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Sherlock Holmes 3 Release Date, Cast And Plot - What We Know So Far

These days, Robert Downey Jr. is probably best known for playing Tony Stark — a.k.a. Iron Man — the billionaire genius superhero who defeated Thanos (Josh Brolin) in the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, Tony is far from his only major film role. In fact, he also headlines another popular movie franchise, albeit one that's been a little less visible over the last decade as saving the world took precedence.

Downey first brought to life Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's inimitable literary detective Sherlock Holmes in the 2009 film "Sherlock Holmes" — eventually winning a Golden Globe for his performance. Directed by Guy Ritchie, the film also starred Jude Law as Sherlock's best friend and assistant, Dr. John Watson. It was so well received that a sequel, "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," quickly followed in 2011.

Although rumors of a third film began swirling almost immediately, nothing concrete came of them for years. The script was written and rewritten so much that it started to feel like "A Game of Shadows" would be the end of Downey's detective. But now, the third film actually has a script written by "Narcos" co-creator Chris Brancato, a director in Dexter Fletcher of "Rocketman" fame, and a release date. Meanwhile, Downey and his wife, producer Susan Downey, are attempting to develop the film series into a full-on Sherlock Holmes franchise. Basically, things are starting to come together nicely, which has our excitement levels back up. So, we've gathered up everything we know about Sherlock Holmes 3 so far.

What is the release date for Sherlock Holmes 3?

After the film's pieces finally started aligning, Warner Bros. set an initial release date of Christmas Day 2020 for the third "Sherlock Holmes" flick. (The first two films were also released around Christmas). However, it was announced in March 2019 that the film was being delayed by a year, though a reason for the delay was never given. The movie is now slated to hit theaters on December 22, 2021, but it remains to be seen whether the movie will actually be released that date. 

In October 2020, director Dexter Fletcher, who is taking over from Guy Ritchie, appeared on an episode of the Celebrity Catch Up Podcast and revealed that the film was on the back burner as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. "Sherlock's hit its own issues on and off," Fletcher said. "That's sort of sitting on the back burner at the moment until it becomes clear where the world is at and what's going to happen."

Who is in the cast for Sherlock Holmes 3?

As you might expect, both Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are set to reprise their roles as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, respectively, for "Sherlock Holmes 3." After all, it would hardly be a Sherlock film without the franchise's dynamic duo. Beyond that, though, the cast of "Sherlock Holmes 3" is a bit of a mystery. So far there has been no word on whether supporting characters like Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), Watson's wife, Mary (Yellowstone's Kelly Reilly), or even Sherlock's older brother, Mycroft (Stephen Fry), will return for the next installment in the exceptionally fun franchise. But it's also a bit hard to believe that none of them will be back as they all play very important roles within the overarching Sherlock Holmes story. 

Another character who plays an integral role in our hero's journey is his arch-nemesis, Professor James Moriarty, played in the second film by Jared Harris — and we're not completely ruling out his return in the third film even though we were led to believe the character died at the end of the second movie. After all, Sherlock was also supposed to have died and obviously that didn't stick. The only snag in this theory is that, as of 2018, the character apparently wasn't in the script (via DigitalSpy). That could have obviously changed, though, given how many times the script seems to have been written and rewritten. Basically, anything is possible.

What is the plot of Sherlock Holmes 3?

The script for "Sherlock Holmes 3" was penned by Chris Brancato, the co-creator of Netflix's popular crime drama "Narcos," as well as the co-creator of Epix's own crime series, "Godfather of Harlem." Unfortunately, that is pretty much the full extent of what we know about the movie's script. The central narrative, including the villains and/or cases it might pull from, remains a mystery that we're not sure even Sherlock could crack at this stage.

The first "Sherlock Holmes" film saw everyone's favorite clever detective take on Lord Henry Blackwood (portrayed by Mark Strong), who died at the end of the movie, so he's not likely to make another appearance in the franchise. Meanwhile, Professor Moriarty was front and center in the sequel, "A Game of Shadows," but his death was less definitive, so once again, we're not ruling it out. But it seems more likely that the movie will introduce a new villain and a new case to solve, as it sounds like Team Downey is hoping to use the third film to launch the aforementioned "Sherlock Holmes" franchise.

During a panel at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in October 2020, Downey revealed the duo's plans to build out the film's universe, stating: "At this point, we really feel that there is not a mystery-verse built out anywhere, and Conan Doyle is the definitive voice in that arena, I think, to this day. So to me, why do a third movie if you're not going to be able to spin off into some real gems of diversity and other times and elements?"

"We think there's an opportunity to build it out more," added Susan Downey. "Spin off characters from a third movie, to see what's going on in the television landscape, to see what Warner Media is starting to build out, things with HBO and HBO Max."

Whatever the plot of "Sherlock Holmes 3" ends up being, it's bound to be exciting.