The Abominable Bride DVD extra: ‘Creating the Look’
This is a transcript of new material which appears only on the ‘Creating the Look’ Special Feature of the DVD. It does not include a transcript of the clips from the episode which are shown throughout the feature, nor does it include descriptions of every visual moment. I haven’t transcribed every ‘er,’ ‘um,’ ‘you know’ and stutter as the interviewees speak but I hope that it may be useful in particular to viewers whose first language is not English and who are unable to access the subtitles.
Warning: Obviously this contains major spoilers for “The Abominable Bride.” Enter with care if you haven’t seen the episode yet.
As always, please remember that some of the comments made by people may look serious in plain print but are actually meant sarcastically or humorously.
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“The Abominable Bride” DVD extra: ‘Creating the Look’
[This feature is particularly visual but I transcribe the spoken words for what they’re worth.]
PART 1 – the Afghanistan war scene
DANNY HARGREAVES (Special Effects Supervisor): We’re on a technical recce, meaning that heads of department have come to look at a location that we’re turning into Afghanistan. This is where Watson gets shot as well, so very very big part of the show, and the opening scenes to the Special. I am gonna bring enough stuff to create a war, so yeah, I do love these kind of sequences.
MARK GATISS: Today is the penultimate day of the shoot and we’ve come right back to the beginning of the film, which is the flashback to Afghanistan where Doctor Watson is famously injured. The weird thing is this scene was always uncontrovertibly at night. One of the reasons you think you could happily write, “EXTERIOR: AFGHANISTAN” is because you won’t be able to see it, but here we are on the brightest day of the winter!
(Danny is fitting an explosive squib to Martin Freeman’s shoulder.)
DANNY: What we don’t want you to do at any point is put your hands on it.
MARTIN: No, okay. What about where my face should be, ’cause given I’m gonna be sort of like this ... (he kneels and looks down) ...
DANNY: Well, what we’re gonna do ...
MARTIN (turning his head to look downwards to the right): Ideally, would I be like that?
DANNY: Well, we’re gonna work that out now, so I think it’s quite nice we can make you look up ...
DANNY: ... and then it goes off.
MARK: We’re basically grabbing a sort of montage of stuff today of him tending the wounded, getting blown up, getting shot. Danny’s got some shells lined up; we’ve got a cavalry; we’ve got some Redcoats; we’ve got some Afghan warriors. It’s very exciting.
(After the footage has been shot)
MARK: Worth waiting for! It looks fantastic: basically big shells in the background, and in slow motion in particular it’s sort of silhouetted against the fog. It looks amazing, so it’s great!
PART 2 – Holmes smashes the window at the Carmichael house
DANNY: Benedict and Martin are gonna be breaking into this wonderful house, so we obviously can’t do that with real glass, so the Arts Department built this fake window – which is actually in a doorway – and as you can see, this is the inside of it and we’re gonna put in a product which is Shatter Glass; and the Shatter Glass is a breakable resin glass which is the same sort of product that you see actors and actresses throwing bottles over people’s heads and stuff, so it’s that shatter glass kind of product; and then that’s gonna go in there [into the MDF window frame] ...
(On set, one of the crew is lifting the glass towards the window frame)
DANNY: Hang on, wait for a lull in the wind, Henry ... Okay, go. You all right with that?
DANNY: ... and then we’re gonna sandwich that with another section of set and it actually looks like it’s a concrete wall with that design, so they’re gonna come in and break it, and come into the room.
MARK: This is a scene I’ve wanted to do for ages, actually, in the modern show as it were, but this is a very traditional ... there’s a scene like this in The Speckled Band. Proper traditional Sherlock Holmes style – it’s a filthy night and it looks amazingly like a vision of hell, which is rather good!
SUE VERTUE: Is this why I said on Series 1, “We’re never gonna shoot in January again”?!
FIRST ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Okay, nice and quiet for the take, then, please. Happy, Danny?
FIRST A.D.: Test turn-over. Okay, nice and quiet, guys. And, action.
