Breakfast is being served in the dining room of the Parisian Hotel de Triomphe. A seemingly everyday affair, one man’s meal is interrupted by another fellow, delivering news that appears to raise concern and has both men exiting with some urgency. Their conversation and subsequent departure go virtually unnoticed by the hotel guests and serving staff, save for drawing the ear of an elderly gentleman, his face obscured by a pair of round spectacles and a tremendous grey beard. As they depart, the bearded man reveals his interest in his morning paper as a decoy and hastily follows the pair out. Through the door, he tugs at his facial hair and is instantly transformed. Not an elderly man at all, the face belongs to that of the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, and that of the man he’s following, to the villainous Professor Moriarty. Deception and disguise appear to be inherent rules when playing A Game of Shadows, a game that, when ComingSoon.net visited the set last month, was very much afoot.
While the specifics of the scene and where it fits into the larger picture remain under wraps, Guy Ritchie’s sequel to his successful 2009 Sherlock Holmes is prepped to keep the mystery going and audiences guessing. Even as the scene unfolds, it’s clear why the story is so appealing to actor and filmmaker alike because, from behind the camera, the disguises go a whole level deeper. This isn’t just Holmes and Moriarty playing their parts, it’s Robert Downey Jr. and Jared Harris playing them playing their parts. Holmes’ false beard is matched, cinematically, in the period costuming, the extras and the fact that we’re not sitting in a Parisian Hotel at all.
A two hour drive from London proper, Waddeson Manor serves as no less than seven (albeit brief) locations for the film, which has Holmes and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) traveling the continent on the trail of Moriarty. The enormous property, which began construction in 1874, is now owned by England’s National Trust and currently displays a vast collection of art and centuries-old bottles of wine. The protocol for entering is so rigid that we’re forbidden from even carrying pens inside.
Though plot specifics are few, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, like the first film, will merge elements from several of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, though “The Final Problem” was specifically mentioned by producers Susan Downey and Lionel Wigram as a major influence on the Moriarty character and, in what should be considered a cryptic tease for readers up on their Holmes lore, they also revealed that the production schedule calls for shooting in the Swiss Alps.
While ComingSoon.net was on set, scenes were shot both inside the Manor and on its exterior grounds, including an extras-heavy Parisian sidewalk where Holmes, Watson and Noomi Rapace’s gypsy character race through a crowd reacting to an explosion.
While there, we spoke with Downey and Law (whose off-camera quips back and forth are not all that far removed from that of Holmes and Watson), Rapace and Harris, producers Susan Downey and Wigram as well as (albeit very briefly) director Ritchie. Check back soon for full details and interviews from the set as soon we’re allowed to share.