Film - Enola Holmes


The game is afoot. Based on the beloved book series by Nancy Springer, the film adaptation of Enola Holmes comes to Netflix today. Find out more from the cast and creatives themselves...

Press Release

Over 130 years after the world’s most famous detective made his 1887 debut in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, comes a new mystery-adventure about another brilliant member of the Holmes family for a modern generation of armchair sleuths. Starring Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things, Godzilla: King of Monsters ) Enola Holmes introduces the world to (yes, you’ve deduced correctly) Enola Holmes — Sherlock’s bright, resourceful, spirited younger sister and a budding young detective in her own right.

Set in England in 1884, Enola Holmes follows our titular hero as she embarks on what is essentially her first case. Raised and educated by her free-thinking and eccentric mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), in the countryside, Enola lives a happy if unconventional life. While most girls her age are learning embroidery and other skills befitting a “proper” young lady, Enola’s education consists of science, cryptology, and martial arts. But when her mother’s mysterious disappearance prompts Enola to leave the shelter of home behind and wade into the inhospitable waters of the real world in search of her — we see a young a woman, as equally sharp as her brothers Sherlock ( Henry Cavill ) and Mycroft ( Sam Claflin ), come into her power without the myriad advantages that their gender afforded them. In the process, she also outwits her famous brother in solving a case that changes the course of history. 

Directed by Emmy and BAFTA Award-winner Harry Bradbeer (Fleabag, Killing Eve ) with a script by Tony and BAFTA Award-winning screenwriter and playwright Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials , Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ) Enola Holmes not only introduces audiences to a never-before-seen side of the Holmes family, but presents their unique new dynamics against a backdrop of the early days of women’s suffrage and a time in British history when the winds of social change were gaining speed on several fronts. The film is many things — a mystery, an adventure, a love story, a family drama — but at its heart, it’s also a rousing and deeply relevant story about equality, independence, and the power of individuals to change the world for the better. 




THE BEGINNING

When author Nancy Springer wrote her novels placing a teenage girl at the centre of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, she knew she was upending a centuries-old narrative of masculine protagonists throughout history. Springer grew up on the Conan Doyle canon, but dismayed by what she perceived was a misogynistic view toward women in the stories, decided to create a female foil to the famous detective in the form of a late-born teenage sister, Enola. She created a series of six mysteries which were translated into several languages, became a graphic novel in both France and the US, and was nominated twice for the Edgar Awards for Best Juvenile Mystery. “My habit has been to introduce female fictional characters into what were formerly predominantly male tales,” Springer says. “So, I chose to give Sherlock Holmes a much younger sister. It delighted me to create a worthy female counterpart who has all the sass, the mental acuity, the deductive ability and the instinct to beat him at his own game,” she says.

Millie Bobby Brown, who spent her formative years in England, was looking for a British character to play when her older sister, Paige Brown, discovered the Enola Holmes mystery series. “From the moment I started reading, I saw Millie as Enola,” says Paige. “She’s a bit of a know-it-all, but also quite vulnerable. She’s smart and feisty. I knew the role was perfect for Millie.” The sisters brought the books to their parents, who started a family production company, PCMA Productions (named after their children Paige, Charlie, Millie, and Ava) a few years prior and were eventually able to find a home at Legendary Pictures, the studio behind the recent Godzilla franchise.

“Paige and Millie brought the books to us and we immediately understood why they loved the story so much,” recalls Producer and Legendary Vice Chairman, Mary Parent. “We leapt at the opportunity to bring a female lens to Sherlock Holmes and it felt timely: It may be a story set in the Victorian era, but it’s about a girl who is trying to find her path, a girl who is trying to find her power in the world. It’s a story about change and about how we affect change.” 


