DC Comics’ Superman star Henry Cavill is playing a different kind of crime fighter in Netflix’s upcoming Victorian period adventure, Enola Holmes: the erudite, impenetrable sleuth Sherlock Holmes.
But don’t expect Cavill’s Sherlock to mirror the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Downey Jr or any other modern interpretation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective. Here, he’s been “softened” by his younger sister, Enola (Millie Bobby Brown).
Sherlock is more earthy and elemental than elementary in this version, a feature-length movie aimed at older children in which Enola is in a desperate search for their mother (played by Helena Bonham Carter), who has vanished.
Cavill, 37, told Radio Times: “Our Sherlock is different from what we may see as the traditional misogynistic genius. Enola softens Sherlock and opens up his heart, which we haven’t really had access to in other renditions.”
Cavill readily admits he doesn’t have natural detective skills: his mother was the family sleuth.
Cavill said: “I’m not sure I have as practised an eye as Sherlock, who can see all these insane details, but I’d definitely never give up if I was a sleuth. I’m dogged and determined, and I will dig until I get to the bottom of something. We never tire of detective dramas because we get to compete with these incredible fictional geniuses and if we work it out, we have an enormous sense of satisfaction. If we don’t, we get satisfaction from the reveal at the end. My mother was extremely good at this.”
So good that the younger Cavill stopped watching television with her.
“I liked Murder She Wrote when I was a kid and half the fun was watching my mum work it out before Jessica Fletcher. In the end, I stopped watching TV with her because she’d always tell me the ending halfway through.”
Cavill did not read the Sherlock Holmes novels in preparation for the role, although he had watched the adaptations over the years, particularly enjoying Robert Downey Jr’s “slightly alternative one”.
“It was a lot of fun taking on such an iconic role, particularly as an enormous amount of the pressure was off because Sherlock’s not at the forefront of the story — Enola is — so he’s not going to be directly compared to Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Downey Jr’s version.”
Enola Holmes streams on Netflix from Wednesday, 23rd September.
Interview by Clare Webb