CLOSE
BBC
BBC

12 Elementary Facts About Sherlock

BBC
BBC

Although Sherlock Holmes ranks as one of the most frequently adapted fictional characters of all time, the producers of BBC’s Emmy-nominated Sherlock have managed to make the detective seem as fresh as when his print adventures first began appearing in 1887. Just ahead of tonight's fourth season premiere, check out some facts about the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring production, an unlikely Watson, and why the original pilot episode never made it on the air.

1. A SHERLOCK LANDMARK HELPED MAKE THE SHOW HAPPEN.

BBC

For years, writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss took a train to and from Cardiff while working on Doctor Who, and discussed various projects they were interested in doing; one that kept coming up repeatedly was a modern-day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. This reportedly went on for some time, with neither man making any particular effort to get it off the ground, until Moffat’s wife, Sue, decided to invite both men for lunch. Her selection: the Criterion, a watering hole and eatery in London’s Piccadilly Circus. It’s the same place where the fictional John Watson, Holmes’s best friend, first hears of the famed detective. The two got the hint and began working on the series.

2. THE ORIGINAL PILOT NEVER AIRED.

When Moffat and Gatiss conceived of a modern-day take on Holmes for the BBC in 2008, the expectation was that their hour-long adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet would lead to a series. When they finished filming, however, those chances seemed slim: The pilot was more of a stodgy production than the cinematic, inventive style Gatiss and Moffat were hoping for. The BBC agreed to reshoot it with new director Paul McGuigan adding touches like having text messages appear onscreen. The less-polished prototype is available on the DVD release.

3. IT WAS INTENDED TO BE AN HOUR-LONG SERIES.

BBC

Although the original pilot was 60 minutes, the reshot episode was 90 minutes, leading Gatiss and Moffat to believe the best format for the show would be as a small season of movie-length episodes. The pair initially intended all episodes to run an hour, with more of them—up to six—per season. “That [pilot] was going to be the format of the series,” Gatiss said in 2014. “I think if we’d done that everything would be very different. We would do one where it was mostly Doctor Watson, or [landlady] Mrs. Hudson investigates or something like that.”

4. MATT SMITH AUDITIONED FOR WATSON.

While Benedict Cumberbatch was the first and only choice for Holmes, Matt Smith was among a number of actors considered for his counterpart, John Watson.The role eventually went to Martin Freeman (The Office, Fargo) because Moffat believed his chemistry with Cumberbatch was the best. Smith wound up auditioning for Doctor Who just a week later, and became the Eleventh Doctor.

5. HARRISON FORD GEEKED OUT OVER IT.

The quality of the series has not been lost on audiences, critics, or Harrison Ford: When the actor appeared on The Graham Norton Show alongside Cumberbatch in 2013, he told the actor the show was “amazing.” Ford’s wife, Calista Flockhart, told the Radio Times that she and Ford “can’t stop watching” the show. The family’s BBC gateway drug was apparently Agatha Christie's Poirot, a long-running adaptation of the author's elegant detective.

6. IT’S LED TO A RISE IN BOOK SALES.

The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle must have been pleased to note that the 2010 debut of Sherlock on BBC One correlated with a sharp uptick in sales of the author’s printed works. According to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks media sales, copies of Doyle’s titles moved roughly 57,000 copies in 2009. The year after, it was 88,000—with sales the week after the show premiered doubling from the week prior.

7. FANS HAVE CHANGED HOW THE SHOW IS PRODUCED.

Bertilak1 via YouTube

When word gets out that Sherlock is filming exterior shots in Cardiff, fans gather using a Twitter hashtag (#Setlock) to watch—sometimes up to 300 at a time, all positioned behind barricades. Martin Freeman has described the experience as something “I don’t love,” since the crowd is effectively an uninvited audience. (They once broke into applause when he opened a bag of crisps.) Because of the distraction, Gatiss has noted that the show now arranges for fewer scenes set outside. “Large dialogue scenes outside are quite tough,” he said in 2014, adding that the actors had trouble concentrating.

