Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch on Jeremy Brett – “He was magisterial and tragic”

The Sherlock star admires one of the most iconic incarnations of the great detective – and rues his descent into mental illness

Some Sherlock Holmes fans would cite Basil Rathbone as the ultimate screen incarnation of the detective – these days, others might suggest Benedict Cumberbatch himself – but for very many devotees of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation, one man, Jeremy Brett, inhabited the role like no-one else.


They’ll be pleased, then, to hear that Sherlock star Cumberbatch is also a huge admirer of Brett’s work on the Granada series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which ran for a decade between 1984 and 1994.

“I saw that version when I was growing up, I remember at my nan’s in Brighton we used to watch that on the telly,” said Cumberbatch, “but I know much more of it now having watched it after we first incarnated our version of him.”

Cumberbatch said he had always been impressed by Brett’s portrayal. “Even when I was younger I was still struck by this extraordinary hawk-like, magisterial, cold disconnect,” he told an audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. “And this incredible physique, as well – that wonderful beak of a nose, the swept back hair, the lips and those slightly mad eyes, which, sadly, became a lot madder.”

Cumberbatch called Brett’s infamous descent into mental illness “a tragedy” that “shaped the performance – which was extraordinary – but at such a cost to the man.”


And now, watch the master at work…