Robert Downey Jr.'s allegedly gay 'Sherlock Holmes.' Seriously?!

Monday night on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” Robert Downey Jr. stopped by to promote Sherlock Holmes, in theaters on Friday, and bantered with Dave about the possibility that Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective and his long-suffering sidekick Dr. Watson were more than just mates. The banter went as follows:

Letterman: “Now, from what I recall, there was always the suggestion that there was a different level of relationship between Sherlock and Dr. Watson.”
Downey: “You mean that they were homos…”
Letterman: [Laughs.] “Well…”
Downey: “That is what you’re saying?”
Letterman: “In a manner of speaking, yes…that they were closer than just out solving crimes. It’s sort of touched on in the film, but he has a fiancée, so we’re not certain. Is that right?”
Downey: “She could be a beard. Who knows?”
Paul Shaffer: “What are they, complete screamers? Is that what you’re saying?”
Downey: “Why don’t we observe the clip and let the audience decide if he just happens to be a very butch homosexual. Which there are many. And I’m proud to know certain of them.”

According to one published report, execs at Sherlock’s studio Warner Bros. were concerned that the star’s coy joking sets the wrong perception for the film, i.e. conditioning the audience to view Downey’s Holmes and Jude Law’s Watson as lovers. [UPDATE (Wednesday afternoon): Warner Bros. declined comment on Downey’s remarks, but a source close to the film insists studio execs are not upset about the actor’s Letterman appearance, which we’ve embedded after the jump.]

This isn’t first time Downey has made this crack, either. Earlier this year, the actor caused a stir in the British press with similar comments. Which is part of the reason my reaction to the “controversy” can be summed up in one word: Seriously?! With a little clever shtick, Downey has been able to create a small media stir around his film at a time when James Cameron’s Avatar is dominating the cultural conversation. Hey! Do you think that’s exactly why Downey decided to get all provocative in the first place—to push his latest very expensive franchise flick through the clutter of Avatar blah blah blah? Nah, that would be cynical! Maybe Downey was trying to accomplish something more interesting and noble. Like, what if by spinning Holmes as gay, he’s trying to get people to confront their own attitudes and biases about homosexuality, the look and form of movie heroes, and… and… oh, never mind. That sounds pretty far-feteched, too.

I know a number of people who’ve seen Downey’s Holmes in the trailers for the film and have noticed that his characterization has a bit of swish to it. But I haven’t heard anyone say that they would not see the film because of it. I would also note that people said the same thing about Johnny Depp’s turn in Pirates of the Caribbean, and that movie did just fine at the box office.

For some reason, anytime Hollywood decides to give us a male dynamic duo, gay speculation must ensue. See: Batman and Robin and Kirk and Spock. Heck, the Stiller/Wilson Starsky and Hutch remake turned this bit into a whole movie. What’s up with that, anyway? Not that it would bother me if Downey and Law are playing Holmes and Watson as closeted boyfriends, not just BFFs. I’m open minded. In fact, given how many Holmes/Watson stories have been told over the years is so many different media and mediums, I’m certainly in the market for a bold new take. But what do you think, Popwatchers? Do you think Warner Bros. should be legitimately worried for their film? Does the prospect of Downey playing Sherlock as wink-winky gay strike you as so egregiously (Baker Street) irregular that you’d steer clear of the movie–and does that strike you as intriguing? Comment below.


Comments (267 total) Add your comment
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  • lagitha

    Everytime that I’ve seen the ads for this movie, I think, “Hmm..diowney seems to be playing him as somewhat fey. Interesting.” I wouldn’t be surprised at all to know that Downey had approached Holmes as gay.

    • Stacy

      I’m more interested!

      • Mike

        Nice, James. Call for a boycott of a movie where someone makes a joke about a character MAYBE being gay. And Christians wonder why people can’t stand us, and think we’re intolerant. Why to reinforce that stereotype.

    • James

      All Christians should boycott this film. Not that homos are bad people. But I’m sick of Hollywood gay propaganda, trying to tear down iconic characters.

      • Kat

        I am Christian and I don’t see a thing wrong with homosexuals. Don’t be such a bigot. Christ wasn’t.