8. PBS CUT A BIG CHUNK OUT OF EPISODES.

If your only exposure to the second season of Sherlock was on PBS in America, you’ve missed nearly a half-hour of the show. In 2012, executive producer Sue Vertue told the Independent that eight minutes from each of the three episodes had been snipped in order to make room for sponsor spots in the United States.  

9. THERE’S A MANGA ADAPTATION.

Titan

An adaptation of an adaptation, in 2012 Japan's Young Ace magazine depicted the first episode of Sherlock in the country's distinctive sequential art style. U.S. publisher Titan Comics recently compiled the four issues into an English-language trade paperback edition after several unofficial fan translations demonstrated a considerable demand for the work to be reprinted. Titan also publishes books in which Holmes fights aliens and vampires.

10. YOU ARE UNLIKELY TO EVER SEE A CROSSOVER WITH DOCTOR WHO.

Two of the BBC’s biggest successes are both filmed in Cardiff and both have the same showrunner; television crossovers have happened with less. Despite that, Steven Moffat—who oversees both shows—says the odds of the time-hopping Doctor crossing paths with Holmes are slim to none. In addition to the Sherlock cast being disinterested, Moffat told a Royal Television Society audience in 2014 the fact that Holmes has been presented as a fictional character in Doctor Who presents a difficult hurdle to overcome. “[The Doctor] has even dressed up as [Holmes],” the writer said.

11. THERE MIGHT BE A SHERLOCK THEME PARK ATTRACTION COMING.

BBC

Not many fictional detectives get their own theme park; Holmes might be a rare exception. The BBC is reportedly considering an amusement park based on their properties, including Sherlock and Doctor Who, for Kent, England, in 2020. The addition is expected to join a planned London Paramount Entertainment Resort that will also feature a water park.

12. THE SHOW MIGHT RUN FOREVER.

Sherlock has produced just 10 episodes in nearly eight years, a far cry from the 180-odd episodes a network series would have amassed in that time. But the erratic shooting schedule that sometimes frustrates fans might eventually work to the audience’s benefit. Because the series doesn’t shoot continuously, Moffat sees no reason the production can’t keep resuming indefinitely. “It’s an occasional treat when you get three movies,” he said in mid-2016. “That’s why I think it’s unlikely that we’ve completely finished it. There would be nothing strange in stopping for a while. It could go on forever, coming back now and again.”

Though Cumberbatch has recently hinted that the show's fourth season could be his last, Moffat said that the star's quote was misunderstood. "It seems to be impossible these days not to be misquoted," Moffat said. "He was quite specific about being keen to carry on. He went on to say [it's] hard to get us all together. We want to keep the quality up. We haven’t even seen this [season air] yet. We don’t know. We haven’t sat down with the intent to anything yet. But we’re always aware that it could be over. But the fact is Benedict did not say that.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
arrow
entertainment
6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (female writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), and Beery won for The Champ, which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. BEST SOUND EDITING // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
literature
11 Haunting Facts About Beloved

Toni Morrison—who was born on February 18, 1931—made a name for herself with The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon, but it wasn’t until 1987’s Beloved, about a runaway slave haunted by the death of her infant daughter, that her legacy was secured. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was a key factor in the decision to award Morrison the Nobel Prize in 1993. All the awards aside, Beloved is a testament to the horrors of slavery, with its narrative of suffering and repressed memory and its dedication to the more than 60 million who died in bondage. Here are some notable facts about Morrison’s process and the novel’s legacy.

1. IT’S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

While compiling research for 1974's The Black Book, Morrison came across the story of Margaret Garner, a runaway slave from Kentucky who escaped with her husband and four children to Ohio in 1856. A posse caught up with Garner, who killed her youngest daughter and attempted to do the same to her other children rather than let them return to bondage. Once apprehended, her trial transfixed the nation. "She was very calm; she said, 'I’d do it again,'" Morrison told The Paris Review. "That was more than enough to fire my imagination."

