Laura Linney has been on a bit of a movie hiatus for the last two years, following the birth of her first child at the age of 49, but the three time Oscar-nominated actress (The Savages, Kinsey, and You Can Count on Me) is returning to more regular work with Mr. Holmes hitting theaters this weekend, and two more films already in post-production. Mr. Holmes reunites her with director Bill Condon (Chicago, Gods and Monsters) who directed her in both Kinsey and The Fifth Estate.
Mr. Holmes adds to the recent all-mediums cultural fascination with Sherlock Holmes (here played by Ian McKellen), but is still able to show a different side of the character. In Holmes, Sherlock is retired, aging, and writing. There is no Dr. Watson (in fact, Sherlock seems to resent Watson’s writings and embellishments) in Mr. Holmes. Instead his sidekick is a young boy, Roger (Milo Parker), who wants to help the aged detective solve the case that made him retire more than a decade prior. Problem is, Holmes is beginning to lose his memory. Linney plays Roger’s mother and Holmes’ housekeeper. She is wary of Roger’s fascination with a man who is likely to die any day.
Recently, we are able to sit down one on one with Linney and discuss working with Condon again, her well-read fascination with Holmes, and ask about her upcoming role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.
Collider: Both you and Ian McKellen have worked with Bill Condon before—and this production had very few characters living on an estate—so was this the coziest set you’ve ever been on?
LAURA LINNEY: [laughs] It was pretty cozy. It was pretty good, as far as feeling safe, taken care of, and working with familiar, great people, yeah absolutely.
I’m sure that you probably would have taken this role anyway, but this is the first role you have taken after you had your first child…
LINNEY: You know I don’t think I would have taken it, because it was so soon after I’d had my son and I really wasn’t planning on going back to work for a while. I will walk over hot coals to work with Bill Condon on anything, the experience that you have with him is just too good, and I’ve known Ian through our mutual friend Armistead Maupin for many years but I’ve never really spent a great deal of time with him and I’ve certainly never worked with him before so the trio of Bill, Ian, and Sherlock Holmes, and England: it was too much to say “no” to. I spoke to my husband about it about well I’m going to have to learn how to juggle this eventually and my son was portable, my body was appropriate for a 1947 woman of that era, so I thought well why not.
Speaking of Bill Condon and your body, I read before that for Kinsey you had to get on a donut diet…
LINNEY: I did, I gained I think 27 pounds eating donuts.
Do you still get cravings?
LINNEY: That’s my favorite food group: donut. I love the donut.
Do you have a favorite?
LINNEY: I have different brands for different types of donuts. So I like the classic Dunkin Donut, just the cake donut, and I love Krispy Kreme glazed, I like Swingers powdered donuts, and then if you’re really gonna go there, the Entemann’s chocolate is pretty good too.
Let’s stick with the body talk: so while you’re preparing, were you preparing while you were still pregnant for this role or…
LINNEY: Oh no no no. I think my child was maybe two months old. Two or three months when I was offered the part.
So as a new mother how did that inform Ms. Munro?
LINNEY: You know I don’t know. I think I realized I was going to have to work in a different way. I know what people want to hear is the connection with the son, Roger, when you have a child. I would love to tell you that there was an epiphany as to what it is to be a mom, but I didn’t feel any difference there.
Where I did feel a difference is learning to just work in a different way so that your resources are not completely depleted so that you don’t have anything to give to your child when you go home, and fortunately I’ve been working long enough that I know how to make that shift so that I don’t compromise my work or compromise my relationships; not compromising parenting is really the biggest difference. But you know, I find that things don’t bother me as much. If I had a bad day on set, it sort of just rolls of my back in a way that it didn’t before. So that’s where the biggest difference is, stuff that used to get under my skin or that I would worry about or be anxious about just isn’t a problem. So in some ways, having a child has been very liberating. I found it very liberating.
Ms. Munro is very protective of Roger, what do you think she is trying to protect her son from as far as living with Sherlock Holmes and taking care of him?
LINNEY: She’s a war widow, if you look at who she is, she’s a war widow. I don’t think she was a housekeeper before the war, I think this is something she’s had to do in order to survive, to have a home with her child, I think it’s the fear of losing her one relative. I think that when you’re grieving, and you have a small child, and you are the number one person in that child’s life, I think there’s some comfort there, and when all of a sudden they’re not terribly interested in you, or when they’re embarrassed by you, or don’t like you quite frankly, it’s threatening in a way that’s very powerful and I think she’s very scared.
Interesting, I thought was maybe she was protecting him from death and Sherlock’s inevitable demise…
LINNEY: There’s that, there’s that as well. I know that was very much on the forefront of Bill [Condon]’s mind, but for me it was more selfish. To me it was a selfish need for her son’s attention.
And were you a Sherlock Holmes fan in a capacity?
LINNEY: I was a rabid fan from a young age.
What were some of your favorite mediums that he appeared in?
LINNEY: The (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) stories were great, for one. The thing that makes him a remarkable character is how he can withstand all of these different interpretations and different styles and, that’s what makes a classic character a classic character; they keep coming back and you see them in a new way every time. You think you know what it is and then it surprises you over and over again. There are not many characters who can do that, I have found.
I think my favorite of all time is The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, which is by Nicholas Meyer. It’s the much darker view of Sherlock Holmes, the sort of psychologically tortured drug addict view. It’s a great movie, and a really good book. And Sigmund Freud is a character.
One thing I liked about Mr. Holmes is that it’s a bit of a snide narration against Dr. Watson.
LINNEY: [laughs] Yeah. Even though you never really see him in this movie, his presence is very much in the film, and there’s a very different interpretation on Watson, too. You learn about what was potentially driving Watson as well.
Since we have to wrap up, could you tell us about a bit of a surprising upcoming project? Who do you play in Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles 2?
LINNEY: Well there’s another movie called Genius with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth, which is coming out first, and then there’s Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, which I just wrapped yesterday. I had a fantastic time, I really had fun, and I play a NYC police bureau chief, a woman named Rebecca Vincent. I think that’s all I’m allowed to say.
I wanted to ask, concerning TMNT 2, is how different is it working with performance capture, especially in comparison to when you worked on Congo?
LINNEY: [laughs] They had little girls in ape outfits in Congo. There’s a big difference because you’re looking into a human face (with motion capture). And the four guys who play the turtles are fantastic, they’re really unsung heroes those guys, they are really good actors, they have a great time together, their energy is infectious on set. The special effects that sort of encases them is terrific as well, so it’s a great combination of these fantastic young men and this great technology that’s happened, so it was very exciting to be around. I’ve gotta say, I was hoping that I would have fun—but I had no idea I would have as much fun as I did.
You know, with Congo, they were little girls in suits [laughs]. So parts of that movie worked, and some of it didn’t, but acting-wise Turtles is a completely different type of experience because you actually get to be on set, talking to flesh and blood.
Mr. Holmes opens in select theaters on Friday, July 17th. Watch the trailer below.
MR HOLMES is a new twist on the world’s most famous detective. 1947, an aging Sherlock Holmes returns from a journey to Japan, where, in search of a rare plant with powerful restorative qualities, he has witnessed the devastation of nuclear warfare. Now, in his remote seaside farmhouse, Holmes faces the end of his days tending to his bees, with only the company of his housekeeper and her young son, Roger. Grappling with the diminishing powers of his mind, Holmes comes to rely upon the boy as he revisits the circumstances of the unsolved case that forced him into retirement, and searches for answers to the mysteries of life and love – before it’s too late.