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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Who should play Moriarty in the inevitable ‘Sherlock Holmes’ sequel?

It’s no spoiler to note that Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes leaves open a space for a sequel so big that even Inspector LeStrade himself couldn’t miss it. And as reader Judy pointed out in comments on a semi related topic, this means we have to start thinking about who should play Holmes’ archenemy, should he appear in the sequel. (Which he should, just for fun’s sake.)

So: Who should play Moriarty in the inevitable ‘Sherlock Holmes’ sequel?

I’m gonna go right to the obvious: David Tennant.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • funny, even though generally i always think DT first, i was actually going to go for Richard Armitage…

  • Professor Moriarty is supposed to be slightly older than Holmes, at least by 10 years, so we need a healthy-looking early 50-55 year-old. High forehead. Instead of Tennant, why not Doctor No.9? Except for the northern accent, Chris Eccleston could be a good fit: he’s shown a propensity for decent villain work, can project the intelligence of the world’s most twisted mathematician, and can swing a mean sonic screwdriver… what, why not?

  • Brian

    I’ll suggest a fellow whom I think should have been considered for Holmes in the first place: Mr. Hugh Laurie.

  • @Brian… or, even better, Stephen Fry… slightly older, deceptively harmless looking, erudite and intellectual… also, we know he looks great in victorian and edwardian attire! he’d be an awesome steampunk moriarty!

  • Michael

    Casting Hugh Laurie as Moriarty would likely cause space-time to fold back in on itself, causing a rip in quantum realities that would wipe out the universe as we know it.

    …Though it’d be very nearly worth it. ;)

  • Patti H.

    My very first thought (before I saw your choice, MaryAnn) matches Paul W.’s: Christopher Eccleston.

  • Ken

    It’s no spoiler to note that Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes leaves open a space for a sequel so big that even Inspector LeStrade himself couldn’t miss it.

    But it is a spoiler that he isn’t in this movie, for those of us who haven’t seen it and might be looking out for him.

  • How about Tim Roth? Ewan McGregor? Christian Bale?

  • daryl

    i can’t believe this hasn’t even occurred to anyone but why can’t the man who played moriarty in the first one play him in the sequel. ed tolputt as moriarty. sometimes big roles are best played by unknowns. christopher reeve was an unknown before he was cast to play superman and we all know how greatly that turned out

  • Brian

    @bronxbee . . . Good point. And of course, thinking of Fry makes me recall his turn in V for Vendetta, which makes me wonder if Hugo Weaving might not be a good choice. He can do the aristocratic menace thing in his sleep, even if he is a bit cheesy.

    Speaking of causing space-time catastrophes, wouldln’t it blow the minds of Trekkers if they got Patrick Stewart to be Moriarty?

  • Paul

    I’m a borderline Trekker and I’d pay ticket prices to see Stewart as Moriarty. I’ve seen him play camp gay on “Frasier” without any side effects aside from my cheeks hurting from laughing so hard. More at Frasier for pretending to be pay to get on the opera board, but still . . . and didn’t he play the entire cast of Moby Dick?

    Suddenly flashing back to “Continue smoking that in here and you’ll spend the rest of your life under the impression you’re a twelve year old girl.” “You can do that?” “I’ll have Jean braid your hair.”

    Yes, Stewart as Moriarty. I can see it.

  • Ally

    Hugh Laurie would be a blast. He’d have to bring his fitness level up a bit, but dear lawd. I can see him portraying someone cunning like Professor M. He’s definitely one of the few actors that is good enough to play such a devious villain.

    I’m not really worried about who they cast, though, as I am about the sequel itself. The reason I enjoyed “Sherlock Holmes” so much was because of the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law were absolutely fantastic and I really don’t want to lose that dynamic between the two in the second film.

    As long as they do with the duo in the sequel what they did in this first movie, I really don’t mind who they cast as Prof. Moriarty.

  • Fuggle

    I do like quite a few of the suggestions in here. Having never seen any of Doctor Who, or much with the men who played the Doctors, and thus no frame of reference, I can’t really say on that – though Patrick Stewart, Stephen Fry, and Tim Roth all make me go “hmmm” – one way or the other I think it should be someone who didn’t seem, by person or affect, as outwardly sinister as Lord Blackwood did, so no one Mark Strong-esque. All good suggestions, but I’d like to also nominate the pretty good and underknown Guy Pearce for the role – I can’t explain why, just that I could see him in it as much as I could see RDJ as Holmes.

    Or possibly Liam Neeson, because he’s older, british, and makes just about everything just that much more watchable.

  • Ryan

    I’d recommend Jason Isaacs. He’s great at playing intellectual villains and his screen presence, not to mention his striking blue eyes could match RDJ in believable fashion.

  • nyjm

    Wow. No one’s floated Liam Neeson yet? His Raz al Ghul in Batman Begins was a pretty awesome villain.

    But, I’d pay good money to see either David Tennant or Patrick Stewart, oh yeah…

  • allochthon

    My first choice would be Tim Roth, but Jason Isaacs is also an inspired choice. He was incredible in The State Within.

  • Speaking of Star Trek, how about using Daniel Davis who was in fact doing a decent Moriarty performance on the holodeck in several episodes?

  • zoe

    I’m astounded no one has considered Gary Oldman – he’d make an incredible Moriarity. He is one of the best actors of his time and has conquered roles: Beethoven, Sid Vicious, a corrupt cop in ‘The Professional’, Dracula, Sirius Black (the list goes on and speaks for itself). The man is an enigma trapped inside a riddle and would embody the perfect qualities Sherlock Holmes’ arch enemy Moriarty requires.

  • Jeremy Brull

    Daniel Day Lewis.

