Sir Ian McKellen to Play Sherlock Holmes in New Movie

By September 5, 2013

Sir Ian McKellen

It doesn’t take the world’s greatest sleuth to realize we’re in the middle of a Holmes-ian Golden Era right now, with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective character being at the center of multi-million dollar film franchise and two popular television shows. Now we can add another film to Sherlock’s growing resume, as Screen Daily reports that Sir Ian McKellen is set to play a retired version of the character in an upcoming film for director Bill Condon.

A Slight Trick of the Mind will be based on Mitch Cullin’s novel of the same name, and the story (set in 1947) follows a long-retired Sherlock Holmes who is haunted by an unsolved case from 50 years prior. He lives with his amateur detective son, but is obsessed with snippets from this old case, which include a confrontation with an angry husband, and a secret bond with his beautiful but unstable wife. Bill Condon (The Fifth Estate, Gods and Monsters) will direct, while Jeffrey Fletcher (Casanova) will pen the screenplay.

Ian McKellen

It should go without saying that McKellen is a tremendous actor, and it will undoubtedly be a joy to see the man who played Gandalf the Grey take on another iconic literary figure. If he needs to, he can probably ask his Hobbit co-star Martin Freeman for some inside tips on the character, since Freeman plays Watson in the BBC iteration. Robert Downey Jr. is portraying Holmes in Guy Ritchie’s film series (a third movie is rumored to be in the works), Jonny Lee Miller plays the sleuth on the CBS series “Elementary,” and Benedict Cumberbatch does what I consider to be the best work of the bunch on the BBC series “Sherlock.”

But this raises the question: if the producers can agree to tell a separate story featuring the same character in the midst of another ongoing film series, why can’t we get a Batman Beyond movie at the same time as the Batman vs. Superman series plays out over the next few years? I suspect it has something to do with some of Holmes’ stories being in the public domain, while DC has a stronghold over the Batman character and all its iterations. But maybe the brass at WB will see how this Sherlock situation plays out (they distribute the Downey movies as well as the Batman films) and consider changing their mind to capitalize on two versions of the character at once. We can hope, right?

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Ben is a writer living in Los Angeles, California. His work has been featured at,,,, and many more sites across the web. Some of his favorite movies include The Rocketeer, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Tombstone, Lucky Number Slevin, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Collateral, Double Indemnity, Back to the Future and The Prestige. Follow him on Twitter: @BenPears.