Sacha Baron Cohen to star as Sherlock Holmes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sacha Baron Cohen will star as detective Sherlock Holmes and Will Ferrell as his loyal assistant, Watson, in an upcoming film comedy inspired by tales of the fictional English sleuth, Columbia Pictures said on Wednesday.

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Cohen, 36, and Ferrell, 40, last appeared together in the 2006 auto racing spoof “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” with Ferrell in the title role and Cohen playing his rival, a French speed racer.

Screenwriter Etan Cohen, no relation to the British comedian who sprang to movie fame as “Borat,” has been signed to pen the screenplay for the as-yet untitled Sherlock Holmes film, the Sony Corp.-owned studio said in a statement.

The story will use as a starting point the principal characters created by Scottish-born author and physician Arthur Conan Doyle in the late 19th century.

No launch date for the production has been set, and no other decisions about casting or a director have been made.

The role of Holmes, the gentlemanly English detective par excellence renowned for his use of deductive reasoning, might seem an odd fit for Cohen, who, though educated at Cambridge University, has made a career of playing outlandish characters with funny accents.

He earned his credentials as a box office star playing a boorish, oversexed TV journalist from Central Asia in the 2006 comedy “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” improvising scenes with everyday Americans unaware he was making a movie.

The role was based on one of several characters he created for his television series, “Da Ali G Show.” Cohen also appeared on the big screen opposite Johnny Depp in the 2007 musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

Ferrell, who made his name as a leading sketch comedy artist on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” has a string of film comedies to his credit, including “Elf,” “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Stranger than Fiction,” “Blades of Glory” and “Semi-Pro.”

“Just the idea of Sacha and Will as Sherlock Holmes and Watson makes us laugh,” Columbia Pictures co-president Matt Tolmach said in a statement.

Columbia’s development of a Sherlock Holmes spoof marks the second major studio project currently in the works based on the famed British private eye, with Warner Bros. preparing a drama to be directed by Madonna’s filmmaking husband, Guy Ritchie, according to Daily Variety.

Editing by Steve Gorman, Bob Tourtellotte