Jeremy Brett: Interview

In 1988 Jeremy Brett, then at the height of his fame as TV’s ideal Holmes, decided to take the Victorian detective from the small screen and on to the stage. He appeared, with his second TV Watson, Edward Hardwicke, in the two-hander ‘The Secret of Sherlock Holmes.’ It was during the London run of this play that I interviewed Brett in his dressing room in the Wyndham Theatre. The interview was subsequently published –  heavily truncated and sanitised.

  After moving house several times and spring cleaning regularly over the intervening years, I thought the taped interview lost. However, recently I found a copy of the tape that I had used in the transcription process. So here, after nearly twenty years, is the ebullient Mr Brett expressing his uncensored views on the character that dominated the last years of his career, his different approach to acting for the stage and the camera, his feelings about critics and fans, even why he changed his hairstyle while playing the great detective. His mood during the conversation moved from garrulous to defencive, and from expansive to reflective.

We first discussed the difference between playing Holmes on TV and on stage.  Although, Brett said he enjoyed stage work he told me he found it easier to portray the character through the medium of television.

 “The thing about working on the stage that makes it harder is that film is so instantly near it can see right into the person’s soul. With someone so unbelievably isolated and closed, as Holmes is, it’s sometimes easier to get the internal workings of the private man across on camera. He is such a private creature… and with the camera you can slide in and see the flicker of things across his face. You can see little things that sometimes at the back of the theatre you can’t see. Little disappointments, little angers, little changes of mind. Of course, the other things you can get across on camera are his brilliant deductions and observations, but also his amazing intuition. And that’s easier to do on film.”

Brett explained that he hadn’t radically altered his characterisation for the transition from screen to stage, as he believed the techniques required were roughly similar.

“I call the camera lens the winking moose’s eye. A big brown moose eye that you look into and act toward. It’s also the shape of a rectangle and, therefore, you are aiming to fill that particular frame. So, if you are standing facing the camera that is the point of the triangle which you are aiming toward. Now in the theatre you just reverse the triangle and you are aiming outwards, in two different directions, so it’s wider.”

Brett found the relationship between Holmes and the theatre audience difficult at first. He said, he saw Holmes as, “a man of isolation…  a very private man.” So he strove in his performance to bring out the inner workings of the character. He told me he tried to show the audience Holmes’ “shyness… his sense of detachment,” personality traits he believed would have been amplified by the character’s “constant pursuance of his special subject,” But he did not let them see these aspects of the character from the start. To convey the feeling of lonely introspection he let them in gradually.

 “I try not to look at them for the first fifteen minutes… I don’t even look at Watson very much either… I kind of gradually open up to them. That was the hard part of moving into the theatre. But my director [Patrick Garland] helped me with that. He said, ‘put a pane of glass down between you and the audience and don’t look at them, ignore them, and then after about fifteen minutes warm-through let them in.’”

I asked him how he approached playing a character like Sherlock Holmes.

“When I have been playing Holmes… and what I prefer to do is sink myself into the character and leave myself behind. I always take the image of a sponge – which is me. And I squeeze out the liquid of myself out and draw in the liquid of the character I am playing.

“To bring it off the printed page for myself, I invented little stories about him. About the loneliness of his university days, of his brilliance at sports, and his total removal from any kind of social activity… Which are little images I have had for the last six years of what it might have been like. To throw any more light one can possibly think of on to what might have made him and Mycroft so… typically Victorian I hasten to add… Probably he didn’t actually see his father till he was twelve, and his mother was just a lady moving through a passageway, because they were taken care of by a starch-crisp nurse… So, everything to bring a bit more illumination.”

Brett’s musings were incorporated into the play and added to the interest of the piece. The actor, who worked closely with the author in this regard, praised the handling of both the familiar and unfamiliar elements of the play’s text.

 “I’ve got this marvellous author, Jeremy Paul, and we’ve done four together of the original short stories [on TV]. He did ‘The Speckled Band,’ ‘The Naval Treaty,’ ‘The Wisteria Lodge,’ and ‘The Musgrave Ritual.’ So I have known him over the last five, nearly six, years.

“I sent him eight hours of tape. I just rattled off my ideas, and so when it comes to moments of leaving the canon – like when [Holmes] talks of his childhood – Jeremy [Paul] has taken them directly from the tapes.

“The thing I love about the play is that it gives Watson much more to say than the canon does, because naturally it was in the first person. I remember David Burke [the first Watson], when we finished ‘The Speckled Band,’ saying, ‘I had only thirty-six words to say in the entire film!’ And this play does give Watson a platform to speak. Which I think is vital.”

He referred several times to the ‘canon’, the original stories as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which he believed should be the touch stone for every actor playing Holmes. He, also, believed that it was important to have a good Watson, to give reality to Holmes, as he thought of them as two halves of a duality.

“Watson and Holmes are two halves of the same person. They are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s a brilliant creation their friendship, and it needs both, you can’t have the one without the other, it’s impossible.

“The play is about friendship, which I think, is terribly important, because, it’s a bygone thing. It’s a Victorian thing, it’s a Greek thing. But in the eighties it has lost its way through the rise of feminism – nothing wrong in that… But, men have lost all dignity in their personal friendships. And therefore, I think it’s quite foreign to the young, and, obviously, to the middle-aged as well… I mean two gentlemen sharing. It’s immediately suspect, or the ‘odd couple.’ So, that’s really what the play is about… it’s about love actually. I am so glad that several of the critics have managed to tune into that…  not in a jaundiced sense… That’s what we were aiming for, to show these two remarkable men.”

Brett hoped the play would, “persuade people to see that Doyle is the literary giant that he is. Because he wrote thrillers he has been dismissed really, and he is up there with Dickens. He has not yet been put historically, I think, into the right place. So, I am hoping this play will help.”

The play contained some of the best of Doyle’s writing. Passages usually cut out when the stories are dramatised. Brett cited two example, calling them, “beautiful pieces of prose.”

 “The speech about flying through windows… and the speech about what a lovely thing a rose is, which is directly taken from ‘The Naval Treaty.’ In the play they are lifted verbatim from the page.

“When we move into the coup de theatre of the second half, I think it’s a divertissement of some density. But I don’t think it matters too much, and Dame Jean Conan Doyle has been very gracious about it, and has indeed have the Sherlock Holmes Society, who  have given it their blessing, because we come back full circle to them together in Baker Street, and maybe you have had a little tiny extra glimpse of these two remarkable men, that which you may not have seen before.”

The play also displayed the wit inherent in the original stories. With most of the humorous touches coming directly from Doyle’s originals.

“Yes they’re there. It’s extraordinary… But you see, when you are reading a thriller you don’t laugh… If I’ve done anything I’ve brought in a little humour, which, I believe, people are grateful for.”

The play brought Brett into contact with people who admired his TV portrayal. He admitted he found this, “slightly overwhelming.”

”First of all it’s thrilling. I’ve had people at the stage door, which I’ve not had for the last six years – because I have been filming and going back to the hotel. So I’ve had people asking for my autograph from Alaska, from Japan, from New Mexico, from Australia, from East Germany, New Zealand, from all over, all round the world.”

 “One reads that we’ve sold the films to over seventy counties now. And, of course, it’s exciting that it’s being shown in China, as they’ve never heard of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so they’re reading the books.

“I think that’s one of the pleasing things, about the films particularly, that it’s taken people back to the books. So many children are coming to the show, and they’re carrying the canon! They’re into Doyle, that’s very exciting, television taking people back to literature, it’s incredible! Lovely”

During the course of filming the Sherlock Holmes TV series Brett changed the character’s hairstyle, from the traditional swept back look to a more radical, shorter, brushed forward cut. I asked him why the style had been changed.

“It’s so trivial it’s hardly worth mentioning… But, the thing is when you wear your hair as I was, and am wearing it again now, I have to gel my hair. Now gel is a very nasty thing to wear on a daily basis especialy when it’s as severe as it has to be. And sometimes when I have been filming I’ve had to gel twice in one day. And you really feel like a… It sets like cement, and it’s very uncomfortable. And I thought if I could get the same effect with short hair – and, I think, to a large degree I did – then I wouldn’t have to gel… gung my hair. So that’s why I did it and I think it worked. I think it made a nice change.”

Brett told me he had drawn inspiration for the style from one of Sydney Paget’s original ‘Strand Magazine’ illustrations of Holmes, “the one where [he] is drawing up his knees up under his chin. He is smoking the small clay pipe he uses when in one of his meditative moods.” The portrait, from ‘The Red-Headed League,’ shows the great detective in profile, and does resemble the hairstyle Brett had in later episodes of TV’s ‘The Return of Sherlock Holmes.’