2. MORRISON CAME UP WITH THE CHARACTER BELOVED AFTER SHE STARTED WRITING.

The book was originally going to be about the haunting of Sethe by her infant daughter, who she killed (just as Garner did) rather than allow her to return to slavery. A third of the way through writing, though, Morrison realized she needed a flesh-and-blood character who could judge Sethe’s decision. She needed the daughter to come back to life in another form (some interpret it as a grief-driven case of mistaken identity). As she told the National Endowment for the Arts’ NEA Magazine: "I thought the only person who was legitimate, who could decide whether [the killing] was a good thing or not, was the dead girl."

3. SHE WROTE THE ENDING EARLY IN THE WRITING PROCESS.

Morrison has said she likes to know the ending of her books early on, and to write them down once she does. With Beloved, she wrote the ending about a quarter of the way in. "You are forced into having a certain kind of language that will keep the reader asking questions," she told author Carolyn Denard in Toni Morrison: Conversations.

4. MORRISON BECAME FASCINATED WITH SMALL HISTORICAL DETAILS.

To help readers understand the particulars of slavery, Morrison carefully researched historical documents and artifacts. One particular item she became fascinated with: the "bit" that masters would put in slaves' mouths as punishment. She couldn’t find much in the way of pictures or descriptions, but she found enough to imagine the shame slaves would feel. In Beloved, Paul D. tells Sethe that a rooster smiled at him while he wore the bit, indicating that he felt lower than a barnyard animal.

5. SHE ONLY RECENTLY READ THE BOOK HERSELF.

In an appearance on The Colbert Report last year, Morrison said she finally got around to reading Beloved after almost 30 years. Her verdict: "It’s really good!"

6. THE BOOK INSPIRED READERS TO BUILD BENCHES.

When accepting an award from the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1988, Morrison observed that there is no suitable memorial to slavery, "no small bench by the road." Inspired by this line, the Toni Morrison Society started the Bench by the Road Project to remedy the issue. Since 2006, the project has placed 15 benches in locations significant to the history of slavery and the Civil Rights movement, including Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, which served as the point of entry for 40% of slaves brought to America.

7. WHEN BELOVED DIDN’T WIN THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN 1987, FELLOW WRITERS PROTESTED.

After the snub, 48 African-American writers, including Maya Angelou, John Edgar Wideman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., signed a letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review. "For all of America, for all of American letters," the letter addressing Morrison read, "you have advanced the moral and artistic standards by which we must measure the daring and the love of our national imagination and our collective intelligence as a people."

8. IT’S ONE OF THE MOST FREQUENTLY CHALLENGED BOOKS.

Between 2000 and 2009, Beloved ranked 26th on the American Library Association’s list of most banned/challenged books. A recent challenge in Fairfax County, Virginia, cited the novel as too intense for teenage readers, while another challenge in Michigan said the book was, incredibly, overly simplistic and pornographic. Thankfully, both challenges were denied.

9. MORRISON ALSO WROTE AN OPERA BASED ON GARNER’S LIFE.

Ten years ago, Morrison collaborated with Grammy-winning composer Richard Danielpour on Margaret Garner, an opera about the real-life inspiration behind Beloved. It opened in Detroit in 2005, and played in Charlotte, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York before closing in 2008.

10. MORRISON DID NOT WANT IT MADE INTO A MOVIE.

Although she publicly claims otherwise, according to a New York magazine story, Morrison told friends she didn’t want Beloved made into a movie. And she didn’t want Oprah Winfrey (who bought the film rights in 1988) to be in it. Nevertheless, the film came out in 1998 and was a total flop.

11. THERE'S AN ILLUSTRATED VERSION.

The Folio Society, a London-based company that creates fancy special editions of classic books, released the first-ever illustrated Beloved in 2015. Artist Joe Morse had to be personally approved by Morrison for the project. Check out a few of his hauntingly beautiful illustrations here.

This article originally appeared in 2015.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios