Sherlock Holmes 3 has been in development hell for quite some time, but recent updates from Robert Downey Jr. and other creatives may have shed some light on the threequel's real status.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, 2009's Sherlock Holmes features Downey Jr. as the titular character as he cracks a case that uncovers the secret mystical plan of Lord Henry Blackwood to gain control of Britain.
The first movie received generally positive reviews and even earned two Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction. As a result, a sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, was greenlit, and it premiered on December 16, 2011.
Sherlock Holmes 3: Is Robert Downey Jr. Making It?
Robert Downey Jr. is perhaps best known for his role as Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Aside from portraying Marvel's genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist, the actor has carved out a name for himself by showcasing incredible performances in movies like 1992's Chaplin, 2005's Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, and 2023's Oppenheimer.
One of the biggest questions in some fans' minds is whether or not Downey Jr. would make a comeback as Sherlock Holmes to cap off his own trilogy. After a long wait, an answer emerged online.
In April 2022, The Hollywood Reporter shared that Robert Downey Jr. is attached as an executive producer for two spin-off shows set in the Sherlock Holmes universe on Max, formerly known as HBO Max.
The actor will be joined by Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Homes: Game of Shadows producer Lionel Wigram.
It remains to be seen how these two shows would fit in the overall plan for the Sherlock Holmes universe, considering that some fans always wanted a third film. There have also been no updates about the spin-offs since it was announced.
Fast forward to August 2022, One Take News claimed that Sherlock Holmes 3 was supposed to begin filming at the end of that year, with it taking place in Atlanta, Georgia. However, that never happened.
Despite that, Susan Downey, the wife of Robert Downey Jr., revealed in an episode of the Unwrapped podcast in May 2023 that developing Sherlock Holmes 3 is still a "priority" for her husband, noting that they are going to do it "when it's right with the right people:"
"Here's what I can tell you. Prior to this, we had lunch together with Robert... It was a very specific topic of conversation, so yes. It is in the hopper. We're gonna do it when it's right with the right people, but it is a priority for the company and a priority for Robert."
Downey's promising update made it clear that a threequel is still in the mind of her husband. It's only a matter of when and not if a third movie will be in the works.
Sherlock Holmes 3 Release: When Will It Come Out?
Sherlock Holmes 3's release date has its own fair share of delays and uncertainties.
In May 2018, Warner Bros announced that Sherlock Holmes 3 is set to be released on December 25, 2020.
However, in March 2019, the studio confirmed that the threequel was pushed to December 22, 2021.
It would've been quite fitting to witness Downey Jr.'s comeback as the titular detective during that day since it could've marked a full decade since the release of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Unfortunately, the planned release date passed and no threequel was made. Making things worse, the movie was removed from the release calendar completely.
In June 2022, Sherlock Holmes 3 director Dexter Fletcher gave a brief update to Collider about the movie, echoing Susan Downey's sentiment about creating the movie with "the right people:"
"The pandemic derailed it. I do think it will get made. I think it has to be made. I don’t know what the timeline of that is, unfortunately, but I believe it should be. It’s fantastic. I think it’s about all the right people being at the right place, at the right time. I think it’s that."
The filmmaker then reflected on how the pandemic affected the movie's development:
"It’s one of those cruel twists of fate, where the pandemic hit and that scattered people around the world to the wind. But I know that the appetite is huge for it, and I’m sure there are other people acutely aware of that as well. But I believe it should be because it’s brilliant. I very much hope so."
The latest update about Sherlock Holmes 3 came from Guy Ritchie, the director of the first two movies.
Speaking with Collider in February 2023, Ritchie pointed out that the movie's development all depends on Robert Downey Jr., saying that "the ball's in his court:"
"The ball's in his court, so he's in charge of the script, he's in charge of the whole thing. I've moonwalked out of that until there's a time for me to get involved."
Considering the Hollywood writers' strike was just resolved and it seems that the same will likely happen with the actors' strike, it will be a while before Sherlock Holmes 3 receives a concrete update.
If Downey Jr. ends up announcing his plans to return to the drawing board for the third installment in 2024, the movie could end up landing a 2026 release window due to the stacked lineup of projects in the next two years.
Sherlock Holmes 3 Cast: Who Will Return?
Sherlock Holmes 3 wouldn't be complete without the titular detective himself, and Robert Downey Jr. is expected to be first in line to headline its cast.
Alongside Sherlock, Jude Law's Dr. John Watson, who is his partner and moral anchor, is also poised to return.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ended with Watson preparing for his honeymoon with Kelly Reilly's Mary, meaning that his romantic partner is also a good bet to return in the threequel.
In January 2020, The Illuminerdi claimed that Peaky Blinders alum Paul Anderson is in talks to join the cast of Sherlock Holmes 3 to reprise his role as Colonel Sebastian Moran from A Game of Shadows.
Moran served as a loyal ally to Jared Harris' Professor James Moriarty in the sequel.
Other characters who could make an appearance are Stephen Fry as Sherlock's brother Mycroft and Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade.
Here's a quick overview of the potential cast of Sherlock Holmes 3 so far:
- Robert Downey Jr. - Sherlock Holmes
- Jude Law - Dr. John Watson
- Kelly Reilly - Mary
- Paul Anderson - Colonel Sebastian Moran
- Stephen Fry - Mycroft
- Eddie Marsan - Inspector Lestrade
What Will Happen in Sherlock Holmes 3?
In October 2014, Robert Downey Jr. hyped up Sherlock Holmes 3 during a Q&A on Reddit, saying that they "want it to be the best of the series:"
"Yes, we have a 'Sherlock 3' in development. We want it to be the best of the series, so that's a pretty tall order."
The actor's comments then could justify why it has been taking so long for the film to be made.
To recap, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ended with the death of Professor James Moriarty and Holmes being killed off as well.
However, in a huge twist, it was confirmed that Holmes was still alive, with him appearing in Watson's office.
It remains to be seen if Moriarty is really dead. Considering that he is Holmes' arch-nemesis, it wouldn't be surprising if he faked his death as well.
Paul Anderson's return as Colonel Sebastian Moran could mean that he ends up becoming Sherlock Holmes 3's main villain, potentially seeking revenge for Moriarty's death.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, via Digital Spy, in August 2018, Jude Law confirmed that a time jump is in the cards for the third installment, noting that this would "propel the story forward:"
"We hope to propel the story forward. As always, the essence of the story is their codependency. We're going to examine – since it's been several years since we've seen them – we're going to play up the fact that they haven't seen each other for a long time either."
Given that a time jump is seemingly confirmed, it opens many storytelling opportunities for the threequel, such as a much stronger bond between Holmes and Watson as well as giving more time to Moran to enact his revenge plot.
While there's no word yet on which new characters will Sherlock Holmes 3 introduce, Susan Downey teased in an interview with Fast Company in October 2020 that there's a lot of potential for spin-offs that would arise from the third film:
"We do think there's opportunity to build it out more, to spin off some characters from the third movie. We definitely have kind of grand schemes and plans and all that, but it takes a lot. It takes a lot of coordination because again, Marvel wasn't built in a day."
Hopefully, more updates about Sherlock Holmes 3 will arrive sooner rather than later.
Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows are available for purchase on major digital platforms.