Legendary approached five-time BAFTA winner Jack Thorne to adapt the books and he immediately took a shine to the character. “I loved Enola. I loved how she transformed herself and didn’t take herself too seriously,” says Thorne. At the time, Thorne was watching the ground-breaking series, Fleabag , and was intrigued by the device of breaking the fourth wall as a way to get inside the mind of someone, particularly for a character who spends the majority of their time alone. It was sheer coincidence that Harry Bradbeer, Fleabag’s Emmy Award-winning director, happened to be at the top of Legendary’s list to direct. After reading the script, he leapt on board and took the bull by the horns for his first feature film.

Thorne, who is friends with and has worked with Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge previously, credits Bradbeer as being “an incredibly special part of what made this film work. He’s blessed with a sort of deviousness. He’s got an amazing eye, an amazing judgement of story, and an ability to undercut things in a really subtle and brilliant way.”

“I loved the script,” says Bradbeer. “I was struck by its freshness and energy, its humour. And the way it presented a girl fighting not just for her own freedom but for human rights. I was also excited to break the fourth wall. I’d used the same technique on Fleabag, but there was a particular reason to do it here — and the clue is in the name, Enola, ‘alone’ spelled backwards. Her loneliness meant that we were her only friend, she needed to communicate with us. She needed to make that connection, for her own emotional safety. Over the course of the film, she finds friends and finds love and discovers that she can stand on her own two feet. And as they follow this rite of passage the audience gets to feel that extra bond.”

“There were three words that came to me when I read the Enola Holmes” he continues, “and they ended up on the wall of our production office: “Eccentricity, energy, and emotion” It was very particular, very English and very alive. There was something exciting about being picked up by the scruff of the neck and dragged through the late 19th century by this young girl with a conviction that leapt off the first page.”

According to producer Alex Garcia: “From our very first conversation it was clear Harry had a wonderful vision for the film. He wanted to do something authentic within the Sherlock canon and period English setting, but also something fresh and timeless. It was clear that Enola as a character and the themes and tone of Jack’s script really spoke to him — and from the moment he signed on, he worked with Jack to push the piece further and create a dynamic visual language for it.”

“Harry is such a specific filmmaker. He’s joyful and honest and brought such heart to the set every day. I believe you feel that in his work,” says producer Ali Mendes. “But what strikes me most about him is how he really listens. He listened to Millie. He never assumed he knew more about Enola than she did. He’s a collaborator in the truest sense and it makes for a creatively freeing environment for his entire cast and crew.”



MEET THE FAMILY

Bradbeer was also excited to bring a fun new approach to the Sherlock Holmes story. “There have probably been more films and television shows on this one fictional character than any other in all of literature,” he says, “But Enola Holmes took the world and it made it fresh, not just because you saw it through the lens of Sherlock’s teenage sister, but also because you saw the whole family for the first time. What a wonderful opportunity to cast Eudoria — for what kind of extraordinary woman could produce such extraordinary children? And who better to play her than Helena Bonham Carter?! This is the story of a dysfunctional family, who become a little less dysfunctional by the end, but still with issues to explore. There was something emotionally rooted in that idea, and it raised it above, for me, what would've just been an adventure film.” 


As Enola, Millie Bobby Brown not only makes her debut as the lead in a feature film, but also as a first-time producer. By bringing the story of Enola Holmes to Legendary as a starring vehicle for herself, Millie joins the rarefied ranks of several top Hollywood actresses who have brought richer, deeper stories and roles for women to the screen through their own production companies. Though few, if any, have done it while in high school. “I've been there at the very hardest, when you're auditioning constantly and getting no, after no, after no. I’m in a fortunate position now where I get to explore new stories. But I've never been in a position where I get to pick what I want before. So, in this situation, it was very nice to be able to have that.”

Paige Brown, Millie’s older sister and a fellow Producer, was on set for much of the filming and was proud of her sister’s commitment to a role which she hopes will inspire girls and young women around the world. “Enola is a role model for girls today because, despite the fact that people want her to conform to the society around her, she is fighting back. She’s operating in a misogynistic world with people like her brother, Mycroft, but she finds her power despite that. And by the end of her story she has found who she wants to be on her own terms.”

