BBC Press Release Interview For "The Hound Of The Baskervilles" - November 2002
Richard E Grant confesses to never having seen The Hound Of The Baskervilles before.
“What I was curious about is the fact that there are no stock iconic symbols like the deerstalker hat or pipe that have been in other films,” he says. “So if mine is unlike any previous interpretation of Stapleton, and Richard Roxburgh’s is unlike any Holmes that has gone before, we’ll probably be sued by the Sherlock Holmes Society – I’ll avoid Baker Street for the next year!” he quips.
For the 44-year-old actor, whose numerous credits include Gosford Park, Jack And Sarah and Withnail And I, Stapleton is clearly the equal of Sherlock Holmes.
“Stapleton is an archaeologist and anthropologist. He has a very scientific mind and a genuine job on the Grimpen Mire exhuming bodies and skeletons for historical interest,” he explains. “He sees the fastidious and intellectually driven nature of Holmes as being somehow equal. Just like Hannibal Lecter, he finds someone who is worthy of his crimes.”
Stapleton is defined by his interest in anthropology, relics and digging for bones, says Grant. “It’s intended in the story for his nature to come across as macabre. What for Stapleton is perfectly normal – to obsessively examine a human being’s head and to identify what shape it is – is bonkers to anyone else.
“When Stapleton first meets Holmes and Watson, he is genuinely star-struck at their status, they are such celebrated detectives,” says Grant. This contrasts with Stapleton’s life “in the middle of nowhere, in a very isolated and run-down farmhouse. It’s the equivalent of Poirot coming down; he is thrilled that they are there. Holmes being a celebrity only adds to the charge of it. It means that for Stapleton, there’s more of a sense of triumph by the end.”
Stapleton has a menacing authority over Miss Stapleton.
“For so many of the scenes he has to appear cheerful and normal, but because of what is known about Stapleton, hopefully this is seen as subterfuge and cover-up,” says Grant. “This gives an extra charge to his relationship with Miss Stapleton, which has to be sexual. It’s an intriguing relationship. The power-play between them is very uncomfortable.”
Stapleton is a Darwinian, a rationalist who is bent on revenge, explains Grant. “He has a sense of complete intellectual superiority over the provincials around him, and he utterly dismisses their superstition and belief in supernatural powers.”
Secretly, however, he sets out to exploit their gullibility. “On the one hand he says the myth of the hound is rubbish – it’s just strange sounds you can hear on the moor – but on the other hand, he fastidiously works out a way to make the myth real. He indicates to Watson that he thinks it’s a load of hogwash, but underneath it all he’s trying to perpetuate the myth of the hound of the Baskervilles.
And he’s prepared to wait as long as it takes. His fatal error is to believe that he’s invincible and is the intellectual superior of all around him – including Holmes.”
Richard as Stapleton
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