      • Kyle

        Very charming comment James. Glad to see that you think iconic characters must be heterosexual. We “homos” just want to make everybody gay and destroy everything Hollywood has. Very charming. Also nice to see that you can’t be Christian and accept homosexuality…guess my whole family has to reject me now!

      • Bobby’s Robot

        Oh James, you’re a stitch!

      • Kristen

        So being a heroin addict is OK but being gay is not?

      • Pekay

        You’re a flippin’ idiot.

      • pete

        …and you seriously wonder why Christians have a bad reputation among ANYone, let alone the LGBT crowd. Jesus.

      • Mark

        I think the intelligent public should boycott bigoted Christians like you.

      • AshleyG

        Your comment reveals your ignorance, think before you type please!

      • Kiki

        All Christians are not intolerant, homophobic bigots. Please do not pretend to speak for all of us, because you do NOT. Some of us remember that Jesus said the greatest commandments were to love God and to love your neighbors as yourself. Bigotry fits in neither of those two commandments.

      • strickens_girl

        James, what exactly do you think the gay agenda in Sherlock Holmes would be? That an intelligent, strong, spirit man might be gay? Shocking! What is Hollywood thinking?!?!? /end sarcasm

      • Whatever

        I’m tired of those who comment and use their religion to back up their racism, homophobia and intolerance. I’m Christian too, you just look for an excuse to be a dick.

      • David

        Good comment James. I agree, iconic figures should not be portrayed as homosexual. Sorry, but a Christian follows the Bible, the Bible shows very clearly homosexuality is wrong, it’s morals doesn’t change, and neither should we to accept the unnatural.

      • Sylvie

        Hollywood’s gay propoganda, huh? And why exactly should all Christians boycott this “propoganda” if they themselves do not agree? Frankly, your statment upsets me because you’re rejecting a movie because of the idea that this movie may potentially be slightly homosexual, and then contradict yourself by saying that you don’t think being gay is wrong. Have you seen the movie? No. So you wouldn’t know that the only way this can be construed as homosexual is if you observe the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as one of two male lovers, whilst the doctor is engaged to be married, instead of the Victorian version of “The Odd Couple” which entails two men living together, with one being particularly messy, and the other picking up, essentially taking on the role played by the wife in a stereotypical heterosexual marriage. With your suggestion to boycott this movie due to your disapproval of Hollywood’s “gay propoganda” you subsequently stating that it is a homosexually inclined movie, which it is not. RDJ may joke that it is, and that is because the original stories could also be contrued to be homosexually inclined by the author Sir Arthur Connon Doyle. But in the end, the movie lacks the “sex” part of “homosexual”. It is simply a movie that demonstrates the original plotline of the stories where two men lived together. So stop being such an outspoken homophobe and actually watch the movie before you start telling people they should not watch it.

        On another note, Hollywood is tackling the changing of the way relationships are being viewed. Moviemakers are seeing that there is more than just the simple “One man, one woman, they fall in love and get married” relationship. As the times become more liberal when it comes to heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality, movies must also depict that in order to keep the public entertained. The public gets tired of seeing movies that they can figure out how the relationship will work out within the first thirty minutes of the show. This is their way of expanding the horizons. It all depends on what the public demands, so in the end, there are a lot more people out there that would like to see to men falling in love and kissing on screen than you, so you might as well accept the changing of the times. There was a time when a man and his wife would only display public affection one time in there life, and that was a kiss on their wedding day, as part of the customary vows and as a way to seal their arrangment, much like having sex on their wedding night. Nowadays, however, a couple will kiss publically whenever they feel like it. The world is changing around you, so do yourself a favor and either keep your opinions to yourself and those you know will agree with you, or trying keeping an open mind, because no one likes to talk to someone stuck in the past.

      • Ricky

        Why don’t you just shut your bitter, stupid mouth.

      • Interesting

        No, Christ wasn’t a biggot. But, condeming a sinful act isn’t being one either. The bible CLEARLY labels homosexual offenders and homosexuality as a sin and detestable – NOT AN ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLE!

      • Steven Mosher

        I feel sorry for you.