Paige was also excited to bring to life an era when women were rising up against oppression. “I love history and I love that we’re also celebrating the women – and men – in this era who were fighting for their rights. These women, like the Suffragettes, were the people who empowered us and helped us get the vote. We have choices now thanks to them and hopefully we will use it to our full advantage because of the sacrifices they made.”

“I love the fact that she can be very vulnerable yet even in her deepest despair she’s able to find herself again and fight back,” says Millie of her character. “I admire her courage and her strength. She goes to pretty dark places, but she never gives up. It’s a big journey for her. She’s quite naïve and comes up against forces that are way beyond her. So, she has to find her own resources, her own voice even when there is no one around to help her.”

Bradbeer recalls being struck by Millie’s energy and directness. “She's quick in her instincts and extraordinarily brave. After her intelligence, I think bravery is her most remarkable characteristic. It was a hugely exciting experience, for me, having this barrel of smarts and energy in there.” 


Finding the right Sherlock required an actor who could portray a younger version of the detective who’s just coming into his fame and hasn’t quite developed the emotional detachment he’s been famous for until now. “We’re all used to the cerebral, fast-talking detective,” says Mendes, “but Harry was drawn to the idea of a more contemplative Sherlock who’s still building his reputation and is suddenly confronted with something in his personal life that challenges him emotionally, not just mentally. We see a more human Sherlock and one who learns something from his younger sister about caring for other people.”

The team found their Sherlock in Superman alumni Henry Cavill (The Witcher, Mission: Impossible — Fallout ), partly because he turns the conventional Sherlock ideal on its head but also because he possessed the stoic warmth needed for the role. “There are the traditional, more rigid tellings of Sherlock, but seeing his emotional side helps us understand a little more about why he ticks the way he does,” says Garcia. “You see a man who’s ahead of his time, but who hasn’t quite been willing to fight for the things that are wrong with the time. Seeing Enola inspire him to come out of his shell was a really fun aspect to this story.”

According to Thorne, “We wanted Sherlock to be more present than he is in the books. We wanted him to uncover how he felt and go on his own journey of discovery rather than being a fixed person that Enola has to rotate around. It was much more, ‘How can Sherlock change, and is this the girl that will change him?’ It's a love story and a rite of passage for both of them, but at the end of it, Sherlock is absolutely bowled over by her and he’ll go against his older brother for the first time to say, ‘I will look after her.’ The interesting thing is that by the time he says that, she no longer needs him in that way.”

Says Cavill: “When Harry and I were discussing the character, we were very aware that Sherlock had been played wonderfully many times by many wonderful actors. And what we liked about this version was that it was untraditional due to the nature of who the story is about. This isn’t a Sherlock Holmes movie. This is an Enola Holmes movie. And in this case, he’s actually with another pea in the pod, if you will, and you see a lot more warmth, kindness, and a humanity to Sherlock.” 


The rest of the cast quickly came on board: Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown, The Harry Potter films) signed up as the unconventional Holmes matriarch, Eudoria. As Mother, Helena Bonham Carter appears primarily in flashbacks in Enola’s memory in all but one scene. “Eudoria is the ultimate missing protagonist,” says Bonham Carter. “When Harry offered me the role, I told him, ‘Well, this may be the smallest part I’m ever going to play, but it’s also the best because she has so much colour to her.’ The script just works. It’s a really funny and ingenious story. She’s a woman that I’d love to have met.”

“Eudoria knows you can’t be free,” continues Bonham Carter. “She’s always had to operate under the radar because she has no power. But she’s determined to create a world where her daughter can have power and freedom. Hence her feminism and hence her support of the suffrage cause. She’s very clever. She’s also the mother to the most famous genius on earth, Sherlock Holmes, so I felt that there should be seeds of him in her – so I insisted that I smoke a pipe and I teach my daughter to watch, to look, to listen and to be aware and know what is going on at all times and use all her deductive thinking. I’m basically teaching her to be utterly independent.”