  • Mel

    My first thought after seeing the movie was also Christopher Eccleston. I do think David Tennant is too young, even aside from relative ages, and I just think Eccleston’s style would be a better fit.

    As much as I love Richard Armitage, no.

    Tim Roth, maybe. Gary Oldman would be brilliant.

    Stephen Fry would be a really, really interesting take on the character.

  • Mel

    Ian McDiarmid might be too old, but if there isn’t any reason for Moriarty to be younger, he’d be excellent, too.

  • Brian

    @Paul: Actually, it was H.M.S. Pinafore, if you’re thinking of the same Simpsons episode as I am.

    Let’s face it, we Americans will go gaga over any smart-seeming Brit (or person with quasi-Brit accent) who can sound polite while threatening our cinematic heroes, won’t we? We’ve already named at least a dozen who would do quite nicely; let me throw out a dozen more off the top of my head:

    Alan Rickman
    Bob Hoskins
    Anthony Hopkins
    Ian McKellen
    John Hurt
    Kenneth Branagh
    Ian Holm
    Derek Jacobi
    Daniel Craig
    Brian Cox
    Brendan Gleeson
    Rufus Sewell

    Couldn’t you see any of those folks playing Moriarty? It’s just the way we’ve been conditioned to think of British (or pseudo-British) actors, probably because they’re generally more versatile than American actors of the same (or any) age — or maybe because so many Hollywood movies over the years have conditioned us to think that Brit accent = Bad Guy.

  • Bob

    Christopher Eccleston would be an inspired choice–I think he is simply fabulous.

    Hugh Laurie would also be a wonderful choice, though I lean to Mr. Eccleston.

  • Lisa

    Gary Oldman or David Tennant both would be great!

    altho Ritchie will probably cast Vinnie Jones

  • wooster182

    I, too, thought of Gary Oldman but I LOVE the idea of Guy Pearce. He’s not nearly in enough films.

    I also really love the idea of Hugh Laurie and Tim Roth. Both are such great actors and I think it would bring an added depth to HL’s acting that we know is there but we don’t necessarily get an opportunity to see.

    My first vote is always for Joaquin Phoenix, though, even if he doesn’t act anymore or may be too young for the part. I think he would be formidable against RDJ.

  • e

    Tim Roth and Gary Oldman are excellent suggestions. Rufus Sewell would be good but he is too young, as is Daniel Craig. I would like to submit Michael Keaton (assuming he can do a truly authentic accent). I think people forget about him and he could do a brilliant-yet-disturbed-and-evil character very well! Ian McClellan too old (sorry Sir Ian), but I never tire of Alan Rickman, so he would be good to see in the role. I read a rumour Brad Pitt would be considered for the role, which I think would be hideous (don’t like him anyway). Blond fop. Joachin Phoenix is too young for this although so talented. Rupert Everett would be good but again, the role needs someone a bit older than RDJ. I keep going back to Roth and Oldman, with Rickman and do consider Keaton! I don’t like Neeson for this one.

  • judy

    There are a lot of great ideas here. Guy Pearce could be amazing, but I also see Alan Rickman doing it perfectly. And then e mentioned Michael Keaton! whoa! that would be very cool. Anyone here remember Keaton and RDJ together in the little seen movie Game 6? I also wonder however if Keaton could do a good accent. Very fun to think about.

  • Ally

    I could actually see Guy Pearce playing Moriarty. He is THE MOST underrated actor of this generation. Geoffrey Rush is another one I could see as Moriarty. He’s an Oscar-winner, for God sakes. He could pull it off.

    I would really like to see Michael Caine for he is fantastic in everything he is in, but he may be a bit too old.

  • Chris H

    After sobbing through the end of David Tennant’s run on Doctor Who, it would be great to see him in a Holmes film, but I just can’t see him as Moriarty. As has been said, it’s the age aspect. But Guy Pearce? Wonderful suggestion! Stephen Fry doesn’t register for me as Moriarty but as Mycroft Holmes, he’d be a perfect fit.

  • Jason

    Moriarty should definitely be played by Liam Neeson. He’s the right age and has the physical prowess to go toe to toe with Holmes. (Batman Begins, Taken)

    Also Hugh Laurie should be in the movie as well but not as Moriarty. He should definitely be saved for Mycroft, Holmes’ older and smarter brother. PERFECT.

  • Arja Van Espen

    Definitely Alan Rickman!

  • CB

    I’m a borderline Trekker and I’d pay ticket prices to see Stewart as Moriarty. I’ve seen him play camp gay on “Frasier” without any side effects aside from my cheeks hurting from laughing so hard.

    The episode of Extras where Stewart appears as himself was simply hysterical.

    I think he could pull off just about anything. Not sure I want him as Moriarty though, even though he could do it and do it damn well.

    Alan Rickman is the obvious choice… but that’s exactly why I second guess it. It’s so… obvious.

  • AC

    Hugh Laurie without a doubt. Already cast and gain a reputation for a character like Holmes (or actually Holmes) on House MD. Would be the perfect fit for the part.

  • drewryce

    The problem with using Hugh Laurie as Moriarty is that you that then you can’t use him as Mycroft Holmes.

    Edward Norton

  • y.k.

    ALAN RICKMAN.

    Not only is he perfect for the role of Moriarty, he will add a deeper atmosphere to the world of Sherlock Holmes as depicted in the movie.

    And I agree with drewryce.

  • bronxbee

    Hugh Laurie is totally the wrong shape for Mycroft Holmes… who is very, very large — that is, fat, in fact. and the books make no bones (ha!) about that. he is sendentary and reclusive by nature. stephen fry, as he was a year ago, might have come close… and with his big soulful eyes, would look more like he could be RD’s brother.

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