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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Can two actors play best friends in one story and enemies in another without driving fans of both projects crazy?

Earlier this week came the news that Benedict Cumberbatch has been cast as Smaug the dragon in The Hobbit. Today we get our first look at Martin Freeman as Bilbo. The two actors, of course, costarred as, respectively, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in Steven Moffat’s recent (and awesome) series Sherlock. And so comes an intriguing question, from reader Jan_Willem:

The casting of Cumberbatch creates some weird interference, as his foil Bilbo will be played by Freeman.

As the Guardian so wittily quips: “Elementary, my dear Bilbo … Benedict Cumberbatch swaps pipe-smoking for fire-breathing in The Hobbit.”

This led me to wonder whether this casting decision would interfere with the enjoyment of those Hobbit viewers who also follow the modern-day Sherlock Holmes series. Would it take them out of the story or just add a little spice to the proceedings?

More generally: In which cases does celebrity voice casting help or hinder a film? And what is the impact of the roles or jobs with which these actors are (strongly) associated?

Let’s boil that down: Can two actors play best friends in one story and enemies in another without driving fans of both projects crazy? Consider, too, that we’ll be getting more Sherlock soon.

(BTW: I swear I’m gonna finally write about Sherlock soon.)

(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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