      • brigid

        no one should boycott the film.
        wow he might just be saying it for jokes.imean robert downey jr is like that
        wow!

      • Zoe

        You know what thats fine by us :) we don’t want you at the film if you’ll be offended by it. You should make a statement by sitting at home, and I bet your boycott will be a massive blow to the profit this film makes, and I think the Hollywood producers will really sit up and take notice about their degrading morals and gay propaganda, and will finally learn their lesson ;-)
        Lol enjoy watching reruns of Eastenders ;-P

      • natalia

        Umm, you guys are idiots. CLEARLY SHERLOCK HOLMES AND WATSON were gay! IF you know the ORIGINAL story, you wouldn’t be saying this!

    • CDT

      Does anyone remember a certain gentleman named Johnny Depp who did a little movie called Pirates of the Caribbean? Jack Sparrow was the most effeminate, and the best, pirate ever. Don’t knock it if it’s funny, and if it works. Trust in Downey.

      • a

        actually, depp modelled jack sparrow after keith richards (kind of a jerk, but not gay) who later starred as his father. also, i didn’t see anything effeminate about sparrow, just highly eccentric, as planned. check your gaydar.

      • jk

        Keith Richards isn’t gay, but he certainly could be described as effeminate. Just like Jack Sparrow.

      • Ked

        Tch, a, you clearly didn’t read the interview with Depp commenting about how Sparrow likely became lonely on some of those long boat rides and found the cabin boy to be quite attractive.

      • Ru

        I thought Depp confirmed somewhere that Sparrow was intended to be bisexual, but I could be wrong.

      • brigid

        yea!

    • Telly B

      “clever schtick”?? Being homophobic and using words like “homo” is considered clever now??? Ugh. Another reason not to see this film, Downey Jr is such a jerk, glad that AVATAR is going to kill this film…

      • Annette

        He didn’t use the word HOMO.. he was starting to say or did say.. homosexual .. notice the “…” before Letterman laughs.
        Besides, the term “homo” as an abbreviated version of Homosexual is not a put down as long as the word isn’t used in a mocking context, it is an abreviated form of the word.
        Avatar and Holmes are two completely different film genres.. ridiculous.

    • Celia

      Gay or Straight, he’s still sexy and this movie will be getting my money.

    • Kristen

      Apparently you have seen different trailers that I have. I think Holmes is kicking butt way more than Nigel Rathborne ever did. I am hoping for lots of partially nude scenes for Downey. He has aged EXTREMELY well, especially considering his personal histroy.

      • Juniper

        I believe it’s BASIL RATHBONE, but I am also looking forward to this movie! One of my best pals and I always used to pretend we were Sherlock Holmes and Watson (I was always Watson), and we even dressed up as them for Halloween in 5th grade! It didn’t matter that we were girls… it also shouldn’t matter if the characters were gay, which they aren’t. Get over it.

    • jesse

      He’s not playing him as “gay.” He’s playing him as “English.” Sure, there’s not much difference, but still…

      • Monty

        Oh come on now. You’re bound to get in a fight with a troll saying things like that. I’m English. I’m also gay, but I am only too aware that there is an enormous hetrosexual male and female population in my country.
        I think Jude Law is the more attractive man of the two, and I personally think it perfectly harmless to have a section of the audience viewing the film with a bit of a homerotic twist, if nothing but for the laughs. It’s clearly written in the script to have innuendo pointing in that direction, but the audience ought to be able to decide if they think the comments are serious or not. Who cares if they’re gay or not?

  • jason

    What does “gay” actually mean these days? It’s the most abused, distorted, commercialized word around. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. It was a word that was “invented” back in the 60’s but which has now lost its meaning.

    • Kelper

      THIS!!!

      • Monty

        This is rapidly approaching “The F Word” South Park episode when f*g was used as a derogatory term for annoying bikers, not as demeaning to homosexuals. Of course, if you were interested in Harley’s but had not purchased one, you were “bikecurious”

    • Sylvie

      The word “gay” was actually at term synonymous with “happy.” Much like “queer” means “strange.” I agree that it has been stretched far beyond its original meaning, but I do use it as another term to mean “homosexual.” It’s just something I’ve been around for years, so that’s how I use it, but it is not meant to be as a hateful nor degrading term. It’s almost like calling a carnival worker a “carnie” or a small man who races horses a “jockey”, it is simply a term of the times.

