Sherlock Holmes is probably the most famous fictional detective ever, right? But you can't very well have a Sherlock Holmes without his trusty sidekick, Watson... or can you? Ian McKellen's new movie about the super sleuth, Mr. Holmes, focuses on an elderly version of Sherlock Holmes, one who is long retired from solving mysteries and now spends his days as a beekeeper. But what about his sidekick — Is Watson in Mr. Holmes ? In the movie, the elderly detective soon finds that the more honey he comes across, the more problems he sees, so he decides to give the bees a break and solve one last case. But will there be anyone to whom he can say, "Elementary, my dear Watson"?
It turns out he can — well, sort of. According to Film School Rejects, although Watson (portrayed here by Colin Starkey, best known for appearing in another detective film, Inspector Lewis) physically appears only briefly in flashbacks in the film, his presence is felt throughout the film. In this version of the story, Watson was both Holmes' friend and unofficial biographer. The Sherlock Holmes invented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in our world was instead invented by Watson in the film, reports Vulture, and the real Holmes is looking to correct all of the creative liberties Watson took in depicting his life (like the classic pipe and deerstalker hat — Mr. Holmes is not a fan of either). So since fans won't be seeing a ton of that good 'ol Holmes/Watson interplay in the film, here's a look at some other famous Watsons over the years.
1. Ben Kingsley
The Oscar winner played Watson in the 1988 film Without a Clue. This version also credits Watson as the creator of Holmes, only this time, Watson is a real life mystery-solver who hires an actor (Michael Caine) to portray Holmes and pretend that he is the one solving the mysteries and not Watson so as not to interfere with Watson's medical career. If this sounds a little screwball, it should. The film was a comedy billed as "The Most Hilarious Sherlock Holmes Adventure of Them All."
2. Jude Law
Law became the Watson for the Michael Bay generation in 2009's Sherlock Holmes and its 2011 sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Both films, which star Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes, made over half a billion dollars at the box office and feature more explosions than probably all other Sherlock Holmes adaptations combined.
3. Martin Freeman
Before he was in The Hobbit, Freeman was assisting the world's favorite human, Benedict Cumberbatch, in the BBC series Sherlock. A more modern day version of the character, Freeman's Watson is less bungling than many others, and serves as a competent foil to Cumberbatch's sometimes eccentric detective.
4. Lucy Liu
Appearing in another modern day retelling, one set in New York rather than London, Liu plays a surgeon who first partners with Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) as his sober companion, helping the recovering drug addict stay on track in the CBS series Elementary. An interesting take on the character for sure, Liu's version of Watson develops a detective prowess of her own as the series progresses.
5. Kyle Mooney
Before he got his SNL gig, comedian Mooney appeared on the insanely popular web series Epic Rap Battles of History in an episode that pits Batman against Sherlock Holmes, though neither of them are actually historical figures (oops). The battle makes sense though, since Batman is often called the world's greatest detective and Holmes is also famous for being just that. Mooney portrays a rappin' Watson in the short, and his flow is anything but elementary.
With Sherlock Holmes stories more in-demand than ever, the famed detective and his trusted friend will be on screens for years to come.
Images: Miramax/Roadside Attractions