Bil Browning

Sherlock Holmes sequel in jeopardy after Downey's gay comment

Filed By Bil Browning | January 05, 2010 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: dark humor, Sherlock Holmes

After Robert Downey Jr made a comment on David Letterman's show that the stupid-people-shut-up.jpgfamous detective Sherlock Holmes might be shtupping his sidekick, Dr. Watson, the future of the movie franchise might be in jeopardy. Downey is the star of the current Holmes flick.

Andrea Plunket, who holds the US copyright to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary creation, is unhappy with comments made by Downey that Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson could be lovers.

And Plunkett says if Ritchie and the screenwriters want to take the character - who is played by Downey in the current movie - in that direction she will not allow a follow-up film.

She said: "I hope this is just an example of Mr. Downey's black sense of humour. It would be drastic, but I would withdraw permission for more films to be made if they feel that is a theme they wish to bring out in the future.

"I am not hostile to homosexuals, but I am to anyone who is not true to the spirit of the books."

"Black sense of humor?" Fuck her. Fuck her very much. Oh, wait... Was that hostile?


Recent Entries Filed under Entertainment:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


How does this woman hold a copyright on something created in 1887?

Anything published, I believe, prior to 1923 is now in the public domain.

The first Sherlock Holmes story, "A Study in Scarlet," was published in 1887. The final Sherlock Holmes story was published in 1914.

If I were the movie studio(s) and executives involved, I would seriously litigate her claim to ownership.

That being said... I am an avid Holmesian. The BBC series of the 1980s, starring Jeremy Britt, has been the only celluloid incarnation of Holmes that captured the essence, not just of the characters, but of the stories themselves. After seeing just the trailers for the current film, I made a conscious decision to avoid it.

I agree that Jeremy Brett was brilliant as Holmes and that the BBC-Grenada series captured the stories and the ambience of late Victorian England.

As for messing about with the stories and the essence of the characters, well, that was done in the Thirties and during WWII already.

I agree on Brett as the supreme master (yes, I feel that strongly about him). Brilliant, brilliant.

On a related note, I also think Joan Hickson was the best, the best Miss Marple. The new series, starring Geraldine McEwan, is fine in terms of its evocation of the age, but they gave the wonderfully iron-spined yet fluffy Miss Marple a back story that involved some lover lost in the war.

I have yet to recover from the shock and I plot revenge daily on the makers of this new version. I've been wanting to write about this from a feminist perspective but would have to endure more of the new series for that, and I'm not sure I would survive. But it might be of interest to some that one of the newer episodes actually openly suggested that a couple of women were lesbian. Christies's work is full of women who live together as "companions."

As for Holmes, I think there's been enough written about nineteenth-century same-sex friendship (both in Britain and here) to make us wonder why the relationship needs to be more than a passionate friendship. Which is what you see in the Brett version.

All of this is to say: Plunket may be going overboard with her statement, but there's no reason to think that gaying it up would make it truer to the spirit of the books or even be particularly interesting (as with the example of Marple).

I don't think you're suggesting the latter, though, and yes, the bit about "hostility" is more than iffy - protest too much, much? Besides, they've done all sorts of ridiculous things with Holmes over the years. Gay would just be yet one more on the list and it could be great or not. And we could just continue to read the books, as everyone should.

I heart Robert Downey Jr. Try as he might, he'll never walk the ahem, straight line.

Jeremy Brett was a good Holmes, but in some ways, I like elements (not all) of what Robert Stephens did in the Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. He was wittier, more sarcastic and had a better voice (which is described as being rather high and shrill in the books). Also, Brett and his Watson were both too geriatric (as was Rathbone). Holmes was supposed to be no older than mid-30s when the stories begin.

I've wondered this about the rights to the Conan Doyle works as well... I know there have been some "new" Holmes books written by others which would be under copyright, but how on earth could the characters be copyrighted at this point?

Anthony in Nashville | January 5, 2010 4:44 PM

I am not well versed on copyright ownership of items over 100 years ago, but part of me understands her point.

If you change facets of a character or storyline, is it really an adaptation of the original work? Why mess with a classic?

As I recall, Isaac Julien got in trouble with the Langston Hughes estate for implying his movie Looking For Langston was about the author.

A gay Sherlock may have to distance itself from the copyright holder by using the "inspired by" label.

CLEARLY, she has never READ a Sherlock Holmes book, because if she had she would realize that the evil homosexual overtones were already there. this isn't new. It is accepted within the realm of this series. Fuck her indeed.

