It’s no secret that fans fell in love with Enola Holmes. The first film gave us the gift of Millie Bobby Brown in the titular role along with a solid supporting cast including Henry Cavill and the always enthralling Helena Bonham Carter. Deciphering hidden messages, fun fights, and a mystery with a larger societal implication made for a good time. So, it’s no surprise that we now have Enola Holmes 2 to enjoy. Not only is the Holmes family back on their feet and fully in the game, so is Enola Holmes 2 director Harry Bradbeer. Nerdist caught up with him to break down the film, from including real-life history to that very wild fight scene in the woods and special appearance.
Nerdist: In Enola Holmes 2, we’ve veered away from the mystery book series to a really exciting story about Sarah Chapman and the matchstick factory girls. What was it about Chapman and that historical event that felt like the right fit for this film?
Harry Bradbeer: Well, I wanted to put Enola into a very different world. I felt that having spent her time with an aristocrat in the first film, I wanted her to be immersed in a working class world with lots of other young women of her age. And the Match Girls’ Strike of 1888 was something that was known to me and [screenwriter] Jack Thorne. Not a widely known story, but we knew it was the very first industrial action by women in history.
And so… working class girls, industry, dirt, grime… I thought, “Well, let’s make this about industry and greed.” The first [film] was about constitutional change. Let’s make this about industrial corruption and the control of workers in that time. Because the late 19th century was an extraordinary period for the birth of the Union Movement and of people standing up for their rights…I felt that would be relevant today.”
I love that. I also love the film’s explosive action that goes to next level with homemade bombs and all these hand-to-hand combat scenes. What was your plan to execute those scenes and did any existing films or TV shows inspire your approach?
Bradbeer: I don’t know about inspirations. I know that the carriage chase was a much discussed thing that came in and out of the budget. It was very expensive! And the more we want, the more I planned it and worked on it, the more expensive it got. At one point, it was going to be in the city. We were going to shoot it in Manchester, but the scope was so narrow. There weren’t enough streets that could be adjusted and turned into 19th century streets. So, we set it, actually, in the countryside, up in that woodland area, which is used quite a lot for filming. And that gave us the scope where suddenly I felt free to mount something very ambitious, but which was going to take weeks and weeks to shoot, which it did. It was a big affair.
And the fight in the forest was drafted in so many different ways with our amazing stunt arranger, Jimmy O’Donnell. We thought, “Well, there’s going to be this great fight, but how is it going to feel real?” Because you couldn’t suddenly have Enola and Edith and Eudoria working in tandem because they haven’t actually fought together. It had to be a sense of Enola learning how to fight from watching her mother and Edith kind of showing her the way. So, that was drafted many times before we got it right.
That scene is incredible and feels quite real. I call that trio the three mighty Es.
Bradbeer: At the end, at one point, they were going to finish by having a smoke bomb and that would dissipate and they would escape under the cover of the smoke. And that just felt a bit Keystone Cops to me. And I remember we were all sitting down there working in the stunt room just a few days before we started shooting. And suddenly, someone said, “Well, why don’t we just blow up the whole car?”
I’m always going back and forth with my actors and just checking in. Do I believe it? Do I care? Those are the two things on my wall. If the answer to that is no for either, you’re in trouble. So, it was a journey, those action sequences. And the scene in the music hall… Well, yeah, that kind of wrote itself because of the amount of different props and the world that you could build. Again, it was a question of how much we could achieve within our time on something that involved working at height. And that was complex.
Absolutely. And speaking of actors, Millie Bobby Brown is such a great lead, but she’s also a force behind the scenes as a producer. How did you partner with her to make sure that the visions that she saw for the character and the film really came to fruition?
Bradbeer: Well, Jack and I worked on the story for a month or so. Then, we just brought the story to her. We just pitched it right out to her on a Zoom. And I watched her face very closely and saw her eyes widen. There were a couple moments when she looked a bit puzzled. I thought, “Right. Look at that. Work that out.” It had to be clear and exciting. It had to be emotionally developed. It had to develop emotionally.
Then, we heard her feedback, what she felt had worked for her. She was very positive about what we were pitching. She was particularly drawn to certain aspects of the relationship with Tewkesbury and had some questions about how clear certain aspects of the story were. I remember, at that point, the complex plot that you see in Enola Holmes 2 was just still developing, so there were things that needed to be ironed out. And I was always interested in her perspective as a young woman because we knew that was our core audience. And everything we did, however complex, had to be understood by a young person.
We indeed get great growth and an evolving version of Enola. We also get an introduction at the very end of the film to Dr. John Watson. What led to the choice to bring him into the fold in this specific way? I know you can’t talk about the future, but how do you see that character fitting into this narrative that you’ve built?
Bradbeer: Watson is part of the canon and he is a friend of Sherlock… He’s an advisor and has a different vibe. So, I’m excited about what part he would play in future movies and that’s certainly our plan. What better way for Watson to come into the story, but then by the hand of Enola herself? She introduces them because she knows that Sherlock needs a friend. And that has become very clear by the end of the story. So it all came together organically… Watson was in the first draft of the first film. We thought, “Oh, we’ll pop him in later,” because we are telling an earlier part of Sherlock’s story than a lot of other interpretations so we can have as much of an origin story for these films as possible.
Get into the game and watch Enola Holmes 2 on Netflix.
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