Yes, I was, luckily enough, doing a BBC Shakespeare of Titus Andronicus with Anna Calder-Marshall who is David Burke’s wife. And David suddenly came in one day and said, “Listen, umm, I can’t do – they may do another series of Sherlock Homes,” he said, “I can’t do it because I’ve accepted an offer to go to Stratford-on-Avon to work with Anna. We want to work together and we – it means we can have Tom,” their son, “with us. So, I’m gonna ring Granada and speak with Michael Cox and suggest that, perhaps, you might be considered.” So I said, “Oh, that’s fantastic!” And he rang Jeremy and it came - that’s how it happened. David couldn’t do it, because he wanted to go to Stratford, and so it fell to me.
I had seen them and I knew how the standard was hugely high. But as an actor it was thrilling to be asked to do it. Because we knew how good it was. And, umm, you know, I was familiar with the stories, not familiar enough as I subsequently became but I knew there was a, you know, a possibility of another ten or fifteen being done. And that was very exciting.
“The Abbey Grange” was the first one I was involved in. And a director called Peter Hammond, who subsequently did a lot of them, umm, did it and he gave a couple of notes which were hugely important to me and they made a lot of difference to the way I looked at the part. And I think it had been a deliberate choice, I think somebody thought, “He can help.” There was a sequence in “The Abbey Grange” where Holmes is pacing around trying to work this thing out and Hammond said to me, uh, “I want you to smoke.” And I-I said, “Yes, what, smoke what?” He said, “Cigarettes, I want you to smoke cigarettes.” So I (took a) cigarette and he said, “No, no, no,” he said, “Keep the cigarette very close to your face, don’t move it away too far.” And, it doesn’t really mean anything in its explanation but in the context of what we were doing it immediately made me think, “Yes, that suggests time and concentration.” And it somehow triggered something in the back of my head that made me think “Watson”, I don’t know why and I couldn’t explain it to you today.
But I remember saying to Jeremy, “I feel” – before that happened I remember saying to him – “I feel I’m disappearing inside my costume.” I just felt everything was too overwhelming and there wasn’t an awful lot for Watson to do and I do remember David saying that he found it very difficult to have to react a lot without having a lot of text. Jeremy subsequently found that he got a bit fed up, and I think understandably, with having to learn huge amounts of text and tried to get the writers to dispense a bit of it to Watson. So I picked up some of the kind of (begins to laugh) bits that Jeremy didn’t really want to do.
I remember one major problem which I had which was that I was always having to read things out of newspapers. And because I don’t – I have to wear glasses to read and couldn’t do it as Watson, so I was always learning vast quantities of newsprint, which I found very tedious.
The biggest compliment I had paid to me was, on several occasions, I was called “David”. People said, “David, can you move that way?” and I thought, “Well, there aren’t too many ripples here if they think I’m David Burke.” I really don’t know how I differed from David, I mean we were different. Subsequently I’ve read, people said I seem to be an older, graver Watson. That always worried me a bit because I thought – what I did feel very strongly about playing Watson with Holmes is that two people who work together in those circumstances have to have a lot of humor, there has to be a lot of laughter.
I consciously remember thinking every time there was an opportunity to bring out that sense of humor between the two people, the fact that you could smile about certain things that Holmes would say, or laugh at things that he would say, umm, seemed to me very important. It seems to me people who work together in a rather difficult job tend to laugh a lot.
There was a wonderful file which was passed around, The Baker Street File, which had, I mean, every single detail that appeared in the stories. And I remember, at one point, I think I had to use a fountain pen and, umm, I questioned, I said, “This seems very modern.” They said, “No, no, it’s not, it’s in the file,” and we looked it up; there it was. And I think somebody actually wrote and said – made some comment – and they were able to write back and say, “No, this is absolutely accurate.” And it was an amazing document, I think I’ve still got it somewhere. Umm, but it was a measure of the immense care that Granada took at that time with that series, I mean, there was just nothing that wasn’t studied and examined. It’s not easy doing period drama in modern England, I mean, you’ve got endless problems. The camera’s got endless problems with television aerials. And they had the most wonderful set of quickly remedied things, like I remember at one point we were filming in London and there were yellow lines on the road which you could see through that back window of the carriage which Jeremy and I were sitting in. So somebody came out and they had a roll of cobblestones, like a sort of – and they just went *fshh!* like that.
I think Michael Cox deliberately held back “The Empty House” until we’d done, I think, done two together, and felt sort of reasonably comfortable. Umm, I think “Empty House” is quite a tricky – uh – it’s tricky for Holmes because he’s got this kind of way-out disguise and then Watson fainting and everything, so it’s a bit – it’s a wonderful story but quite difficult and I was very grateful for the fact that it was kept back. And, and, by that time I’d got much – I’d felt much more confident about playing Watson.
Well, at least at the beginning of “The Empty House” it’s Watson with Lestrade and Holmes is not there so you have a chance to kind of establish something before the star appears, as it were. And so it was good that I had a bit of a chance to get into it before that.
Food is a-a very important part of the stories and certainly Watson is fond of his food . . . We eventually get to the inn and order some food and there’s a bowl of soup or something, I can’t remember exactly what it was, and one of my favorite moments is Watson was, umm, Holmes says to him, “How is it, Watson?” (and Watson replies) “It is disgusting, Holmes.” It was just a very nice comic moment that we share and I remember quite a few scenes in Baker Street where Holmes is having breakfast or they order – umm, Watson eats a great deal and Holmes doesn’t and picks at it.
