Jared Harris will be playing Sherlock Holmes' arch enemy and mastermind 'Professor Moriarty' in Guy Ritchie's sequel to Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Harris recently sat down with Collider and discussed his preparation for the role, how it feels to play such an iconic character and evil, pure f**cking evil. Hit the jump to check it out.
When you’re playing a character like that, that is so iconic, how much pressure to you put on yourself to research and to look at all the ways that it’s been played in the past? Or do you sort of stay away from all of that material to craft your own version?
Harris: Well you want to craft your own version but you also need to be in the same genre of film as everybody else, and you wanna stay true to, as they have with the series, to the spirit of Sherlock Holmes whilst making the character into sort of a, it’s like a superhero movie, it’s slightly in that genre of films, he doesn’t have any superpowers except he’s got a super intellect. So I did look at other stuff, I’m a fan of the Sherlock Holmes series; I watched them in the Bahamas with my father, every single one. Interestingly Moriarty is a character who—certainly in the books, you only meet him twice. The description of the character physically, I wasn’t tall enough and probably old enough for it. And also that part I really didn’t want to do. I just felt like there was another physical look to the character that would be more interesting, and also you know it’s been done. They did it verbatim from the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes, and you can see it on YouTube you know? So we went back and forth about trying to come up with a look, and I was given a lot of input into how I wanted to look. There was a certain amount of thrashing around in terms of the character itself, with Robert and with Guy, and all the people involved in creating the series. Lionel. So I had some input into that, but I hadn’t been with the whole thing as long as they have so, I mean it’s very much a spontaneous thing to what happens when you get there on the day. So you can do all your preparation and be ready for everything and then none of it’s useful.
Answering a question unrelated to Sherlock Holmes, Harris brought the conversation around to Moriarty again]:
Going back to what you were asking about with Moriarty and with playing villains in general, and about the interface with plot and exposition and stuff like that—don’t tell them anything! Iago is one of the great villains of all time, there is no explanation for why he does what he does. None. People are fascinated by evil because it’s mysterious and it doesn’t seem to have a rational behind it, and the second you say that Hannibal Lecter was abducted as a child and he had to eat his sister or something like that, it becomes immediately mundane. The character becomes mundane. Don’t explain. That’s what’s fascinating about it.
Does your Moriarty think he’s a bad guy? Does he know he’s evil?
Harris: I think that for me—and this is again my rational, it’s never explained in the story and I don’t really think it needs to be—but for me, the character’s amoral. He’s moved beyond the concept of there being a heaven and a hell and a God and a devil, and there being good and evil, he doesn’t believe in it. And if you don’t’ believe in that moral construct, then everyone is free to do whatever they want. He sees that whole approach to viewing the world and everything around them as being a childish construct. He doesn’t believe in the whole idea of there being good and evil, so he couldn’t conceive himself as being either good or evil. He’s just doing what’s good for him. It’s like asking, if you’re a fish, how could a fish conceive of space? You swim in the water that you swim in or the atmosphere that you’re in. For him it just doesn’t exist. The whole idea doesn’t exist.