 “I have gone back to the old one, because the terribly dangerous thing about the short one was that it could also look modern. I remember when I first had it done, I walked down the street and saw someone walking toward me with almost exactly the same haircut, and I thought, oh god!

“The one I have now is also wrong, for me anyway, for it looks too much like Noel Coward. Nancy Banks Smith, who I call the Bag Lady of Fleet Street, was very unkind about ‘Scandal in Bohemia,’ she wrote that when I took my makeup off, as the disguise of the groom, there was Noel Coward underneath. And these little things get under your skin you know, and it really upset me that. So I thought I’d try something else… And anyway f..k her, if you’ll excuse the expression. Now I have gone back to this.”

Nancy Banks Smith, at the time the ‘Guardian’ newspaper’s TV critic, actually praised ‘Scandal in Bohemia.’ She described it as “luxurious, even luscious, way of passing the time.” Her remarks about Brett’s Holmes resembling Noel Coward were obviously light hearted. Brett’s reaction to the review seems to have been uncalled for in the extreme.

Brett told Holmes expert David Stuart Davies that he changed his hair so that, “I can play with [it], run my fingers through it, ruffle it… it’s something else to help me play the character.” His second Watson, Edward Hardwicke, believed he cut his hair because he had begun to hate the character of Holmes. It may have been a combination of the three different reasons Brett gave for the change (and Hardwicke’s conjecture) – the problem with gel, it added to the characterisation and as a reaction to criticism. However, I think the latter had the most weight, as he told me (after first blaming the gel) that his real upset at the criticism was why he thought he’d “try something else.” During the course of the interview he would often return to the subject of his reaction to Bank’s Smith remark. For instance, he quite plainly told me, “It is true that little remarks can get under your skin. I mean little things like that… and that’s why I changed my hairstyle…” His then five year held resentment says less about Bank’s Smith’s review and more about his insecurities and emotional fragility. When I asked him how he reacted to negative criticism of his portrayal of Holmes – particularly from some sections of the American Sherlockian fan community – he changed suddenly from being friendly and open to being tetchy and defensive.

 “I have had nothing but praise. I have received twelve plaques from twelve societies for being the best Holmes ever. I haven’t heard any negative criticism [from America]… I was over there in ’85 and I think we had got as far as number seven [in the first TV series] and I was given the plaque for the best Holmes ever then by the Sherlockians and the Doylians.”

Brett, however, did admit that he believed any actor playing Holmes would find it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve universal acceptance in the role.

 “The trouble is… what you’re actually doing as an actor, if you’re playing a part as famous as this creation of Doyle, is all I’m doing is a brass rubbing. Everyone is Holmes men women and children. Everyone has their own image of Holmes, I have my own image of Sherlock Holmes, we all do. We all have a picture of him when we read the stories, and therefore, you’re just doing a kind of brass rubbing of it. A transparency of it, which one hopes isn’t going to upset the image the other people have of him.

“In New York I saw this six foot four Blackman, walking along with a deerstalker and meerschaum pipe, and I thought, there you are he’s tripping, he’s Sherlock Holmes today.

“Then we had the Sherlock Holmes Society in New York, and they met me to give me this thing, and I walked in, and I was the only one dressed as a civilian. Everyone else was dressed as either Holmes, or Watson, or Moriarty, or Irene Adler, or as Mrs Hudson. But I suddenly thought, of course, what one is doing is only an impression, that’s all actors can do to a monument like this.

“Bennet the chairman of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London came down to see me in Guilford, and was terribly sweet. He showed me a picture of the unveiling of a statue of Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls. And it was back to the big ears, the hooked nose, and the deerstalker, and meerschaum pipe. But, that is the image, that is the cliché. That’s the way it will be for so many.”

However, Brett said he had one consolation:

“I have this lovely blessing over my head; Dame Jean Conan Doyle says I am the Sherlock Holmes of her childhood. That helps a lot… I don’t have to think of Nancy Banks Smith very often!”

By this point in the interview Jeremy Brett’s good humour had returned to a certain extent. When our conversation was almost drowned out by fire engine sirens from outside, he jokingly said, “I am sorry about this noise I think London’s on fire!”