PART 3 – the maze
MARK: We’re at Longleat – it’s very exciting – in the maze, which is a requirement of the script but took a bit of finding. It was a beautiful morning, absolutely incredible. The scene’s set at dawn, but it’s now, as you can hear, the heavens have absolutely opened, everyone’s a bit miserable, but we’re going to carry on and see what we can get for the rest of the day. I think it’s going to lift about one o’clock, so then we’ll have a problem trying to make it fit with the raindrops. But it looks very beautiful and atmospheric with Danny Hargreaves’ vis effects is pumping it full of mist. It might just be a bit wet today, I think. We might disappear into a puddle!
DANNY (on scaffolding overlooking one of the walls of the maze): Okay, Arun, anything you can do to extend that, please. Pull it out as far as you can.
DANNY: It’s January, and we’ve had all sorts of weather today, so we’ve had rain, we’ve had wind, we’ve had sunshine. I’m just waiting for the snow!
NATASHA O’KEEFFE (The Bride): The weather today has been, um, how would you say: a little bit manic. He can’t make up his mind what sort of mood he’s in at all. He’s either pouring it down at the heavens or he’s either really happy and shining, so the guys are really having to trick around with that today.
DANNY: The brief was to create a foggy maze. The original concept was to be doing this at night time, but we’re here in the glorious sunshine doing these smoke effects. It’s a lot of set-up, so we came in a bit early to set this up, but yeah, we’re really struggling through it, so to speak. It’s the wind as well, blowing it all away.
MARK: But it looks fantastically atmospheric with the mist creeping over the hedges. We’ve obviously got to frame out all these modern safari-type bridges and enclosures, but it looks wonderful; and just seeing the Bride creeping along in the fog is very spooky indeed.
NATASHA: I’m basically freaking everybody out, basically appearing out of the blue and coming back to haunt people today.
DANNY: When I first came here, I thought it’d be tricky, but today it’s really really tricky, so we’re running ... you might have seen these smoke tubes that are running around the perimeter of the maze ... just really struggling to get the smoke in there, so what we’re doing is we’re actually throwing the smoke tubes on top of the maze, so it looks like the maze is on fire from here but when you go down there it creates a lovely atmosphere, so that’s what we’re trying to achieve. I’d rather be out here than in there!
PART 4 – the food in the Stranger’s Room of the Diogenes Club
MARK (in his fat suit and a dressing gown): Come in, Scrooge, come in! (He laughs.)
BENEDICT (pointing to one of the large desserts): I wanna see Mark eating one of those things in a single shot, every single take! Single take.
LISA HEATHCOTE (Food Stylist): My brief was it’s gorging, it’s a feast, he’s eating a huge amount of food and it’s sort of a breakfast scene but we’ve pushed it a bit more because there’ll be joints of meat, although in Victorian times they would have had joints of meat at breakfast, so really, you know, pies, hams, beef etc and I’ve just, sort of, three days cooking up a storm, basically. Brought it here and now we’re just dressing it in and seeing what looks best in the best place colour-wise. And then I just decorate the plates quite heavily because otherwise it’s just gonna look a bit brown. It’s a brown room; brown food never works, so just a bit dotting around with a bit of colour brings it to life. I used Victorian moulds; I do actually have Victorian moulds and Victorian raised pie tins, so that’s what I use and that’s what I’m recreating, but I’m using modern-day ingredients; and the pies are real. I did make real, ’cause I think we’re gonna cut into them today, so there is meat in them.
SUE: This is really for the scene with Mycroft, who we find this hugely fat man, because in Sherlock’s head and actually in the original stories Mycroft’s very fat.
WOMAN (possibly one of the costume crew) (to Mark, now fully dressed): How are you feeling?
MARK (cheerfully): Fat! Very fat!
SUE: And this is what he’s going to be having for breakfast, with lots of plum puddings, and the grotesqueness of over-eating.
(She smiles up at Douglas Mackinnon, the Director, as he comes in to where she’s sitting in Mycroft’s chair.)
SUE: This is my breakfast!
LISA: Basically it’s all food; it is all real food, but things like that ... (she points to a fancy jelly dessert) ... I just set without any flavour because anything sugary is going to not do well under the lights, but everything is real food, and we’re setting food that he does eat which we’ll then repeat, and that’s being kept safely in the fridge so that when we go to film it, it’ll just be fresh on his plate and that’s what he’s gonna eat ... (she gestures to the rest of the food) ... and that just sort of stands and shimmers and looks beautiful.
