Holmes, [Jeremy] Brett said, has taken a toll on several actors who have played the part. He recalled a conversation he recently had with Robert Stephens, who played Holmes in Billy Wilder’s 1970 film “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.”
"He said, ‘I tried to commit suicide when I played the part. It ended Basil Rathbone’s career. Do you understand? He is all trimming. He is a man without a heart. If you try to become someone who is hollow, you fall straight down the well and bang your head. But you have survived it."
The conversation was a great revelation to Brett. Now he suddenly understood why he would compulsively wash his hair and wear bright colors after a day’s filming.
"It has been a bloody miracle I survived," Brett said. "There are those who put on the calabash pipe and the cape and hat and just go straight through it—the ones who act him and don’t try to become him like Christopher Plummer and John Neville. The ones who try to be him face this dilemma. The encouragement I have been given has pulled me through.""