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 “wondering whether the whole thing was an elaborate hoax” [STOC] 

Today marks 17 years since one of the greatest Sherlockian hoaxes since... well, we were going to say since the Cottingley Fairies, but that wasn't strictly Sherlockian, was it?

Back in 2007, the entertainment world was in a bit of a Sherlock Holmes drought. We were 13 years past "The Cardboard Box," the final episode in the Granada Sherlock Holmes series, made popular in part by Jeremy Brett in the starring role. And it was three years before Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch would debut, and five years before Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller would make its first appearance. 

The talk of the town in 2007 was a potential movie project dreamt up by former Warner Bros. producer Lionel Wigram, who had been working on a concept for about 10 years. In March, Warner Bros. finally committed to the idea and the project was announced.

But who would they seek to don the deerstalker in this iconic role? What Hollywood star would have the screen presence combined with an ability to draw box office audiences?

Speculation had already surfaced on some entertainment news sites and discussion forums that Russell Crowe was a candidate. Many in the Sherlockian community wrinkled their noses at such a ridiculous miscasting. Crowe was hardly the right type for Holmes.

Who might be a better candidate?

We immediately thought back to 1985 and Nicholas Rowe in his appearance in Young Sherlock Holmes. His similarity in looks to Dr. Joseph Bell, the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, was uncanny, and he would have been the proper age in 2007 to play a true Sherlock Holmes.

So we whipped up some background and convincing narrative and, on April 1, posted this item: "Nicholas Rowe to Reprise His Role in Updated Sherlock Holmes Movie." 

Of course, this was years before he'd have a cameo in the Ian McKellen-starring film Mr. Holmes in 2015:

Since those innocent early(ish) days of the Internet, it has become customary to view news stories with incredulity or even cynicism. But we were operating on the bleeding edge of things, and aside from a link at the bottom of the story alerting readers to background info and the date of the byline, there was nothing to indicate foul play was afoot.

Well, the public ate it up and for a brief moment, I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere became a source for Hollywood news. 

We came clean the following day, revealing the hoax.

And Robert Downey, Jr. went on to be selected to play the role in the Guy Richie-directed Sherlock Holmes (2009) and sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011), both of which were global box office smash hits, raking in over $500 million each.

Be careful what you read out there on April Fool's Day. The game is afoot.


Gretchen Altabef said... April 1, 2024 at 4:35 PM

I believe it was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who created the greatest 1 April hoax of all time. Baring-Gold holds that the story of “The Empty House” happened on Friday 5 April 1894. Jay Finley Christ puts it 2 April 1894. But I'm not so sure.

My theory is that the day Sherlock Holmes returned to London was actually Sunday 1 April. Because of Doyle’s well known penchant for practical jokes, of course he’d bring Holmes back after 10 years dead, on the Fool’s Day.

He told us in “The Empty House”, the murder of The Honourable Ronald Adair happened Friday March 30th. I believe that because of its uniqueness and high born victim, the Coroner’s court was rushed into action. It would be held on Saturday 31st March. Details from the court printed in the London evening newspapers with extra’s for the Sunday supplements.

So as you can see, it is entirely possible that according to Doyle plan Holmes’s return in "The Empty House" could conceivably have never happened. Happy April 1, the Fools Day!

All the best,
Gretchen Altabef