One of my favorite films was “The Priory School” which was directed by John Madden, uh, I thought he did a wonderful job. It was a little film and, umm, I’m not suggesting that the others weren’t but there was something particularly filmic about what he did with it. I think it’s a very good story and the adaptation, I remember thinking, unlike some of them, was-was really, dare I say, didn’t improve Conan Doyle, but when you are translating text into a visual medium I think you have to take certain liberties and I think they did with that and I think they were all very positive. And I do remember it being – when I saw it I was very impressed by the way John Madden had put it together. Umm, uh, and-and the way the story had been adapted and it is certainly among my favorites of the series.
We filmed this – the final sequence in a cavern. I don’t know where it was, actually, I think it was somewhere in the peat district. But it was very dramatic and I thought it improved on the original story, dare I say it. Umm, and again John took advantage of the location and shot it very well and it was very exciting and very dramatic. And I think that’s to his credit, absolutely.
Jeremy was wonderful. In the end it was a bit like playing tennis with a great tennis player, if you manage to stick the racket in the right place he’s gonna hit it hard enough at you for the ball to just go back. I have people ask me about Jeremy and I have no reservations about the fact that I thought it was a great performance on song it was superb. And he had the ability, which I’ve never understood how he did it, to bring a kind of, a phrase I’ve used, a whiff of Edwardian acting onto the small screen which is, I mean, it’s minimalist television.
I think we shared a sort of sense of humor, umm, and he made it very easy, he would do extraordinary things, umm, I remember he used to walk around with one of those disposable cameras in his costume pocket and he would snap the crew, actors, whatever, and then every week he would pin these pictures upon the door of the studio. So everybody immediately went to look to see whether they were on the – Jeremy’s pictures. They were all . . . they were not great photographs, they were just snaps. But it had the effect of making it feel like a family team and Jeremy led it, no question about it, he led it.
He had one or two very crafty things he used to do. He was a terrible smoker, which didn’t help his health, and every morning on way to location he would buy sixty cigarettes which he would smoke during the day. And we filmed in a number of national trust houses in which smoking is forbidden. So Jeremy would get ‘round this because there would be a new director or somebody who didn’t know his habits. I knew bloody well what he was doing. And he’d call the director over and say, “I think, John, I think Holmes should smoke in this scene, I feel -” (John) said, “Oh, well, have a pipe.” (Jeremy would reply) “No, no, no, no. It requires a cigarette.” So he would then chain-smoke on the set, well everyone else was banned (begins laughing) Jeremy was smoking away. And they never picked it up, he would always find some way of doing that. And he had a black scarf which he would put ‘round his head . . . he had some very, very eccentric habits.
The series as a whole was a hugely happy time, umm, it’s obviously dominated by Jeremy, absolutely dominated by him. Umm, and the laughter, huge sort of gales of laughter. And dominated also by the most wonderful locations, I mean, we filmed in these beautiful, beautiful houses. Of which Cheshire is absolutely awash with marvelous nineteenth-century kind of folies which were built by business men and merchants and things. Although, curiously enough, the - uh-uh - most important one I suppose is Baskerville. We filmed that in an extraordinary house outside Stoke, which the location manager found by accident.
The whole series was a hugely happy occasion. Two wonderful producers, Michael Cox and June Wyndham-Davies, who were wonderfully knowledgeable about the stories. Lovely casts of people, these people were thrilled to be in it, they were thrilled to be in it. I made lifelong friends of a number of people I see frequently. And, as I say, dominated by Jeremy; hugely generous, umm, wonderfully eccentric.
But it was a very, very happy time and he’s deeply and sadly missed. I mean, I miss him, I miss – although we didn’t see a lot of each other after we’d finished he used to phone me in France and, uh, come up with jokes and he would never remember the tag and he’d have to put the phone down and ring back. But, umm, he was a-an extraordinary man and a great loss and sadly, I feel, not honored enough for what he did; he didn’t get any gongs for that performance. And it will be remembered, I’m sure, because I think he was an extraordinary Holmes.
" Elementary, My Dear Watson" : An Interview with Edward Hardwicke - 26/08/2003 RETOUR LIEN VERSION FRANCAISEWell, I think he’s the audience. I think he is the, sort of, receptor of the idea. I think Watson really is every-man and one has to remind oneself that he’s working with, or associating with, a genius.
Conan Doyle wrote these extraordinary stories. I always think it’s the clash between the kind of beginning of everybody’s interest in science combined with the kind of Edwardian obsession with the Gothic. And it’s the clash of these two things in which Holmes represents the scientific mind who analyzes and people wanting explanations, which I think may be way Conan Doyle eventually turned to spiritualism; wanting some kind of explanation.
I spent some of my early years in Hollywood with my father who was under contract to RKO and amongst his very, very close friends was Nigel Bruce, who I remember very well. A lovely, avuncular, amusing man. Very good with children. I suppose I would have been about eight years old, and I remember him with great affection. I had no knowledge that the films were being made and it wouldn’t have meant a great deal to me at that age. But of course, subsequently, they became great heroes; he and Rathbone. My father, Cedric Hardwicke, played Holmes in, umm, I think it was 1945, with Finley Currie playing Watson, and it was for the BBC. He only did the one, I think it was the Speckled Band. It’s memorable, mainly for Conan Doyle’s son, who talked before the actual play was recorded. Talked about his father and remembered being in a restaurant in a hotel in Edinburgh and his father identifying people, much as Holmes does.
In the sixties I was very fortunate to join the national theatre when Lawrence Olivier was running it and it was a kind of golden age for a bit. And sadly spoils you for everything else because all of us who were in that company look back now and think, ‘My God, how lucky we were.’ And Jeremy was part of that company. It was a very large group of actors, something like ninety of us, and we were divided into two separate companies and Jeremy was not – he and I were in different companies. So I never actually acted with him, though I used to see him a lot around the theatre. And, umm, he was much more a senior member of the company, really, he was very different to the Holmes that we all came to recognize as a great performance.

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