  • nicole

    oh does it really matter? it looks entertaining

  • Cy

    I’m sure RDJ was just joking, since we know how homophobic and machismo-obsessed Hollywood action flicks are. If they were smart enough to capitalize on the “slashable” potential of a re-imagined Holmes (who was always somewhat misogynistic in the original fiction anyway–so unsurprised to see they brought Irene Adler in as a beard for the film) and Watson, they’d have the kind of devoted fangirl following that made things like Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean merchandising giants. Ah, Hollywood… always the last to pick up on fan sub-culture trends.

    • funny

      slashable…your fandom is showing

  • Isabella

    I don’t know why people care so much. Why do people use and take the word ‘gay’ as an insult? It’s like, “How dare you say they’re gay!” Seriously, since when was it a bad word?

    • Kristen

      I don’t see it as an insult at all.
      That being said, Sherlock Holmes is a classic, and I’d be extremely pissed if they completely changed the relationship between the two main characters.
      That’s why people care.

      • jordan

        I agree. People can speculate all they want, but Holmes/Watson belongs in fan fiction–not the actual stories.

      • sbwm

        My vote is to keep with the classic.

      • tex

        but holmes and watson relationship always had homoerotic undertones. thats keeping with the classics.

      • jason.

        Well, Jordan, judging by the trailers I’ve seen so far, this has little to do with “classic” Holmes anyway. Much more like an action film called “Sherlock Holmes”, really.

        If they’re going to be daring, I say go all the way Daring. If the movie (or the fandom, really) want to do Queer Theory subtext (or, better still, make it a bit more overt) then good for them.

        Maybe Holmes and Watson’s inability to profess their love in Victorian England means that this movie will be “Brokeback Mountain” for people who don’t want to be bored half to death.

      • Jenny

        Seriously? What about anything that you saw in the previews implied that this movie was going to be reverent to the tone and content of the source material? And /this/ is the “problem” of breaking cannon?

  • JayMar

    Gay was invented? It originally meant happy (which is something faggots are NOT). It simply a twisting of a good word to denote something else. Like many other words over-used in our vocabulary.

    • Juniper

      Wow, who peed in your cocoa this morning? Hateful much?

    • FrankSF

      Hey, jackass, I’m gay and also a very happy man. So take your stupid “faggot” statement and shove it up next to your brain.

    • BT

      Wow, you attempt to take the tone of someone with knowledge in the origins of words. You failed. Gay was a term that meant happy while faggot was a bundle of sticks more than likely referring to kindling used to build a fire. To be queer was to be strange. Homosexual, or homo for short, is the not even exactly as it seems. Homo- being latin for ‘human being’ or ‘man’ (gender neutral form of the word)

      • Carolina

        Actually homosexual comes from the Ancient Greek word ‘homos’ meaning ‘the same, alike’, whereas heterosexual comes from ‘heteros’ meaning ‘different’.

  • jeremy

    First of all, the interview that I saw happened last week, not last night. Secondly, Downey Jr. was referring to a comment that Letterman made about implied homosexuality- he never made the statement himself that Holmes and Watson ARE “homos”.

  • Louise

    Is being gay a sexual orientation or an advertising angle? Why aren’t lesbians ‘gay’? Are lesbians with the wrong agency? Could they be “made gay” through better PR? One thing for sure — ‘gay’ pays better than lesbian.

    • info

      Hmm…never thought of this..interestging observation.

    • Delayne

      LOL! You’re right – ‘gay’ is much more fabulous than the word ‘lesbian’ – I much prefer thinking of myself as a gay gal.

    • yawp

      Lesbian has too many syl-la-bles; it’s a mouthful. ;)

  • Ceballos

    Lemme get this straight (i.e. non-gay):

    Warner Bros., the studio that released ab-tastic “300” and Joel Schumacher’s nipply, rubber-butted “Batman and Robin” (, is worried about “Sherlock Holmes” being too gay based on a silly joke Robert Downey Jr. made?

