When production designer Sarah Greenwood realized that she’d only have 12 weeks of pre-production to re-create London on the cusp of the 20th century for helmer Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes,” she did two things.
“First I sort of closed my eyes and just dove in,” Greenwood laughs. “Then we researched as fast as we could.”
After accumulating around 10,000 paintings, drawings, photographs and other items from the film’s time period, Greenwood and her team selected about 100 pieces that became the key references for the movie.
But they also took precautions. “It could have become a caricature of Dickensian London,” Greenwood says. “We were taking the audience from the House of Lords to the gutter, fish markets, docks and prisons, and we wanted it to feel real rather than seem dodgy and unbelievable.”
Greenwood credits a great collaboration with Robert Downey Jr. for success in creating the interior of Sherlock Holmes’ house — with one exception.
“When I asked Robert what he wanted, he said there needed to be a muk yan jong> (a wooden dummy used in Chinese martial arts training) in the middle of the room, and I thought it would look enormous and terrible,” Greenwood explains. “But no one has ever mentioned being distracted by it, and I think it does give insight to the character.”