I ended my original version of the interview with the following observation, which I believe still holds true nearly twenty years on:

 ‘Jeremy Brett’s Holmes is fundamentally faithful to Doyle’s original. The magnetism of his bravura performance attracts a new generation of admirers to the stories. In the years to come it will be his face they see when they read the books, and it will be his voice they hear when the great detective speaks. A  part of the monument, that is the legend of Sherlock Holmes, now has Brett’s name indelibly carved on it.’

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70 Responses to “Jeremy Brett: Interview”

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Well, this has been a very revealing interview — I learned a lot about Jeremy Brett. Saw “A Scandal in Bohemia” last night. While “stagy” (like a lot of Hawkesworth stuff) it was MOST enjoyable.

And, Oh Dear Heavens — Jeremy Brett was, truly, one of the most beautiful-looking man God ever made, wasn’t he?

How I would love to have known him as a friend.

How interesting to read this interview.
I’m currently working my way through the
Sherlock Holmes complete collection, and it’s
one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever
watched. God only knows why I never watched it
at the time. Anyway, it is excellent, and I
must agree with Ms Jain’s comments regarding
Mr Brett.

Hear Hear. I was born in 1979 and remember being brought up on jeremy bretts holmes.I just wish now that he had lived longer as i would love to have met him just to say a big Thankyou for giving us such a wonderful holmes.

I’m currently working my way through the Brett “Holmes” DVD’s – again – I suppose talent never pales or becomes boring and I see something new every time in the iconic portrayals- I just regret never
having met him – who knows whether praise of his work might have offset his problems with depression – sad that like Hancock and others, someone who gave so much pleasure through his work should be so afflicted

Great interview! Jeremy was the most authentic am and sexiest Holmes ever! I adore him now and always.
I own the DVDS and watch them regularly. That man was born to portray Holmes, his looks and stature, his voice and mannerisms, everything! GORGEOUS, no other actor could top Jeremy Brett. I visited the set in Manchester twice as i live close by. wonderful, to be there where he had been.
CONGRATS to Granada for such an amazing adaptation of Holmes X

Having read the complete sherlock holmes many
times-jeremy was without doubt the most acurate
portrayer of holmes ever, in my opiion, and
was backed up, when I did a survey on the web.

So very sad when he died -yet I only
have to close my eyes to vividly hear his
voice, that is the most telling of all, I didnt
just hear his performance like most actors, I
‘felt’ it
A few weeks ago I was idly looking at some
biography of him and was quite astounded to see
that he was born where my ancestors lived.
God bless him

7/10/08
I enjoyed reading Doyle’s Annotated Holmes. Always have been a ‘fan’ of Sherlock Holmes mysteries; and Jeremy Brett is by far the best Holmes of all. I will be searching the ‘net’ for posters
or pictures of Mr. Brett. I think he is a
great actor and a wonderful person. Have
had the chance to read a little about him
and would love to join the Fan Club.
Will also purchase the ‘Ultimate Jeremy
Brett’ as Sherlock Holmes.

Thank you.
jnsprngslvr@aol.com

ahh…Jeremy Brett, the quinessential Sherlock Holmes…he was BORN to be Sherlock Holmes; what a gorgeous man…(sighs…) I wish I could have met him…

Thank you for a charming insight to a much missed Holmes.

Hi! Thank you so much for this insight. As I am currently working on a Jeremy Brett tribute biography (for charity purposes), could you please let me know some details about this interview, who did it and for which medium? (Or did you do it yourself??) I would hugely appreaciate, and you can find details on my blog. Thanks and regards, Susa

Oh, sorry, I have now SEEN the medium it has been done for… so may I ask again, did you do it yourself?

Yes I conducted the interview.

i have been utterly fascinated by mr brett for many years and finding these interviews of him, so many years after his untimely death is a real treasure. this is an intelligent and informative insight into the man himself, as well as the character of sherlock holmes and i am eternally grateful.x

I am currently viewing the 2008 remastered Sherlock Holmes Jeremy Brett series and it is wonderful. No other actor came anywhere near to capturing the character of Holmes like Brett did – when he is performing he IS Holmes. A lovely man, most sadly missed, God Bless his sweet heart. Thank you so much for putting this interview on your website.

