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Americans Shouldn’t Play Sherlock Holmes, Says American Playing Sherlock Holmes

David Arquette talks about his new role as the iconic British detective.

David Arquette as Sherlock Holmes
David Arquette as Sherlock Holmes   Photo: Brian To

Actor David Arquette may be known for his role as Dewey Wiley in the Scream franchise or his brief stint in professional wrestling in 2000, the longtime actor wears a new hat this month, specifically the deerstalker cap of the world’s greatest super sleuth in Greg Kramer’s Sherlock Holmes at the Oriental Theatre.

In anticipation of the show’s November 24 opening, Chicago caught up with Arquette to chat about his Evanston roots, his recent social media fast, and why only British actors should play the Baker Street detective.

You’re known more for movies rather than theater. What drew you to Sherlock?

Well, this is my third ever theater show. I was Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show. And I did Female of the Species at the Geffen in 2010. But I have to say, Sherlock is much harder. Theater is a whole different learning process. You get one shot, that’s it, there’s no second take. You have to connect. Plus with movies, especially indies, you never know if anybody’s ever going to see some of them. With theater, the audience is right there. It makes you feel alive.And I’m convinced after working on this that really, only Englishmen should play Sherlock.

Wait—what? You’re playing Sherlock Holmes. You’re not English.

Yeah, I know. And I love the show and I think audiences will love it. But having done this now, I think it’s like with playing James Bond. Americans just shouldn’t. There’s something about being English that I can’t really describe, but the role kind of demands it.

Well, you’re not British, but how did you prepare to play Holmes?

I’ve read all of Conan Doyle’s books. All of them. Well, listened to them on tape. Read by an Englishman. I figured that would help me with the accent. And Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary) is one of my best friends, so I talk to him about it a lot. He’s a brilliant Sherlock.

Does your Sherlock have all the iconic Sherlock accouterments—the deerstalker hat, and the opium pipe and the houndstooth cape?

This is a humorous interpretation of Sherlock. If you come expecting a straight, serious Sherlock—that’s not really what we’re doing. We have winks and nods to the classic Sherlock, so yes, I wear the hat. And I say, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” But it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, a hat tip to all the Sherlock traditions.

You swore off social media for a while earlier this fall. No Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or anything. Why?

I’m back on now. But I stopped for a while because people can be so mean and it was really getting to me. When they’re anonymous, they feel like they can say anything they want. And some of the stuff out there. People don’t realize sometimes when they’re typing away that they’re saying things about an actual human being who can be hurt.

Did something instigate you signing off for a while?

I take a lot of things really personally. And it got to the point where it was upsetting and I wanted to get away from all of the things I was reading about myself. I’m an actor. All I want is to entertain people. To maybe make them smile. I’ve learned you have to develop a thick skin, do your best, and carry on.

You lived in Evanston as a really little kid. Did Chicago make an early impression?

Absolutely. Playing the Oriental is kind of like a homecoming, especially this time of year. My family was in Evanston when I was ages two to four. Some of the earliest things I can remember are the store windows downtown during the holidays. Seeing the Christmas displays and being just mesmerized. I’m excited to be back. The fan base here, it’s sincere. When they like you, they let you know. And oh my god, the theater scene here. It’s obviously epic.

Have you had a chance to see any of it?

I was here in September doing press and I had one night off so I did a lot of research, read all the reviews I could find and then I picked this show that was out on the–what do you guys call it? The wharf?

Navy Pier?

Right. Not the wharf, the Pier. I saw Ride the Cyclone. It was incredible. I was blown away. Absolutely blown away.

Any unsolved mysteries in your own life you’d care to have Sherlock solve?

I think all of life is kind of a mystery.

GO Sherlock Holmes runs Nov. 24 through 29 at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St.; broadwayinchicago.com; $27–$87.

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