In Enola Holmes, Netflix’s new late-summer blockbuster, Peaky Blinders star Sam Claflin takes on the well-trod role of Mycroft Holmes, the stuffy elder brother of iconic sleuth Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill), despite being three years his junior IRL.
However he feels that the disparity in age helped with the on-screen family dynamic, with Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown rounding out the cerebral family as their younger sister.
“I felt somewhat ashamed to be cast as Henry Cavill’s older brother!” Claflin tells Yahoo Movies UK. “He’s a very handsome man, isn’t he? And it’s amazing working with somebody at the peak of their career. Having Superman and Eleven as my younger siblings made me feel slightly inferior, so that added to the flavour of the character, if anything.”
Filmed on location across London in 2019, and launching on Netflix today, Enola Holmes sees the title character investigating the mysterious disappearance of her mother (Helena Bonham Carter). Claflin tells Yahoo it was ‘a joyous set to be on’, not least because it gave him plenty of time for Love Island banter with Brown, who took delight in schooling Cavill on the ITV2 reality show.
“It was quite a sight to behold, watching Henry get his head around the ins and outs of the latest gossip from Love Island,” Claflin says. “I’ve dabbled a little bit in Love Island – it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure – so I could keep up with Millie but Henry is so far removed from that world, it was quite funny to watch.”
Based on Nancy Springer’s six-book series, there’s plenty of scope for Enola Holmes to become a franchise for Netflix, and Claflin says he’s ‘100%’ up for returning for more, if only to hang out with with Cavill and Brown again.
“The hope is definitely there for me and I’ll keep my fingers firmly crossed,” he adds.
Read on for our full Q&A with Sam Claflin to learn more about Mycroft’s lustrous facial hair, and his approach to playing Mycroft Holmes.
Yahoo Movies UK: Had you ever read any of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, or watched the TV series or movies about Sherlock Holmes?
Sam Claflin: I have to confess, I have seen the Guy Ritchie versions and I have seen snippets of the BBC version, but I’ve never ventured back as far as the source material. But I think that’s why I loved being a part of this and what drew me to it. I knew it was very different to the other versions, which have been so well received in the main, so it didn’t feel like we were re-hashing exactly the same story, the same set up or the same characters. It felt very fresh and I think that’s why personally I was so drawn to the project.
With a character like Mycroft Holmes, people feel they know him reasonably well – although not as well as his younger brother. How did it feel to be playing a character like that?
I think you can easily feel quite pressured and anxious about stepping into the shoes filled by so many wonderful actors before me, but having not religiously researched the part or watched every performance of it before, it felt like I was doing my own thing. I never put myself under that much pressure, honestly. I just worked with what was given to me in our version of the story and what anyone else could throw my way.
Watch the Enola Holmes trailer below...
I always try not to copy or imitate, I just try to bring my own stamp to it. I think there was more pressure on Henry [Cavill] stepping into the shoes of Sherlock and he’s done a great job. Because this is such a contrasting version of a classic story, it didn’t feel like we were doing anything that had been done before.
Mycroft is always supposed to be more intelligent than Sherlock, but we don’t see a lot of that in Enola Holmes - was it a deliberate decision to show him in a different light to what we would expect?
It’s touched upon, but the truth is in our version of the storyline he’s a traditionalist, a man who likes things to continue the way they have been. He doesn’t have the foresight that his younger brother and his younger sister have or the progressive nature of their personalities, seeing the world moving forward. It’s almost life experience versus intelligence and I think sometimes intelligence doesn’t hold you in good stead.
I think we wanted to touch more on the uniqueness of the family set up and how competitive, bitter and jealous Mycroft was of his younger brother’s fame and fortune. We focussed more on other aspects of his personality, aside from the intelligence, although we all know the intelligence is there. So it was quite fun exploring that and myself and Henry had the chance to meet before we started filming and work out how and where we were going to be competitive with one another.
Typical brothers competing with each other, then?
Exactly. Both Henry and I are from big families with plenty of brothers and a lot of rivalry so we were able to share experiences and bring that to the table, which was a lot of fun.
So what was it like having Henry Cavill as your younger brother, even if only for short time?
I felt somewhat ashamed to be cast as Henry Cavill’s older brother! He’s a very handsome man, isn’t he, and it’s amazing working with somebody at the peak of their career. Having Superman and Eleven as my younger siblings made me feel slightly inferior, so that added to the flavour of the character, if anything.
Myself and Henry have nearly crossed paths a few times and came close to working together once or twice before, so when you know of someone and you have mutual friends, it feels like you’re already friends and family before you get going. I’d never worked with anybody who knew Millie so it was a pleasant surprise watching somebody who you’ve seen on television but heard nothing much about as a person. Seeing her is just amazing. She’s amazing to work with – and for – as a producer, and she’s just a boundless ball of energy. She’s just incredible.