Great article. I was introduced to Sherlock Holmes by a friend. He gave me a copy of Young Sherlock Holmes. I liked it. I came across a copy of Jeremy Brett’s Holmes and I liked it. This man is full of himself, I thought. I actively sort more, and more, until I finally brought the entire Granada series on ebay. I have watched all 41 episodes over and over. I absolutely love Jeremy Brett in these stories. How I wish I could have met him!!!

i believe that JB does the best job of anyone who ever played Sherlock, as he comes closer than anyone on earth to matching what i saw in my head when, as a child, i read doyle’s detective stories. in much the same way as david suchet is the ultimate poirot whom none rival, jeremy brett is the ultimate unrivaled holmes for all time.

I’m nearly halfway through watching the remastered collection. Having seen most episodes multiple times since their original US broadcast, I still find Brett utterly mesmerizing. He portrayed Holmes with such depth and complexity…his face always a kaleidescope of barely-suppressed emotion. I had just read the stories for the first time when I stumbled upon “Mystery!” in the 80’s. I was a young adult then, and Brett will forever be my Holmes. We can only be thankful that the man and the role found one another to create this brilliant body of work.

Sir, have you considered posting a complete transcript of your recorded interview? I’m sure you’ve included all the highlights here, but you know we JB fans hang on his every word…

His every word is included. A transcript would not work as the ‘interview’ was more like a discussion or conversation, and ranged from topic to topic and back again.

I too wish Jeremy were still alive. I would love to write him a letter. His is the best portrayal of SH I’ve ever ever seen. We watch the episodes as often as they come on the telly. And I too am sad for the loss of the David/Jonathan love between men that today would arouse suspicion.

A very interesting interview. Jeremy Brett obviously had a very sharp insight in the character of Holmes, and also in the Holmes-Watson relationship. And I can only wholeheartedly agree that Doyle’s work should always be the template for any Holmes adaptation and that so many other adaptations (before as well as after the Granada tv-series) have strayed too far away from it.

Brett gave the famous “mind without a heart” a heart and soul and in doing so made a rather hollow Holmes on the page a well-rounded, if slightly eccentric, human being on the screen and stage.

I still find it so very sad to see that his mental illness and the grief over the loss of his wife affected his performance so deeply in the later series. Even in this ’88 interview early signs of his mental unstability are, sadly, becoming visible.

Still, Jeremy Brett was born to play the Great Detective and he will forever be my Sherlock Holmes.

BTW, someone posted an audio recording of the play on Youtube. Only the first 30 minutes or so are available as yet, maybe (hopefully) the rest will follow.

I highly enjoyed listening to it while reading the original play along with the audio recording! Oh, what I would have given to be able to see that performance in real life…

I found this web site after watching Sherlock Holmes tonight on ITV3. Very informative, very enjoyable. Thank you. I love the way Brett portrays Holmes. My dad was a bit part actor and took part in a Holmes episode, part of which was filmed in my home town of Hull. Apparently Hull Paragon Station was used because it still had the Victorian ticket booths. I never did get to see my dad in that episode. We watch often in the hope…. Dad died round about the same time as Jeremy.

What would I give to shake his hand.

R.I.P. Jeremy.

is there any possibility of hearing or
seeing the actual interview of which you
speak?

It saddens me to think that Jeremy Brett would have suffered because of a mean spirited comment. Like Mike McDonald, I wish he knew how much pleasure he gave to many people, and maybe knowing that would have helped him. I feel heartsick thinking about his suffering at the end of his life when he could have accomplished so much more. I have just finished watching “The Sign of Four” for the umpteenth time (I get so much pleasure out of the JB Holmes and feel it’s “finiteness.” I want more!) and I decided to look up something about Jeremy Brett, knowing only that he had passed away. What a lot of stuff is there… The first time I saw him as Homes, I was so offended. I was a devotee of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Now I can hardly watch those any more! JB completely won me over. Watching him perform the Sherlock character was like watching someone throw himself off a bridge–he had no fear. Contrary to what some might say, he didn’t do a belly-flop. He did the most beautiful swan dive and I think I can still hear the collective “aaahhh” as he nailed it.

He was a great actor and a great-looking man. I was so surprised and delighted to learn that he played Freddie in “My Fair Lady,” a movie I have always loved. I wish I could thank him for all the happiness he has given to me.

It’s amazing the amount of quotes on the JB Holmes Granada series that have been used word for word from the Conan Doyle stories.Wonder if Jeremy ever visited the reall 221B Baker Street.I can’t believe that a man of such obvious inteligence as Conan Doyle could believe a young child that told her she was playing with fairies at the bottom of her garden.