Yeah, copyright law has gotten out of hand. I read this story this morning and wondered the same thing - Thomas Jefferson wanted it to last for a 17-year period, after which all works would become public.

That makes sense - at a certain point they become a part of our collective culture. This woman didn't write any of the books, so why is she making bank off them?

I thought it was life of the author plus 70 years, and Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1930, according to wikipedia.

And, yeah, she doesn't like gay people. Srsly, you can't say that the book would be sullied with gay innuendo if you don't have an issue.

To view this in historical context, for those of you who are old enough to remember, director Billy Wilder received a huge amount of hatred from the "Sherlockians" when he made the film "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" over 40 years ago! They were pissed because there was a moment in the film where Holmes got out of a sticky situation by suggesting (as a joke) he and Watson were a pair. It was compounded because many thought the actor playing Holmes (Robert Stephens... who was incredible in the role) was too effeminate and fey. A lot of (male) Holmes fans bashed the film for decades because it offended their view of Sherlock's precious manhood. I don't know Ms. Plunket's connection to that very obsessive community which, really, was the very first group of superfans, years before people devoted their lives to SciFi or Star Trek, but she might be remembering the outrage attended that film and reacting accordingly.

From http://www.sherlockholmesonline.org/LicensingInfo/index.htm

"

CartoonIn the EC, the entire work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle enjoys copyright protection until 31 December 2000. After that date, a number of characters created by the author will enjoy trademark protection.

In the US, the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1997 (105th Congress, 1st Session H.R. 604 ) has extended the renewal term of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works among others for an additional 20 years. This means that all works published after December 31, 1922 are protected for 95 years following the date of publication. For further information see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:HR.604

The characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Professor Challenger, Brigadier Gerard and the Hound of the Baskervilles among others are trademarked by the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate.

Use of any character or any book not in the public domain for any purpose whatsoever is prohibited without a license from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate."

This is the official licensing site for Sherlock Holmes. It would appear, despite Ms Plunket's claim to the contrary, all aspects of Sherlock Holmes are now in the public domain, world-wide.

Here's another interesting tidbit concerning Ms Plunket, from the NY Daily News (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2009/01/12/2009-01-12_judge_rules_arthur_conan_doyles_heirs_ca.html):

" Judge rules Arthur Conan Doyle's heirs can’t recoup legal fees

BY Thomas Zambito
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Monday, January 12th 2009, 9:21 PM

It's elementary: She can't pay what she hasn't got.

Andrea Plunket, who owns the rights to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works, convinced a judge that she's too broke to pay the author's heir $135,000 from a failed copyright infringement lawsuit.

"I used to be incredibly well-off because I had a very rich mother and father and an incredibly wealthy husband," said Plunket, 67, who once dated Claus von Bulow. "If I had $70,000 or $80,000 I'd pay them, but I don't."

Dame Jean Conan Doyle argued that Plunket is hiding her assets, particularly her interest in a Catskills bed and breakfast known as Pannonia Farms. Plunket says her father left the property to her daughter.

"I'm just the baby-sitter," Plunket said.

Manhattan Federal Judge Kimba Wood Monday sided with the one-time millionaire.

Conan Doyle's heirs have been trying unsuccessfully to get Plunket to cough up $135,000 in legal fees after she lost a copyright-infringement lawsuit.

The Hungarian socialite said she renounced her fortune for "religious and philosophic reasons" in the 1980s after a breakup with von Bulow that followed his acquittal on charges of injecting his wife, Sunny, with an overdose of insulin that rendered her comatose.

"I've seen families destroy each other for money," she said. "Von Bulow - I lived through that for five years. That was money-motivated."

Plunket's family bought Conan Doyle's literary estate in the late 1970s.

In court papers, Plunket mocked her legal opponents with a reference to von Bulow's famed lawyer. "Even Alan Dershowitz, who is very bold, has never done that," she wrote."

Notice what the Daily News doesn't say... it doesn't say Ms Plunket owns the American copyright to Sherlock Holmes, but rather to the books of Arthur Conan Doyle. But, according to the law on the Sherlock Holmes licensing site, that must mean the Doyle books published after 1922, and then for only 95 years after that date, so even that will revert to the public domain by the end of 2017.

Judas Peckerwood | January 6, 2010 1:38 AM

Moot point -- movie sucked, won't be a sequel in any case.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | January 6, 2010 9:37 AM

"I am not hostile to homosexuals, but I am to anyone who is not true to the spirit of the books."

