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Mr. Holmes: Ian McKellen reveals how he conjured two Sherlocks

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It took more than the prospect of playing Sherlock Holmes to get Ian McKellen interested in Mr. Holmes, director Bill Condon’s recent drama about the famous fictional detective.

After all, as McKellen noted during a recent video interview with EW, some 130 other actors have portrayed the character.

“It was the idea of playing two Sherlock Holmeses — an old one, 93, and a younger one, when he’s still in his prime in London, not in retirement,” McKellen explained. “An actor would jump at that possibility, of playing two parts.”

Based on Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, the film alternates between an elderly Holmes as he reflects on his life and a younger Holmes still plying his trade. In presenting a less familliar version of Holmes — he doesn’t wear a deerstalker cap, for starters — Mr. Holmes found McKellen physically transforming himself.

“If you’re playing 93, and let’s say 60-ish, the change in appearance will be crucial,” he said. “That’s to do with the way the actor stands and feels his body, and feels the aches and pains when he’s old, but not when he’s young.”

He added with a laugh, “I think I may have worn more makeup … to play the young Sherlock than I did to play the old one.”

For more from McKellen, watch the video above.

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