    Riiiiight.

    • cole9219

      GREAT point. 300 is probably the gayest movie of the decade!!!! Men in skimpy leather clothes jumping all over each other??? Come on. This is the gayest thing since wrestling!

      • fart

        you are seriously limited.

      • Half a brain

        Really, fart? Because I’m a televangelist, and a proud republican, and that movie was too gay even for me.

      • Juniper

        Hahaha!!!

  • mike

    Holmes and Watson never had a relationship sexual or otherwise. They were made-up characters and never existed in real life despite what a lot of people think.

    • Brooke

      If you’ve been hanging out with people who thought Sherlock was a real character, you need new friends. Who do they think Arthur Conan Doyle is?

      • carlyle

        Clearly you have never heard of The Game.

    • Desmo

      Oh and here comes mike with the holier than thou attitude. Really mike are Holmes and Watson made up characters? Wow! And here I was thinking they were actually out solving cases in London, how silly I feel now.

  • Andrea Brown

    regarding a gay Sherlock who cares any more as long as it’s a good story and the movie is done well and if Sherlock and Watson want to hook up I say go for it!

    • unicornwasp

      agreed!

  • Coco

    Whether or not Sherlock and Watson have a closeted relationship is the least of my concerns. From the action packed previews I’ve seen this past month or so, it would appear that this will be yet another “smash ‘em, bash ‘em, blast ‘em” full tilt boogie adventure flick that Hollywood has decided we all want, ever since the very first Indiana Jones. And sadly, the tremendous appeal of the Sherlock Holmes stories all these years has been his cerebral approach to criminal analysis, using inductive reasoning to solve crimes. No explosions needed.

    This one looks like Victorian Rambo, not Mind over Matter.

    And that’s what matters! Not who is sleeping with whom.

    • Taylor

      I’m worried about this too, but in the original books, Holmes was an accomplished bare knuckle fighter. I’m sure the film will have action and a good case to solve.

    • Chelsey

      I couldn’t agree more. I’m already hesitant about seeing the film. I don’t think RDJ was a good pick for Sherlock in the first place, nor Jude Law for Watson. I wish they would have stuck to the book for this one instead of throwing in a lot of sex appeal and action. A bit of action I can handle, but there was no romance on Sherlock’s part in the stories. I’d love a modern version that plays with the books, although I absolutely LOVE the versions with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

  • Jay Arr

    What a fantasy…Holmes and Watson, more than best buds! Now I really need to see how Downey and Law manage that titillation.

  • Dude

    No thanks, I’ll just skip this one. Tired of Hollywoods reshaping past characters.

    Tired of leftys reshaping social norms, tired of Hollywood.

    Watch TCM, the movies are way better.

    • look in the mirror first

      hey i love TCM as much as anybody. But i have to respond to your comment re: “leftys reshaping social norms”. such simplistic thinking that reveals that you aren’t very insightful. there is no such thing as “social norms”. what you are describing is intolerance of others behavior. and as long as it’s behavior YOU approve of, you consider it normal and inoffensive. But because everyone has individual personalities and are not clones of one another, what is inoffensive varies from person to person. You don’t have to like everyone or everything that others do. I’m sure you do something that someone out there would find offensive

      • TS

        Sherlock Holmes as written by Doyle wasn’t Gay nor was it ever implied that he was that’s why people are upset. If the character started off that way no one would care. Case in point the gay FBI agent from Boondock Saints..no one cared that he was a flamer because that’s the way the character was written. Changing Holmes and Watson’s sexual orientation is silly and pointless because it brings nothing interesting to the story. As a matter of fact it would detract from it.

    • l.d.

      All us lefties are just waiting for you old righties to die. The meek shall inherit the earth. :)

      • Laura

        And this is the problem with too many lefties. The meek may inherit the Earth, but if the lefties don’t get and do something now, there won’t be any Earth left to inherit. And I’m seeing this on Boxing day, no matter how bushed I am from working at 5:30am, because it looks like a good movie. Good fun, good action…who cares if Holmes and Watson are a litte too close?