The very phrasing of that comment indicates that she is, in fact, very hostile.

That sounds a lot like the "Hate the sin, love the sinner" BS that homophobes spout alla time, doesn't it?

This probably won't help, but ...

Recently on Jeopardy there was a contestant who claimed to have written a literary research paper about the Sherlock Holmes series, arguing that the two men were lovers and pointing out many homoerotic allusions in the works that would likely be missed by a modern reader not familiar with ... what shall we call it? ... Victorian underground urban gay lingo.

I was puzzled at the time about how one would go about proving sexual orientation for a fictitious character --- but perhaps it's all about the sodomite zeitgeist and the preponderance of evidence?

Sonja Jackson | January 8, 2010 5:53 AM

There's a lot to be said about wholesomeness and the manliness of close male friendship. It feels more like happiness, without friendship spiked with a burning lust for the same sex. Just as children raised in a dysfunctional family don't learn the basic dynamics of unselfish male and female synergy in the full whole circle it was meant to grow in love in, same sex partner families also is missing that special situational teaching factor.

Wrong. Movie was great, extremely successful, and there will be a sequel.

ShipofFools | January 27, 2010 8:07 PM

As far as I know Sherlock Holmes is copy right free in The EU but not so in the US. In the EU we regularly have spoof Sherlock Holmes novels published.
There is a very beautifully written one: My Dearest Holmes by Rohase Piercey (Gay Men's Press I believe), that's all about the love story between Holmes and Watson.

Conan Doyle is well known to have said, when he met Oscar Wilde, that Wilde was the original version of Holmes.

A very interesting chapter on that issue can be found in the book Strangers. http://www.amazon.com/Strangers-Homosexual-Love-Nineteenth-Century/dp/0393326497/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264638247&sr=8-14
The author describes the evolution of the male detective and his sidekick, mostly from Murders in Rue Morgue by Poe. The Poe text seems to contain genuine gay chiffres and allusions.
And wasn't there a connection between Conan Doyle wanting to stop writing Holmes stories and the Wilde trials? Have to look it up again--(I'm quoting from mind, so take it with a grain of salt)

Holmes and Watson are both young and good looking when they meet and move in together (see original illustrations like http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Books/Pix/pictures/2009/3/18/1237389836165/Drawing-by-Sidney-Paget-o-001.jpg). I find it fascinating that all film versions so far have used only a very late (1910s) Holmes/Watson, when they are about 45+ and Watson is distinctly rounded. But as they use a 19th century setting, all films are consciously falsifying the original. Also, they exaggerate the age gap between Holmes and Watson.

It would have been impossible to show two good looking men living together like that. The new film is the first one that actually dares to hint at that.
Apart from the slightly weird Rupert Everett as Holmes version, of course, where at least Holmes is more or less openly gay. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0-rGbjfVX8

ShipofFools | January 28, 2010 6:40 PM

For some Holmes/Watson slash videos see here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5ylfyFxC_U

ShipofFools | January 30, 2010 9:19 AM

I just saw the film-
"And Plunkett says if Ritchie and the screenwriters want to take the character - who is played by Downey in the current movie - in that direction she will not allow a follow-up film."

Plunkett must either not have seen the film yet, or she must be daft. Because the first film *is* already gay/queer.


*spoiler*


Holmes and Watson have a thing going, the bad guys have a thing going, the girl doesn't get Holmes, Watson doesn't really manage to marry. The script uses The Sign of the Four as the background story, the queerest of the original stories, where Holmes plunges into heavy drug use because Watson wants to leave him to marry.
The book was published in the year of the homosexual Cleveland Street Skandal. During that year it was impossible to be naive about homosexuality, and Conan Doyle was a doctor (like Watson).

ShipofFools | January 30, 2010 9:38 AM

I just saw the film-
"And Plunkett says if Ritchie and the screenwriters want to take the character - who is played by Downey in the current movie - in that direction she will not allow a follow-up film."

Plunkett must either not have seen the film yet, or she must be daft. Because the first film *is* already gay/queer.


*spoiler*


Holmes and Watson have a thing going, the bad guys have a thing going, the girl doesn't get Holmes, Watson doesn't really manage to marry. The script uses The Sign of the Four as the background story, the queerest of the original stories, where Holmes plunges into heavy drug use because Watson wants to leave him to marry.
The book was published in the year of the homosexual Cleveland Street Skandal. During that year it was impossible to be naive about homosexuality, and Conan Doyle was a doctor (like Watson).