PART 5 – the locations
BEN MANGHAM (Locations Manager): The Location Manager is responsible for anything that is not shot in the studio, or is not a set build. My initial brief, when I was asked to do the Sherlock Special, it was quite exciting because we’ve gone away from the modern setting and we are ... Ninety percent of the show is set in Victorian times, which is fantastic. I spent a couple of weeks in Bristol and Bath and in London going around choosing choice Victorian locations. You find a location that obviously is in the right period, and then you kind of squint and you go, “Okay, this can work.”
BEN (on location for the Watson/Stamford meeting): We are in King Street in Bristol and this is a location for a massive crowd scene, as you can probably see behind my back. And to make this work we have to speak to every single resident and business and make friends and dress little areas, which I have a stunning team who have been doing this for me. I’d love to say it was all my own work, but it’s not! It’s all my team. Individual places have to be approached, dressings in all the windows, so it’s quite a number for us. It’s taken about three and a half weeks to get this one sorted for one morning’s filming.
BEN: The London Limehouse street where our Bride finds her errant husband coming out of a brothel was originally scripted as Westminster Bridge, but slight logistical complications of closing Westminster Bridge in London soon proved to us that this may not happen; and the Bristol Cathedral Choir School and the Bristol Cathedral Cloister car park at the rear of the fantastic cathedral came to our aid and it fitted beautifully, and so we had a nice lane leading into a corridor that gave us that slightly claustrophobic feel where the carriage pulled up, and the London fog, and out of the fog came our Bride where she gunned down her husband. So it worked beautifully.
BEN: 221B, where our heroes live. The Victorian element was a new one for us, so a lovely modern street which has usually been quite easy to film at suddenly became quite a big number for us. We had to close down several streets to provide access for the horses and the set dressing. On our final moments of filming in North Gower Street we came to a rather dicey position where the road had to be opened. It was rush hour in London along one of the busiest red routes in London, but with some help from the Metropolitan police and our fantastic traffic guys, we managed to sort of beg, borrow and steal an extra half an hour’s grace. We got the shot and then we all moved out, but it was some pretty frantic nail-biting filming at the end.
BEN: Gloucester Cathedral was used in this Special for the kind of climax of the show, really, so it was a big location. It was this ... the crypt where this secret sect was meeting and, I mean, it had to be something special. And the word that kept coming back was this lovely vaulted arches structure, and the fantastic team there took me down into the crypt, which is one of the largest crypts in Great Britain, and I knew within about five seconds that I had not only found the location but it would be spectacular. It’s nine hundred years of magnificence that hasn’t really changed, and they would let us do the crazy stuff that we want to do.
BEN: The Carmichaels’ house sets up the whole show, and I came across a fantastic place called Tyntesfield House, which is a National Trust property just outside Bristol. When you see it in the show you can’t ... it’s money on screen, and when you’re shooting a period piece, to actually shoot what has been scripted but what also was there at the time is a million dollars. When I say I’m the Location Manager of Sherlock, doors open and people bend over backwards to help you. It’s a special show, so it makes my job very easy.
PART 6 – more location shoots
STEVEN MOFFAT: Right now we’re on pretend-Baker Street, which is really North Gower Street, and this of course is very different from normal. It’s the Victorian version. It’s like we’ve forgotten which show we’re making and we’ve gone Victorian, which is just extraordinary! It’s so different.
BEN MANGHAM: To put it together has taken about three months, for one and a half days’ filming. It’s taken a hell of a lot of prepping, as you can imagine, because it’s taking a London modern street: Victoriana has to be put in, so every single resident behind me, you will see, has been approached, contacted; there are nets in all the windows; we’ve had to close the road for three days and removed all the vehicles; re-directing bus routes; floor covering; horses, all of that jazz, so it’s taken a hell of a lot to put together. And it’s great to be back, but as you can imagine, this is one of our big ones.