Mendes explains why Bonham Carter was always their first choice for Eudoria: “She was the person in our minds to embody the spirit of this woman who is a complicated character and who you have to love even though she’s an enigma. You have to love her despite a choice she’s made that’s hard to swallow — which is, she’s left her daughter even though she loves her very much. If there’s anyone who can embody those contradictions and make you feel curious about them and embrace them instead of rejecting them, it’s Helena Bonham Carter. She just has that spirit.”

Millie was delighted at the chance to act with Bonham Carter. “First of all, she’s a legend, but also, I couldn’t picture anyone else playing my mother. Before we started filming, we had this long, crazy discussion about nothing at all to do with the film — about candles and essential oils or something — it was amazing. And then at the end, I said, ‘Do you think that Eudoria is affectionate?’ And that then turned into a full two-hour conversation. We had these conversations that lasted ages and it was perfect because we needed it. We needed to dig deep so we didn't really have to ask many questions while shooting.”

Bonham Carter was equally impressed with her co-star, “Millie’s amazing. She’s a phenomenon. She’s only 16, but she doesn’t behave at all like a 16-year-old. Talk about an old soul. She is very much herself but emotionally and mentally very mature. We’re quite similar in some ways: we’re quite quicksilver both of us, we’re quite lively. I’m probably young for my age behaviourally and she’s very old for her age. Not all the time. Like she gave me a sour gobstopper the other day. That wasn’t funny,” she laughs. 


Playing the eldest of the Holmes siblings is Sam Claflin (Me Before You, The Hunger Games films), who, like Cavill, also plays against the typical Mycroft audiences are used to seeing. “There are so many layers to our Mycroft,” says Garcia. “He's obviously one of the villains in this film, but also someone who, deep inside, knows he doesn’t share the genius of his siblings, Enola and Sherlock. Sam brought a pomposity which allows you to feel scared for Enola — that she's going to end up being under his thumb — but he also portrayed him in a way that lets see someone who's a bit of a wounded bird.”

“I found Mycroft through discussions with Harry, and with Consolata the costume designer, with Millie and Henry. Together we pieced together where he fit into the family unit. As much as he’s been distant from the family home, Mycroft is still kind of the man of the house. He’s very much a man who lives by the book, has lived by the rules, is very ordered, and is practically the opposite of Enola,” says Claflin. 

Fiona Shaw, who plays Miss Harrison, head mistress of the finishing school where Mycroft and Sherlock initially conspire to send Enola, agreed to do the film long before seeing the script due to her collaboration with Bradbeer in Killing Eve and Fleabag .

“It was all about Harry,” says Shaw. “He’s so great to work with, so when he approached me and told me he had a role for me in this film, I agreed immediately. Harry is reassuring because he is so direct. He’s very clear and cuts straight to the chase and this clarity makes the usual pressure of doing scenes very freeing. He’s a very good leader and a great all-rounder. He is both visually daring and very intuitive and he understands humour. He’s very good with female roles and you somehow feel that Harry exists now and that he also existed in the 19th century. He has a great formality in his person, in his humour and his manners and yet he can deal with chaos and make order out of it quite effortlessly.” In Nancy Springer’s books, the Holmes brothers threaten Enola with boarding school; in Jack Thorne’s script she is actually sent to boarding school. Miss Harrison is, in a sense, the first authority figure with whom she takes issue (after her brothers).

“Every character in a film represents a philosophical dynamic: Enola is both every woman or every man, but she is also the spirit of revolution which she gets from her mother,” says Shaw. “She’s the necessary spirit of investigation, of not accepting the world as it’s being sold to you. So, this is also a story about the younger generation overthrowing the generation before them. In a way, Miss Harrison is a revolutionary in herself in that she’s independent and unmarried and is very interested in the education of women which is itself a way for them to find freedom. But she has also done rather well out of a system that she knows the rules of. And she is passing on those rules, but Enola challenges her.”