One of the Sherlock Holmes regulars that we don’t see in Enola Holmes is Doctor Watson and there were times when it seemed that Mycroft was almost fulfilling part of that role as well. Did you feel the same?
Sherlock needs a sidekick, someone to keep him in line and, as the older brother, Mycroft would easily take that role. He is technically the one in charge, or left in charge, so I see what you mean by that, although I hadn’t really thought of it in that way until now, but he does fill that void.
You obviously enjoyed working with Millie Bobby Brown. She’s had such a meteoric rise and she must have been the youngest person on the set. Did that mean she gave you a bit of an education in teen culture?
She definitely was schooling Henry Cavill on Love Island in the trailer and it was quite a sight to behold, watching Henry get his head around the ins and outs of the latest gossip from Love Island. I’ve dabbled a little bit in Love Island – it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure – so I could keep up with Millie but Henry is so far removed from that world, it was quite funny to watch.
So you were being the big brother and you were ahead of him again, weren’t you?
(Laughs) Yes, I did the research just so that I could chat to Millie! We shared stories and basically filled our days just trying to make each other laugh. It genuinely felt like we were family and we’d known each other for years, and when you’re coming in quite late to a project like this and feeling unprepared, it’s amazing to work with people who are very similar to yourself and approach the work very similarly.
You said you came to the project late. Does that mean somebody else was cast in the role and then it didn’t happen?
I wasn’t too late. I was away, I was abroad finishing something else so for me it felt like I was coming to it very late because I didn’t have a huge amount of time to prepare, like being able to sit with the script and do a bit of research into the time and the place and the people that I was rubbing shoulders with and learning about Mycroft’s political leanings. That was quite eye opening.
You do sport a very splendid moustache in the film. Was it all your own work?
It didn’t start as all my own, but by the end it definitely was. Because I was finishing something else, I had a bit of stubble and they wanted me to have a moustache because we knew that Sherlock was going to be clean and beautiful.
Read more: Sam Claflin praises Line of Duty
They decided to dress me up! I didn’t have time to grow it fully before we started filming so they added some extra hair to begin with, but by the end of the shoot it was all me, all my growth.
That’s impressive, although there were times on Instagram this summer when you were sporting quite a lot of facial hair.
(Laughs) That was not my choice! It was for another job that I was about to start filming and the whole pandemic started and I came home and the production team told me they weren’t sure when we were going to start filming again, so if I could just grow my hair and my facial hair... That was when we thought we were going to come back at some point soon, but when things weren’t looking any clearer, they said they weren’t going to re-start until early next year, so I was free to shave my face, and I thought “thank gosh!” There was a huge sigh of relief. I’d eaten more of my facial hair than I had food by the time I shaved it off.
The film is great fun to watch. Was is just as much fun for you to make it?
Yes. You always look up to the people at the top, and we had Harry Bradbeer [director] and Millie Bobby Brown showing us the way and when you’ve got two very fun, energetic and happy faces staring you in the face every day, it’s hard not to have that same positive feeling. So it was a joyous set to be on and a great group of people who were very hard working but at the same time were able to have a lot of fun. One of the reasons why I love doing these types of films, even when you’re having to portray a more villainous character, is that it’s always the more enjoyable knowing there’s this positive atmosphere every day. It makes it easier to go to work.
So does that mean you’d be up for doing a sequel – or maybe more than one, because there’s six books in the series?
Yes. It’s only something I learned about after I got involved, but I’d 100% be up for taking this on to the next stage. It was such a joy to be part of and I loved working closely with Henry, I loved working with Harry, I loved working with Millie. The hope is definitely there for me and I’ll keep my fingers firmly crossed.
As long as people enjoy it and I think that Netflix is an amazing home for it as a film because I think that usually it means that more eyes will get to it and that’s what’s important to me. I want people to enjoy the work that I make.
So you think a sequel could be on the cards?
It’s hard to know. It’s not my decision, unfortunately, although I wish it was sometimes. But it’s out of my hands. I’d definitely be interested in rocking the moustache for a follow up.
When we last spoke, which was about a year ago, you’d just heard that you were going to be starring alongside Casey Affleck in You Belong To Me. That’s all been filmed, so have you any idea when we’re likely to see that?
I have absolutely no idea when we’ll see it – I’d love to see it as well. We finished filming at the end of January and I’m hugely proud of the piece. I loved working with Casey, who’s a huge talent, and Michelle Monaghan... I’m very excited for the project and I hope it will be as well received as it could be. Fingers crossed it’s soon. I’m not sure how much I can tell you about it, but what I can say is that it’s almost a modern day Cape Fear type of thriller
Enola Holmes is streaming exclusively on Netflix now.