STEVEN: One of the things we’re very anxious to capture about Victorian London was, quite often you see period films of Victorian London and there’s hardly anyone on the streets, but actually Victorian London was a fast-moving maelstrom. There was horses everywhere, there were cabs everywhere, there were people thronging the pavements, moving up and down, so we wanted it to be a busy, busy place. So what we’re doing right now is creating that with one set, one crowd being moved from pavement to pavement and then combined so we can see both sides, and just to give the impression of this huge fun-ness of humanity that was Victorian London. For Mark and me, Sherlock’s always been a kind of wish fulfilment, but the one thing we thought we’d never get to do was this. When we came up with the idea that we could just do a Special that is Victorian and then we’ve done everything; we can nail all those moments that we don’t get to do otherwise, and this is the cake and eat it. We did a modern version of Sherlock Holmes and we did it in Victorian times.
BEN (on King Street): Well, the reason I chose this street is obviously the cobbles and the period buildings; most of them – apart from the glaring pink over there. How I find locations is: initially I will get the script, I will read those, I come to where we’re filming, the town, the city where we’re filming and I will go round and I will get about four or five options per location. And then the director and I will spend a week or so looking at all the streets and then we work out which is gonna work best for us. That’s when the process starts.
SUE: This will all become a big Victorian street. You can see we’ve got lots of extras. All the greenscreen down there will be turned into something magical and Victorian.
DOM ALDERSON (Lighting TD): So we’re here as the Visual Effects team and our job here is to remove the big greenscreen that you can see on the set. We’ve spread it all the way across the street here. The idea is that we film the actors and all the horses and carriages in front of the greenscreen and then we catch it from different angles so that we can take away the green and put more replicated actors and what-have-you behind so we can make it look like there’s a massive amount of people here. We’ll also be looking at some of these buildings here which look a little bit too modern now; give them a little bit of an ageing and paint them up so they look like they fit the period a bit better.
SUE (talking about the Watson/Stamford meeting): This is weird now, because this is the third time we’ve shot this scene – not on this shoot, but generally. So for David Nellist, who plays Stamford, it must be like a Groundhog Day for him.
DAVID NELLIST (being filmed as Stamford): Good Lord, man. Where have you been? You’re as brown as a nut!
[Yes, in the final version he said, “You’re as thin as a rake.” The line “You’re as brown as a nut,” comes from the Doyle canon.]
DAVID (at the location): I don’t know Bristol at all, and it’s absolutely superb, you know. You come down a street like this and it just looks absolutely magical. Really, really impressed by it all. Brilliant.
SUE: Okay, I’m gonna show you something here which Douglas Mackinnon, Director, won’t like me showing you, but if you follow me down here and then point up to the pub sign there. That was painted by our Art Department. It is actually a depiction of our director. You should get him later – he’ll be over the moon about it!
PART 7 – the costumes
SARAH ARTHUR (Costume Designer): This episode of Sherlock has been set in Victorian times, based very typically on the original Sherlock Holmes look. So, you know, you’d have your country look, so we had a tweed suit for Benedict and then his Inverness cape and deerstalker; pinstripe trouser and morning coat for the city look.
And then Martin, similarly we had a much more tweedy – ’cause he’s ex-military.
Mary had a few different costumes. We opened with her as the woman in black, veiled so that we didn’t know it was her.
AMANDA ABBINGTON: The costumes are just so elaborate and it was just a really exciting departure from the modern-day stuff that I’ve done before in Sherlock, so it was exciting. The idea of being in the original setting of Conan Doyle’s books was exciting, yeah.
SARAH: She loved this sporting outfit that we used for her doing a bit more active, and just to ring the changes rather than her be in a dress continuously, and so there were cycling pantaloons, a little waistcoat, sort of jacket, and a little boater made out of the fabric from the waistcoat.
We had obviously quite a few street scenes with, like, seventy, eighty supporting artists, plus carriage drivers and stuntmen. The thing with Victorian clothing is nobody is able to dress themselves; everyone needs dressing, so it’s very time-consuming. My team has been amazing from the sidelines, doing fittings and getting them looking on a par with my main cast, which is the whole thing with a drama, to have everyone fitting in nicely rather than your main cast look like they’ve had all the money spent on them and the background just sort of like curly round the edges.