Doyle needed to believe in another world of spirits and mystery after the terrible carnage of WW1 in which he lost his own son and many other young men he knew well.
Interesting comment and as someone else says, an insight into how terribly sensitive and volatile JB could be – apparently during this run he did become very ill, mentally. Huge creativity and suffering too often go together, it seems. I love his Holmes to bits, and honourable mention also to two sterling Watsons, Burke and Hardwicke.

Totally agree with your remarks, Rufus, both about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and also Jeremy Brett – Conan Doyle’s son, Kingsley and nephew, Oscar Hornung (son of E.W. Hornung, creator of ‘Raffles’) lost their lives in WW1 and as you rightly say, he needed to believe in something outside this world.

Also, I love Jeremy Brett’s Holmes – it is the best that there is, and never in the history of a TV show have I come across two men playing the same role – David Burke and Edward Hardwicke as Watson – who are equally superb. It is impossible to choose between them. Great show and thank you very much for posting this wonderful interview.

I recently “discovered” Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes. I must have been living under a rock. I have read innumerable classics, but somehow never thought of reading “Sherlock.” Actually, I still haven’t read the books, but, rather, viewed the films — any and all that I could get hold off. I found that I was mesmerized by Jeremy’s performance in these dramatazations. I found myself thinking more and more about the actor. What kind of man could bring so much to a character with such discretion — to the point that you responded to the whole, never realizing how the impression came to you? However, I began to study his smallest gestures, his posture, his way of moving, the slighest ripple of a facial muscle. I came to realize that this man was a genius. I wanted to know more about him, really everything about him…but I was reluctant to ask, or to know. I wanted so much to contact him at least by letter. But, still I didn’t want to know, to ask. Tonight I allowed the knowlege to break through. Yes, I knew he was gone before I knew. Now, I am hungry to know all about his life, his loves, disappointments, his illness. A sad journey for me as I understand what a powerful and vulnerable and creative person occupied the globe at the same time as I, for a short time … and all the while I didn’t know.

I wrote the above and did not mean to be annonymous. My name is Mary Ann. I live in the United States.

What I would give to meet him, to shake his hand. Alas, he died 5 months before I was born.
To the best Holmes and a wonderful man, may you rest in peace.

Fans of Conan Doyles’ novels and short-stories will not be disappointed with Jeremy Brett’s treatment of Holmes. To his credit, he becomes Holmes, being consumed to the fullest. He is charismatic and absolutely magnetic on-screen, you can’t take your eyes off him, or miss a word he says. Jeremy is a treasure lost, and I am glad that his legacy continues some 25 years later. He will undoubtedly remain Sherlock Holmes, to me.

What can I say about Brett’s performances that has not been said before? I have never felt so involved in a thriller/mystery, as when I watch any episode of the series. It is almost like Brett is speaking directly to me, and everyone else in audience. For some strange reason, it is always the most talented, the most loved, and the most under-appreciated that often die the earliest. What gets me the most, is the fact that modern actors get heaps of praise for their often lackluster “performances.” While veteran, professional, diehard actors such as JB receive little or no notoriety for flawless characterizations of legendary figures. Today’s actors are more often than not, given a job because they have a pretty face, or because of some back door connection, rather than years of acting school and an infinite time on a thankless stage. The real actors do it because they love it, and they want others to love it too.
On a slightly different note, Robert Downey JR did an acceptable job as Sherlock Holmes, but what scares me is the fact that modern kids will associate RDJ with SH, rather than the illustrious JB.

Well, my kids won’t, because I have made sure that, as well as the film, they have also been exposed to the ‘real deal’ and, I’m pleased to say, recognised quality when they saw it 🙂

Thank you for the details of this interview.

I’m a faithful fan of Jeremy Brett and wish to let you know (if you don’t) that there is currently a petition to get him awarded a posthumous Bafta. Informations on Facebook, at “posthumous Bafta for Jeremy Brett”.

I’m a fan of Jeremy Brett and wish to let you know (if you don’t) that there is currently a petition to get him awarded a posthumous Bafta. All informations on Facebook at “posthumous Bafta for Jeremy Brett”.

