Sherlock Holmes: Martial Artist

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He’s played Iron Man and Charlie Chaplin, but Oscar-winner Robert Downey Jr. says his greatest challenge may be his next role: Sherlock Holmes.

The 44-year-old actor will star as the great sleuth in the Guy Ritchie film "Sherlock Holmes," opening on Christmas Day. Scottish-born author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote four novels and 56 short stories about Holmes, and over the years there have been countless stage and screen portrayals of the detective, who first appeared in print in 1887.

The coming film, which was first inspired by a comic book that producer Lionel Wigram wrote to help build support for a Holmes movie, promises to give the Holmes franchise a provocative twist—by adding a dose of martial arts, something that most portrayals of the hero have ignored. Mr. Downey, who did many of the fight scenes himself, says that the film hews very closely to Doyle's original descriptions of the British investigator, which focused on his superb martial arts skills as well as the close relationship that Holmes has with his friend and sometime roommate, Dr. John H. Watson (played by Jude Law).

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