So the Bride – again did lots of research into brides of that era. I got quite a lot of reference books, and obviously the internet now. We based this Sherlock in 1895 but it was scripted that the Bride got married ten years prior to that. So obviously the Bride, there’s a lot of action involved: gunshots, and running through the maze. It had to be moveable and workable from that.
NATASHA O’KEEFFE: The dress: I had a corset and another bit of corset, so it took some time to dress me into it; and lots of layers because it’s very cold outside, so there was all that underneath as well. But all in all, maybe a two-hour jobbie before getting on set.
SARAH: I found an original piece of Victorian lace in London – big piece. We managed to get four bodices and sleeves out of this lace; and then the rest was the cream silk and bustle way to go.
PART 8 – the Falls
SUE: This is the Reichenbach Falls, and I think as the scale of sets and complexity goes, this is about as far as we’ve had to go. It’s a huge set there. We’ve got stunt doubles for all of them if we need those as well. We’ve gone the whole hog. Fingers crossed!
MARK: I had this idea quite a while ago to, you know – once Sherlock goes back into his Mind Palace, this is where the ultimate confrontation should happen. I wrote it very specifically so that people wouldn’t get it: just says “PATHWAY” and “Sherlock’s lying in the steaming spray.” You suddenly gradually realise it’s the Reichenbach Fall. It’s a lot of water; there’s a lot of things that could go wrong, so stay tuned!
DANNY (supervising the flow of the water): Angle it out to me, please.
DANNY: We’ve got, like, a big trough that we fill water with, and it’s got a huge submersible pump which is generating the water, it’s firing it upwards at about eighty litres a second, so it’s a serious bit of water that’s pumping up there, and it’s filling up the trough and the trough is absolutely perfectly level, so the idea is that when the trough fills to a certain level, the water cascades over. There’s lots of steam; lots of smoke; and a large volume of water which is coming down. So hopefully the people at home will think it’s a real waterfall.
DANNY (directing the crew): It needs to bounce off something for it to work, yeah?
GORDON SEED (Stunt Co-ordinator) (after rehearsing falling onto a crash mat below the ledge): Benedict’s gonna stand on the ledge and fall onto a higher platform, just onto the crash mat, and then we’re gonna do the shot I’m lining up now where we just take him up horizontal and drop him through the frame. So I’m just gonna line it up for the cameraman.
(Attached to wires, Gordon is hauled up horizontally into the air by a member of his team pulling a rope.)
TEAM MEMBER: Drop him about two foot into the middle of the screen, Andy.
JEAN-CLAUDE DEGUARA (Visual Effects Supervisor): We’ve got him on a wire, so we drop him down into a position where we have ... we create a CG rock face behind him, and also the waterfall, and we kind of hold him in that position but we animate the rocks going the other way so that it makes it feel like it’s all ... like he’s falling down off the rock surface.
SUE: Steven and Mark are over-excited about it because we’ve got Sherlock, with the deerstalker, on the Reichenbach Falls with a lot of water. I think when I saw it in the script, I think I just thought the boys were just having the fun. I just knew, and I kept saying, “Are you sure we need the fall?” just out of a joke. “Maybe we should just cut that fall scene”! I’ve been saying it all the way through. Not a chance! (She laughs.) It’s their dream.
JEAN-CLAUDE: We’re gonna have a potential shot where we’re looking over the edge, so where the wall that they’ve got is only about ten foot tall, we’re gonna add to it and so you get a real sense of vertigo looking down. Then we’re gonna enhance all of the waterfall so it’s much more; add more mist, more smoke so it’s just a nice big wide shot of the Falls.
MARK: In a way, we never really did it on top of Bart’s Hospital, ’cause that’s an intellectual confrontation followed by Sherlock apparently voluntarily committing suicide, whereas this is the proper grapple; this is the Sidney Paget illustration; and we’re putting him in a deerstalker and the cape and he goes over in a swallow dive; and he says, “Elementary, my dear Watson,” at last!
A full list of episode transcripts, DVD commentary summaries/transcripts, and transcripts of the DVD special features can be found here.