I would be perversely satisfying to report
that success has spoiled Jude Law. That his
affable self has turned him into an unbearable media junkie with an inﬂated ego. That he flits from blockbuster to vanity project accompanied by his celebrity wife Sadie Frost and luvvie pals Jonny Lee Miller. Sean Pertwee and Ewan McGregor. That he is cocooned in a world of self-congratulatory bonhomie.
But it‘s just not true. Even if his gang do all live within streets of each other in Primrose Hill. north London. and the children also hang out together, there are no detectable cracks in the image monitored over years of interviews and festival encounters. The Law-Frost axis has always fought against being seduced by the cult of celebrity, refusing the likes of Hello to enter their family life, comprising Rafferty. 3. and Finlay. 10 (from Frost’s marriage to Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp).
industry watchers. promises to catapult Law into the A-list stratosphere.
And currently he's in the States again to work with American Beauty director Sam Mendes. plus Totn Hanks and Paul Newman in The Road to I”rditlmt in which he plays a psychotic crime scene photographer named The Reporter. Then he returns to join John Maybury for the shoot of Marlowe. a production for his Natural Nylon company about the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe (to be played by Johnny Depp) who has his work stolen by a jealous admirer. He then passes it on to an unsuccessful playwright named William Shakespeare (Law). who publishes it as his own work.
Hauling him back to the reality of Stalingrad after Spielberg and Shakespeare isn‘t easy. but as that's the purpose of his appearance at the Berlin Film Festival he acquiesces with customary politeness. In any
a more measured appraisal: ‘I found Jude very charismatic in Ripley. which is why I chose him for lineniv. There is a fierce intelligence and liveliness in his eyes. yet he can be incredibly quiet and internal.~
Both he and Frost have an insatiable appetite for work. yet they know when to draw the line. They ensure. despite frequent absences. that at least one of them is around for family duties. With Frost pregnant again the juggling act will become even more complicated after the new addition arrives. ‘We‘re very disciplined at home.‘ Law says. ‘We just shut off from anything to do with work. You're happy to do so. and in any case we're usually completely exhausted.‘
Natural Nylon makes increasing demands on their time. He derived much creative satisfaction from two productions to date — the wildly experimental Final Cut and the gangster thriller Love Honour And Obey — although
‘If ever there was a film where morale could have dived it was this one.
Even when he makes a remark as innocent as ‘Confidence was never a problem’. Law immediately fears he‘s sounding like a bumptious fop. ‘That wasn‘t meant to be arrogant. honest,’ he says quickly. ‘lt was never a question of thinking I was best. But I always knew I could do it. I‘m a great fan of classical guitar but it wasn't something I could come to grips with. At school I could cope with maths. but I was on top of English. And it felt the same with acting. I knew that world almost instinctively, and what’s happened has almost surpassed all those early dreams.’
That‘s a typical Law understatement. The 28-year-old has basked in Oscar nomination glory for The Talented Mr Ripley (his Dickie Greenleaf outclassed Matt Damon in almost every scene together), earned Clint Eastwood’s approval as the gay hustler for Midnight In The Garden 0] Good And Evil, and came to David Cronenberg’s attention in Existenz. Before all that he had caught the critical eye for his work in Wilde (as Bosie. the object of Stephen Fry‘s desire) and the inebriated paraplegic in the futuristic thriller Gattaca.
Now his cinema proﬁle is about to be hoist still higher with his performances in Enemy At The Gates, Jean-Jacques Annaud’s $85m Stalingrad epic about one of the bloodiest battles in history in which Law plays Zaitsev. a brilliant sniper and reluctant hero (he killed 242 Germans during the seige), and in Steven Spielberg’s forthcoming A]. yet another futuristic thriller. The latter. according to
case because of the amount of research he
undertakes for any given role. bits of most of
his incarnations stick around for some time. For Iinemy he ploughed through Russian history books. watched Eisenstein and Tarkovsky films. and genned up on sniping from an ex-SAS officer. Even the fact that the filth was shot in and around Berlin helped. ‘It became a very personal experience.‘ he says. ‘because there were all these Russian and German actors and extras who brought all their emotional baggage and personal stories and
opinions about the battle and the war, much of
it passed down through their families.’
Zaitsev appealed to Law because it was the first time he‘d had the chance to play somebody who expressed themselves physically rather than verbally. ‘1 related to his simplicity. his salt of the earth, no-nonsense approach to life.’ he says. ‘lt was a tough shoot. and if ever there was a film where morale could have dived it was this one. But somehow it never happened. I worked with a military adviser who taught me all I know about guns, which previously was nothing. I was shown how to strip a riﬂe. to clean it. and then I was sent home with it and told to eat with it, sleep with it and do everything else with it.’
Law mercifully seems to be unaware of the effect his lean. sinewy frame, chiselled good looks. gleaming smile and penetrating blue- grey eyes can exert. He has been described as everything from ‘a lightly gilded River Phoenix‘ to ‘cute‘. Jean-Jacques Annaud gives
neither quickcned the pulses of the public or the critics. The main difficulty. he says. is finding enough downtime when they‘re all free of other commitments. Nora. with McGregor playing James Joyce. was one of their more successful projects. They are progressing with plans for a film about the Hellfire Club (with Billy Elliot‘s Stephen Daldry slated to direct). which details various sexual scandals of the 1800s. and Law's pet project about Beatles‘ guru Brian Epstein which he may direct (he’s already turned his hand to a short as part of the
Tube Tales series). He would take the role of
‘I am intrigued by the man who threw the party that was the 60s and forgot to invite himself.’ he says. ‘Few will ever achieve the world-wide fame and success he commanded yet despite all the glory and achievement, he was unhappy and died on his own. He’s a symbol for us all.’
Is Law. then. as charming as he appears and impervious to the weaknesses that afflict ordinary mortals? He looks shocked at the notion. Almost in self defence he adds: ‘Well, I‘ve got a very bad temper. A very bad, short temper. It used to be a lot worse. And actually I think I can be pretty boring; Sadie will testify to that.‘
Having eased those confessions off his toned chest Law looks a lot happier.
Enemy At The Gates is released on Fri 16 Mar. See review, page 28
A LAW UNT®
He’s charmed the world with good looks, better performances and famous friends. ls JUDE LAW too good to be true?
Words: Richard Mowe
15-29 Mar 2001 THE LIST 1 1