“I confess that Miss Harrison was my idea,” says Bradbeer. “And Fiona was, of course, first choice! She has this amazing facility of digging into the character, finding new layers, and quickly found someone who was much more than just a villainous headmistress. She had her own philosophy on life and upbringing and it gave us a chance to look at how young women were actually brought up at the time. All the deportment and elocution techniques came from our research and Fiona was always sending me ideas. It’s very much how I like to work with an actor, because to the audience, they are your first storytellers. On the shoot it was hilarious watching her teaching the schoolgirls in the classroom. That’s all improvised you know — teaching them how to laugh politely or how to sneeze with fingers pinching your nose. And we had all these 16-year-old girls following her instructions, enthralled and puzzled at the same time! I’m particularly pleased with the way we found a bit of humanity in Miss Harrison’s infatuation with Mycroft. That turned into a facet that we could exploit later on in the story.” 


Along her journey, Enola comes across the floppy-haired Viscount Tewksbury, the Marquis of Basilwether, played by Louis Partridge (Medici, Paddington 2). “Enola and Tewksbury have a wonderful scene where, after a harrowing escape, we’re both by a fire and learn quite a lot about each other. And I think that’s where the connection starts between them and grows and grows,” says Partridge. “There’s nothing physical about it. It’s all very subtle. So, it’s a love story as well as of a journey, a story of growing up. So, in that scene, when Enola decides that she needs to cut my hair with her penknife, it’s more than just a haircut or a disguise: it’s the beginning of Tewkesbury growing up.”

Mendes agreed theirs is very much a love story. “Whether they recognize it in the beginning or not, they’re kindred spirits. They’re both very lonely when we meet them and, in each other they find their first real friend. Then they go through this traumatic and transformative experience together. They save each other – not just literally from danger but, to be a bit corny, they help save each other’s souls – so by the end it’s obvious that they really love each other. And because of the talent of Louis and Millie you can really feel the depth of the feeling they have for each other.”

“Louis is a very special actor,” says Bradbeer. “He’s very instinctive and doesn’t come with some of the habits that young actors can pick up from school plays. He plays it very naturally and honestly. Tewkesbury was always potentially a bit of a fool, a bit of a buffoon, but Louis has turned him to something altogether more lovable, bringing much more of the romance into the story and creating a real person that you care about.”

“I've worked with a lot of younger people and at my age, I'm 16, when you're supposed to have romantic relationships with your cast members it's always awkward. But Louis is probably the kindest and most gentle person I have ever met,” says Millie. “He made me laugh every few seconds. We annoyed each other. We would prank each other. And then gradually, when we were on screen, we just became closer and closer. And we would even do scenes and Harry would be like, ‘Guys, it's too good. You’ve got to bring it back. People are going to love you too much, you've got to stop.’ We were getting along so well we had to fall back. All the producers were like, ‘Let it happen Harry!’”

Rounding out the rest of the stellar British cast are Susan Wokoma (Dark Money, Year of the Rabbit ), who plays Edith, the owner of a London tea house and a jiu-jitsu master who has the strength to go head-to-head physically and politically with Sherlock as she exposes a blind spot that the world’s smartest detective could never realize on his own; Adeel Akhtar (Murder Mystery, Les Misérables ), who plays a young Inspector Lestrade; Burn Gorman (The Expanse, The Dark Knight Rises ) as Linthorn, a henchman hired to kill Tewksbury; The Dowager, Tewkesbury’s grandmother, played by Frances de la Tour (Vanity Fair, Mr. Holmes ); Claire Rushbrook (Spider-Man: Far from Home ) as Mrs. Lane; David Bamber (Valkyrie ) as Sir Whimbrel; and Hattie Morahan (Beauty and the Beast ) as Lady Tewkesbury.

Enola Holmes is available to stream on Netflix from today.

Images - ROBERT VIGLASKI/ALEX BAILEY/LEGENDARY ©2020 & Info - Netflix