Emma Thompson And 12 Other Actresses Who Would Be Awesome As Sherlock Holmes

Emma Thompson London Film Festival Closing Night Gala London England October 20 2013(Photo: Awais/Pacific Coast News)

There’s nothing pop culture likes more than recasting iconic roles. Everyone who watched The Sound of Music Live knows about how wrong that can go. But what about going in an entirely new direction with classic stories by switching the gender of the actor? Emma Thompson wants to see more “gender-blind” casting, and she says she would like to play a female Sherlock Holmes.

“I have always been a huge Sherlock Holmes fan,” the star of Saving Mr Banks has noted. “I would love to play a character like that, but that’s a problem if you’re a female. I’m always likely to be overlooked for not being male.”

I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking she would make a great Sherlock Holmes. It’s rather surprising that at this point no one’s experimented with a female Sherlock. He’s the most-portrayed literary character in film and TV, yet he’s always played by a man. And telling a story about a female detective doesn’t count. I’m talking about having a female actor take on Sherlock’s character traits and dramatizing the plots from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories.

So naturally we decided to flex our casting muscles and offer up twelve more actresses who could play Sherlock Holmes in their sleep. There are lots of portrayals to look at for inspiration, most notably the 21st century ones, like Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr. and Jonny Lee Miller. There are plenty of directions to go in terms of tone and setting, but the traits I decided would be important for the role are intelligence, confidence, sophistication, and eccentricity. These actresses would nail those qualities. Because the role is so iconically British, I’ve chosen mostly British actresses, but there are a few non-Brits thrown in for good measure.

1. Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren American Cinematheque Award December 12 2013 Los Angeles California

(Photo: Celebrity Monitor/Pacific Coast News)

Dame Helen Mirren has also spoken out about wanting bolder casting choices for classic stories. She suggested that the new Doctor Who should be female, although she didn’t want the role. She also said making the character gay and black would be great. I think she’s got the class, sense of humor and just general talent to pull off a role like Sherlock.

2. Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett Harpers Bazaat Women of the Year Awards November 5 2013 London England UK

(Photo: FND, OIC Xclusive/Pacific Coast News)

Is there anyone cooler than Cate Blanchett? Not really. She’s got lots of experience playing characters with status — from Queen Elizabeth I to Galadriel — but she’s also shown off an incredible vulnerability in movies like Blue Jasmine that would come in handy. Plus she’d look awesome in the hat.

3. Tatiana Maslany

Tatiana Maslany CTV Upfronts June 6 2013 Toronto Canada

(Photo: Sean O’Neill/Pacific Coast News)

Once you’ve witnessed this woman play half a dozen characters with different personalities and accents on Orphan Black, you’ll be convinced she can play anything. She’d be killer in a really gritty, modern version of Sherlock’s stories.

4. Helena Bonham Carter

Helena Bonham Carter Los Angeles California February 24 2013 Academy Awards

(Photo: DLM Press/Pacific Coast News)

We know she’s got the eccentricity and the confidence down pat, that’s for sure. If she didn’t play it too over-the-top, it would be a great opportunity for her to start shedding her “weird lady” persona.

5. Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt National Board of Review Awards NEw York City NY January 8 2013

(Photo: Pacific Coast News)

She’s definitely able to convey confidence — maybe even a little too much — as evidenced by her role in The Devil Wears Prada. She’s also got the kind of wit that would work for a more comedic telling of the stories.

6. Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu Women for Women International Gala New York City NY November 8 2012

(Photo: Demis Maryannakis/Pacific Coast News)

She’s already playing Watson on Elementary, so she’s used to the story. Why not switch things around and put her in charge? Perhaps it would be interesting to see for a single episode. That show seems open to having a little fun.

You can reach this post's author, Jill O’Rourke, on twitter.
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    • elle

      OMG, now I want a Tilda Swinton Sherlock Holmes so bad! And just a few days ago a judge ruled Holmes was in the public domain so maybe it’ll happen.

      • Jill O’Rourke

        Fingers crossed.

    • Kathy

      I’d love to see Cate Blanchett as Holmes, and Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Watson. I love Bonham Carter when she plays off someone else, so Watson would be perfect for her. Just for fun let’s cast Tilda Swinton as the evil Dr. Moriarty!

      • Jill O’Rourke

        Ooh, that sounds fun! An entirely gender-switched cast would be so cool.