      • CatLover

        Nice try, implying that anyone who doesn’t think like you is old and in the way. There are plenty of young normal people around too!

    • mscisluv

      I thought “reshaping past characters” was the point of film making? This is just one perspective on the literary character of Sherlock Holmes; I’m sure there are others that you might prefer if you’re unhappy with this version.

      • Brooke

        I wonder if Dude protested the movie Young Sherlock Holmes. Probably not, since Young Sherlock had a *female* love interest.

    • Lala

      Gee, if I can recall correctly, there were “lefties” making TCM movies too…some of which were even blacklisted or threatened to be blacklisted by a certain “rightie” senator from Wisconsin! And let’s not forget that the term “gay” was first spoken in popular culture to mean homosexual in the 1938 film “Bringing Up Baby”. Oh the good old days! Clearly Hollywood has changed sooooo much from what you’re pretending it was originally.

      • C

        Seriously….Rock Hudson in any of your TCM movies? Or have you seen movies with James Dean? Maybe you’ve seen to Kill a Mockingbird (stupid lefties making moral movies about racism in small Hollywood)….Mr. Smith Goes to Washington….or, maybe when they replay Gone with the Wind you’ll remember how lefties in Hollywood gave an African American actress an Oscar! Before African Americans were given much in this country….seriously Dude….Hollywood has always been full of ‘lefties’ as many creative types tend to be.

  • Jessica

    Firstly, Guy Ritchie talked about suggesting some homoeroticism in the movie while it was still in production. Secondly, any ardent fan of Doyle’s work would roll their eyes at the notion that Holmes and Watson were lovers; well, I do, at any rate. Not because I am homophobic, but because their friendship was the cornerstone of the stories and spinning it as sexual cheapens it. Why do the close friendships of fiction of any incarnation (between two men, two women, or a man and a woman) have to have some underlying sexual component? Why is platonic love simply not enough?

    • Anna

      But there are plenty of fans who HAVE posited a homosexual relationship between Holmes and Watson. Which is not to say that it is the definitive reading, but it is A reading, and just as worthy of being explored as the heteronormative one. Maybe Conan Doyle conceived of the characters as entirely straight, but interpretation does not entirely rely on the author’s intentions. What an author inadvertently says, or how his work is reinterpreted by a new generation is just as interesting.

      In any case, how likely is it that Conan Doyle COULD have explicitly written Holmes or Watson as homosexual? I might be wrong, but I don’t think that would have been an option at the time of writing, for the popular hero of a detective series. But if you look at how Sherlock Holmes IS written – a man who defies social norms, societal expectations, a drug user, a loner except for his close male companion, almost entirely uninterested in women…Conan Doyle’s writing ‘queers’ Sherlock Holmes (which is not necessarily related to a canonical expression of sexual desire for men). Personally, I don’t think being open to the possibility of a sexual component to the relationship of Holmes and Watson ‘cheapens’ it – I think it’s great that there’s space for people who have been generally locked out and ‘othered’ in fiction, to see themselves reflected in a popular heroic duo. I am sure even some ‘ardent’ fans would agree :)

    • TheYaoiButterfly

      What Jessica said isn’t true. I’m an ardent fan of the original stories by Doyle, have been for over 10 years now. Granted that when I first started reading the stories when I was young I didn’t think about that kind of stuff. but now that I’m older and a fan of slash (homosexual relationships) I find it fairly easy to interpret it as Holmes being gay. When I look back on it now and read it, I can see many times where there was a possibility of the two of them being together in a relationship. I can’t say whether or not Doyle intended it to be that way…most likely not considering the time period that he was writing it (unless he was a closet gay himself). But that’s the great thing movies and books is that they don’t have to be interpreted how the author intended them. A speaker who came to my english class last semester who’s a writer himself said the exact same thing. How the person reading the book (or watching the movie) interprets what they’re reading (or watching) is just as important as the author’s original intention, if not more important.

    • Berna

      Jessica, I agree. Why do friends always have to be more than friends? You can’t change a literary legend. Sherlock does not have a sexual relationship with Watson.. Surprisingly, not everyone needs sex to be fulfilled, despite what Hollywood tells you.

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