. How...boring.

Posted by: Sigh | July 11, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I always saw a lot of humor in Holmes! And I'm a total Holmes nerd. That's why "House" makes such a good Holmes homage.
And I second Matthew MacFadyen from MI5 or 6 or whatever and "Pride and Prejudice." Pretty enough and always with that kind of "wha ... ?" look on his face that Watson should have.

Posted by: other liz | July 11, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Horny, pretentious bores.
No wonder the members of this bunch will be sitting around the basement alone tonight. Enjoy the Cheetos!
*******************************
You know it, baby. Not only will I be sitting around the house tonight, I'll be playing video games and reading fantasy books. And probably watching Monty Python. Have fun clubbing! And good luck getting the stench of cheap beer and vomit out of your clothes tomorrow. Google recommends using a mix of mild detergent and cold water.

Posted by: Bawlmer is having fun, and that's what counts for her. | July 11, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry?

Posted by: Nosy Parker | July 11, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

"Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry?
Posted by: Nosy Parker | July 11, 2008 4:02 PM"

Oh, I like the way your mind works.

Posted by: Bawlmer | July 11, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Much as I like Matthew Macfadyen, he's six foot three! Watson can't TOWER over Holmes!

Posted by: hermespal | July 11, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

"Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry? --Nosy Parker

Good choices! Best yet. Also, I have to say thank you to everyone who is dissing Will Ferrell. I cannot stand him, and I am so happy that others share that view. I thought it was just me.

Re: Ralph Fiennes, he could be the analytical type, but he should do a movie with Nicole Kidman because neither emit a single ounce of warmth.

(Or, to quote Ileanna Douglas in "To Die For" about Nicole Kidman's character: "She's a four-letter word beginning with C.")

Posted by: td reveals that the word is *cold* | July 11, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the compliments, Bawlmer and td. But the true credit goes to the geniuses Fry and Laurie. I merely observe.

Posted by: Nosy Parker | July 11, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I think you've got it, Nosy P!

yes, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry it is.

Posted by: Curmudgeon agrees | July 11, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean I get to run the casting department of the Lizard Island film office? And can it have a couch for when I consider the gorgeous young hunks?

Posted by: Nosy Parker | July 11, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Unless the Lizard Island Tribal Chieftain objects:

Lizard Island Film Office Casting Director - Nosy Parker (who will put the office's couch to good use)

Posted by: Curmudgwon, Lizard Island Advisor for Island Activities | July 11, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

My favorite Sherlock Holmes was Brent Spiner as Data playing Holmes on STTNG.

Is that too pretentious?

Posted by: arlington | July 11, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

I am unworthy, I am unworthy.

On the other hand, I'm not about to look a gift lizard in the (wherever), either!

Posted by: Nosy Parker | July 11, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Watson to RDJ? Joe Pesci.

Posted by: Swedish Chef | July 11, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Ricky Gervais as Watson. :)

Posted by: CJB | July 11, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

My favorite Sherlock Holmes was Brent Spiner as Data playing Holmes on STTNG.

Is that too pretentious?

Posted by: arlington | July 11, 2008 5:05 PM

I would say more like totally geeky!

Posted by: CJB | July 11, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Didn't we already do the bumbling detective routine in the Pink Panther movies. The Steve Martin remake was so bad it should be a warning to Borat.

Posted by: Cleveland Brown | July 13, 2008 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Matthew MacFayden would be great - earnest and robust - but there is the whole height discrepancy thing.

I'm thinking Ray Winstone (Beowulf, Indy IV) as Watson. Great look, GREAT voice, a little longer in the tooth than RDJ, but not by much.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: carrie | July 15, 2008 3:44 AM | Report abuse

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