What a lovely interview, and so sympathetically done. Like some of those who have already commented, I only recently ‘discovered’ the Granada TV series, and was instantly struck not only by Brett’s portrayal of Holmes, which for the depth, complexity, and humanity injected into the character, is in my opinion as yet unmatched, but also the fantastic supporting cast – David Burke and Edward Hardwicke as decent, intelligent and caring Watsons, by turns concerned, stimulated, excited, and exasperated by the great man’s eccentricities and excesses; the rapport and relationship developed between Brett’s Holmes, and Rosalie Williams’s Mrs. Hudson; Colin Jeavons’s Lestrade (watch out for his ‘Chiswick?!’ and the Humbug scene in ‘The Six Napoleons’ both of which are gems). One really gets the impression that the cast really *worked* on these relationships, and it was a real team effort.

Have to say, it came as a complete surprise to discover that Brett had played Freddy Eynsford-Hill in ‘My Fair Lady’ – 20 year gap notwithstanding, there doesn’t appear to be anything – voice, appearance, demeanour – linking the two performances (the ardent young lover vs. the gimlet-eyed, ascetic genius) apart from a certain…athleticism. It takes an actor of some range to be quite so convincing in two such completely different roles!

Your piece is well written and I have no doubt shows us a little of Brett the man.
To me he will always be Sherlock Holmes and as I have seen many men play the part this is the highest compliment I can give him.
I only wish he were still with us sharing his wonderful talent.

What a great interview–a real gem! One of the best interviews yet with an EDUCATED interviewer who asks questions on topics that haven’t been touched upon before.
I went to the stage door following the play at Wyndham’s and met him & Edward Hardwicke. I asked Brett what his favorite story was(among those he had dramatised) and Hardwicke guessed “The Blue Carbuncle”, but Jeremy Brett said it was “The Red-Headed League”.I asked for their autographs and just as Jeremy Brett returned the signed program to me, he bent over and kissed my cheek!!It was the highlight of my trip to England! Such a sweet and gentle man.
Your interview was a true pleasure. Thanks so much for sharing it.

I think mr brett did well in everything he did,I could watch them over and over

I will always remember JB’s interpretation of Sherlock as the best ever. He was a great actor, and thank goodness for the wonderful DVDs available that show his incredible interpretation!

The ONLY Sherlock!

10.12.10
I am a Sherlock Holmes fan; I’ve read the
Conan Doyle’s book and also purchased the complete CD package. Mr. Jeremy Brett as ‘Holmes’is the best and I have seen all of them; Rathbone was o.k., but he did not stick in my mind. I did like Peter Cushing, he had a wonderful presence, but Jeremy Brett remains the best. Thanks.

I adore Jeremy Brett’s performance as Holmes, and what a splendid interview that is. I write operas, and have always wanted to write an opera on Sherlock Holmes, the only problem being that Jeremy’s the only Holmes I want! Drat!

Drat indeed! And he could sing reasonably well too. Have you heard him as Count Danilo in the Merry Widow (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UueUg7_HVhY)?

What a lovely idea! I would like to see him in that opera. I am sure he would surprise us.

I am a foreigner so excuse me please for possible errors… For me, Jeremy Brett’s being (not acting;)) in Sherlock Holmes’ skin is something essential for the British culture itself, in all its integrity and “overallness”. He IS pure vision of a British spirit, to which he willingly added his unbelievable aristocratism, intelligence and beauty of restraint… which is still unpredictable.

The last paragraph is completely true with a minor imprecision: not “a little part of the monument” but “a major part of the monument, that is the legend of Sherlock Holmes, has Brett’s name indelibly carved on it.”

When a writer creates a character, he (the character) gains his own life. Then, when a superior actor finally plays that character, we can only be astonished, watching him appropriating of a human receptacle and merging with his soul, finally completing the cycle of existence.

After a few years of not watching Sherlock Holmes I started watching it again on DVD while going through a bout of depression. I’ve come out of it now and it’s thanks solely to Jeremy Brett’s wonderful performance, keeping my mind focused on something with a definate end and always a good one, at that. This interview gives a great insight into the man so thank you for posting it. Loved it!

After all these years of thinking Sherlock Holmes wasn’t my cup of tea I’ve recently been watching the Granada series and realised what a gem I’d missed out on, both in programme and actor!
So much so that I’m off to buy the books whilst visualising the wonderful Jeremy Brett in my mind as I lose myself in the page! I love his facial expressions which so definitely express the thoughts of Holmes, just superb! And yes, as I’ve seen from numerous photographs of him throughout his lifetime, what an extremely handsome man he was! 🙂
May he forever be at peace with his pipe and deerstalker close by!

