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Jude Law
Rolling Stone Australia (November 2004)

Up until 2002, Jude Law had always said he’d only make one film a year. That was his plan: work at a decent pace and devote the rest of his time to his then wife, Sadie Frost, and their children. In the spring of 2002, however, while he was appearing in a theatre production of ‘Dr Faustus’, he contracted a rare blood disease which took him out of action for a few months. Once he was back on his feet, his attitude had changed completely.

“I got very sick,” Law remembers, sitting in a suite in London’s swish Dorchester Hotel. “I was massively underweight and it motivated me to get fit and strong, which I’d never been before. I’d relied on youth up until then to see me through. It was a kick up the arse. It changed my perspective and made me realise ‘time to grab things’.”

The result is that while there just one Law film released in 2003 – ‘Cold Mountain’, for which he received an Oscar nomination – in 2004, there were a staggering six slated to be put out, with at least two more to follow in 2005. What makes this even more amazing is that Law claims he spent almost half of 2004 doing nothing.

“I had from April to December off,” he grins. “It’s been good. I’ve been going to the cinema. Reading a lot. I’ve been going to the football and galleries and the theatre and being dad. Just enjoying a certain amount of normality.”

One of the projects Law was inspired to grab was the remake of ‘Alfie’, the classic Sixties movie starring Michael Caine about a suave yet hard hearted womaniser. Again, this represented a shift in perspective. “I realised that I’d spent the first ten years of my working life trying out other kind of muscles and not being interested by scripts that were about relationships or playing someone who uses charm or their physicality to their benefit. And I thought as I was turning 30, 31, ‘alright bare it all, see if you can pull it off’.”

There’s no question that Law has the charm or the looks for the role. Regularly named one of the most beautiful men on the planet, he uses his charisma in his acting whether the part calls for it or not. And he’s certainly learnt how to turn it on for the press. I first met Law in 1999, when he was amiable, slightly hungover company. Today his charm is so intense it’s almost overpowering: emotions writ large on his face as he considers questions; laughter just a notch louder than reality; eye contact deliberately steady. He’s also sitting with his white shirt almost totally unbuttoned, expansively hairy chest on view. Were I female, I’d probably have to be helped from the room afterwards.

“Did I have an Alfie period in my life?” Law laughs. “Briefly. But not very successfully. It’s always the way isn’t it? I fell in love and I got married very young. We were together nearly eleven years. But yeah, I did briefly. I remember long nights in bars with my friends and more often than not going home drunk on your own.”

Law and Frost divorced in October 2003 and Law is currently with his Alfie co-star Sienna Miller. The somewhat cheeky observation that pulling his co-star was quite an Alfie thing to do produces a slight grin and a gentle deflection – all part of the service. “I’ll say this and this only. People more often than not meet at work…”

Alongside ‘Alfie’, Law’s other high profile release is ‘Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow’, a visually stunning retro-futurist comic book adventure. Once more, it was all about a change in working practices: Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie acted against a blue screen and the shadowy, Fritz Lang-style scenery was put in afterwards. “Trying to pull off a sense of truth in a blue room was like going back to the theatre,” Law says. “Back to the playground almost. I really loved the film’s innocence. I’m a big fan of dark blood and guts movies just like everyone else, but I liked that it was thrilling and exciting and romantic but not cynical.”

As if his current workload isn’t enough, Law’s also rumoured to be starring in a biopic of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. Sadly it’s not true. “No. I only heard about it on the internet. But if the script’s good, it’s a great, great story and an amazing band.” So Law would be interested? “I would because I love the band. I thought they did it very well in ’24 Hour Party People’. I’d have to read it. It’s a great idea, but it might be a terrible script. You’ve got to do it well. With respect.”

Law came into contact with another legendary singer when he worked with Jack White on ‘Cold Mountain’. “Thank God they put our scene on the DVD. I’m a huge fan of his band. He’s a pretty extraordinary bloke. Because he channels such a raw hard blues rock energy you presume it’s going to be this psyclone of. . .not aggression but vitality when you meet him. And he’s such a modest unassuming gentle man. He did a brilliant job in ‘Cold Mountain’.”

As did Law, although his performance wasn’t deemed worthy of an Oscar. Still, he laughs, it was a nice night out for his mum. “I went never expecting to have to get up there, so I just enjoyed myself. It was really nice taking my mum to that sort of thing. She sat next to Sean Connery! Which she loved. Because it reminded her of going to see ‘Dr No’ at the Baycup Flicks some forty years ago. I don’t think she ever suspected she’d be sat next to him one day at the Oscars.”

Or that her son would one day become his successor.

Ian Watson
Music, film, comedy and travel journalist based in London

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