Millie Bobby Brown was catapulted to fame for playing Eleven in the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, and soon you’ll get to see her in one of the streaming platform’s original cinematic offerings. Brown is starring as Enola Holmes’ eponymous character, who’s the younger sister of famed detective Sherlock Holmes. However, word’s come in that Enola Holmes is now facing a lawsuit from the estate of the man who created Sherlock, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The author’s estate filed a 19-page complaint against Enola Holmes in New Mexico federal court which claims (via Deadline) that the “copyright infringement arises from defendants unauthorized copying of original creative expression by [Conan Doyle] in copyrighted Sherlock Holmes stories.” The suit notes that while most of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, starting with the 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet, rest in the public domain, that is not the case with the author’s final 10 Sherlock stories, which were published 1923 and 1927.
By that time, World War I had concluded, and Arthur Conan Doyle lost both his brother and eldest son in the conflict. So when he returned to write those final Sherlock Holmes stories, he infused both the detective and his partner, Dr. John Watson, with new “significant new character traits.” Of particular note, as laid out in the lawsuit:
When Conan Doyle came back to Holmes in the Copyrighted Stories between 1923 and 1927, it was no longer enough that the Holmes character was the most brilliant rational and analytical mind. Holmes needed to be human. The character needed to develop human connection and empathy.
That’s where this issue with Enola Holmes comes in, with the lawsuit claiming that the use of these elements from those later Sherlock Holmes stories marks a “willful, deliberate, and ongoing infringement of the Conan Doyle Estate’s copyrights.” As a result, the Doyle estate is seeking a jury trial and demands that the defendants pay the estate unspecified damages.
What’s peculiar about this lawsuit is that Netflix’s Enola Holmes movie is based on a series of six books by Nancy Springer that were published from 2006 to 2010, with the title character being her original creation. So if the Doyle estate found the use of these 1923-1927 Sherlock Holmes elements (which also included Sherlock treating Watson as more of a friend) problematic, why wasn’t a lawsuit filed years earlier?
Whatever the reason, the Enola Holmes movie now finds itself with a legal target painted on its back, with director Harry Bradbeer and writer Jack Thorne being among the case’s defendants, as well as Nancy Springer and the publisher of the original books, Penguin Random House. It’s worth mentioning that all the Sherlock Holmes stories will all be in the public domain in the U.S. by 2023, but obviously that doesn’t help these defendants in the meantime.
We’ll have to wait and see how Netflix responds to this lawsuit, though there was a similar suit filed fives years ago against Mr. Holmes, the movie that starred Ian McKellen as an elderly Sherlock who retired to the countryside and struggled to remember the details of his final case. The Mr. Holmes suit was settled out of court and dismissed a few months later, so perhaps the same thing will happen with Enola Holmes.
Along with Millie Bobby Brown in the leading role, Enola Holmes stars Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes, Sam Clafin as Mycroft Holmes (Enola and Sherlock’s brother) and Helena Bonham Carter as Eudoria Holmes (the mother of Enola, Sherlock and Mycroft), as well as Fiona Shaw, Adeel Akhtar, Frances de la Tour, Louis Partridge, Susie Wokoma and Burn Gorman in undisclosed roles. The movie follows a 16-year-old Enola heading to London to investigate the disappearance of her mother.
Enola Holmes was originally going to be a theatrical release, but due to the ongoing health crisis, Netflix picked it up from Legendary Entertainment. There’s no word yet on when the movie will hit the streaming platform, so stay tuned to CinemaBlend for that information. You can also learn what movies are supposed to arrive in theaters later this year with our 2020 release schedule.