So heartening to hear of all the fellow Jeremy Brett lovers and died-in-the wool and budding Sherlockians who love this series and miss Jeremy. Enjoy!

Brett was a very masterly Holmes..Wish he was here today to enjoy his much deserved success and recognition….

[…] SHARE THIS. It’s an astonishingly candid interview with the great Jeremy Brett (who I should mention, […]

It’s so incredibly gratifying to see how many people still love Jeremy’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. I remember when I first saw him back in the 80’s, I was ecstatic because he epitomised the Holmes I had seen in my mind when I read the stories as a child.
To me, he will always be the quintessential Sherlock Holmes.

Jeremy Brett apparently was a kind, warm and complicated man and a wonderful actor who, although praised for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, did not receive all the credit due for his exceptional acting abilities.

I have spent more time watching JB’s SH than any all my tv viewing combined. JB is the best- he is truly a member of my family.
Thnx for the interview & this site.
bill kinzie

It’s interesting to note that Vincent Price regarded Jeremy Brett and Basil Rathbone as being equally as good in playing the part of Sherlock Holmes, although he thought that the ITV series had the edge by being set in the proper era. Regarding his ‘crew cut’ in The Hound of the Baskervilles, I seem to recall him describing it at the time (in an interview) as a ‘mistake’, although I’ve never seen reference to this comment since. Considering that David Suchet is about to complete filming of all the Poirot stories, it’s a shame that Jeremy didn’t get to do likewise with Holmes.

Thank you so much for sharing this interview. I am an ardent admirer of Jeremy Brett. It’s unbelievably cruel that he is not with us any longer. The world is a dim and sad place without him. May the light of his beauty, kindness and talent, shine forever. Irene

I absolutely love Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. I was only three when he died, so it was a pity that I will never be able to tell him what a fantastic Holmes he was. I had recently begun to read the Conan Doyle stories (I feel very ashamed that I did leave it so long), but I decided to watch the Jeremy Brett episodes at the same time. I now find that when I read Holmes, I hear Jeremy Brett and see him in my mind’s eye. He is the greatest Sherlock Holmes, and he is definitely the closest to how Conan Doyle must have imagined Holmes.

I miss Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke and of course David Burke . Jeremy was the ideal man for playing Sherlock Holmes . Whenever I see the video it refreshes me . as far as I know these three people were the best actors I have ever known .

hope they release the series in bluRay version .

I miss Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke and of course David Burke . Jeremy was the ideal man for playing Sherlock Holmes . Whenever I see the video it refreshes me . as far as I know these three people were the best actors I have ever known .

hope they release the series in bluRay version .

Oh, my dear, David Burke is still alive!

could you include the audio for this? that would be most wonderful.

To me at 64 I have loved the books and have watched many actors take on the role,their own way,but no one could hold a candle. Not a trace of detail,over Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. He was the very model of Doyles creation and the living breath of his hero.To observe him in the role was an education and a joy as he brought me into another world. A world of Victorian England and with the company of Sherlock Holmes in my very living room. Believable and realistic was his acting that for a time Sherlock was indeed no more a fable but a real live man. Brett will be sadly missed as now it will be impossible for any to equal him.

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Thank you for publishing this interview in its original form – it affords closer insight into Jeremy Brett’s extraordinary dedication in portraying Sherlock Holmes. He was a fine, fine actor whose attention to detail served him so well as he captured and conveyed every slight nuance of the character that was Sherlock Holmes. I particularly enjoyed and admired his facial expressions; however brief; that he showed – he was so skilled at it that one could “see” his thoughts. His ability to vacillate from one mood and or thought to the next was remarkable. Without question, Jeremy Brett can be regarded as delivering the most authentic portrayal of the eccentric Sherlock Holmes, and his desire to follow Doyle’s writings made it as genuine as it could possibly be. The author’s exemplary closing paragraph in this article is spot-on about the legacy Jeremy Brett leaves behind. The inimitable Mr. Brett indeed possessed and emanated a magnetism matched by none, and the words “bravura performance” are perfect descriptors of Mr. Brett’s superb portrayal of Sherlock Holmes that can not be surpassed by those who came before or after him.

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Can I ask the source and year of the interview? It has many interesting points and it might be nice to reference it in papers and such.


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