Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Whatever Happened to Jude Law?

Ever since Chris Rock made his joke about Jude Law being in almost every movie at the 2005 Oscar ceremony, only to be rebuked by a humourless Sean Penn, Jude Law has become less prominent as a movie star. Some strong films – Closer (2004), Cold Mountain (2003), The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) – provided him with a strong reputation. This he weakened by some poor character choices, such as Alfie (2004), which he didn’t really succeed with, and as Brad in I Heart Huckabies (2004). So, where is Jude Law in his meteoric career?

Though his acting career began on stage in 1984, he recently celebrated his first decade in the movies. In this time he has made twenty five films, been nominated for two Oscars (best actor in Cold Mountain and best supporting actor for The Talented Mr Ripley), won both a British Television Film Academy and Blockbuster Award for Mr Ripley, and been nominated three times for a Golden Globe.

His first “big” film was Gattaca (1997) – a film he made just seven years into his professional acting career, which he followed with a strong character role in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997). Steady work followed, including his lead role in Spielberg’s AI (2001) and a key role in Sam Mendes Road to Perdition (2002).

For a time he was also a partner in a production company called Natural Nylon, which explains why he made Alfie – it was his production company. His partners in this venture included Jonny Lee Miller, his own ex-wife Sadie Frost (they divorced in 2003) and Ewan McGregor. This company developed a range of projects for both stage and film and continues to provide a strong vehicle for Law and others.

His personal life took a positive turn when, shortly after being named “sexiest man alive” by People Magazine –not always a reliable source of information – he announced his engagement to Sienna Miller, with whom he starred in Alfie. Despite rocky moments in this relationships, plans for a wedding in 2006 remain firm.

Recently he has been working on three films. All the Kings Men directed by Steven Zaillian, author of some major film screenplays (Awakenings, Hannibal, Gangs of New York). The film co-stars Sean Penn in the lead role, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini. It is the story of a southern governor and his political career, based on the 1946 Pulitzer prize novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren. Jude Law plays Jack Burden – a part originally played by John Ireland (Gunfight at the OK Coral, Spartacus and others) in the 1949 version of this film.

More interestingly, Law is working again with Anthony Menghella (Cold Mountain, Talented Mr Ripley, The English Patient, Truly Madly Deeply) on the film Breaking and Entering, where Law plays the lead with Ray Winston and Robin Wright Penn in support. The storyline is a classic reflective character role – his character Will is an architect who has to re-evaluate his life following a break and enter. It should challenge Law and provide an opportunity for the Law-Menghella partnership to be nominated for a third Oscar.

His third current project is Dexterity, directed by Gavin O’Connor (Tumbleweeds, Miracle, Comfortably Numb). Law plays a depressed man who, deserted by his wife, submerges himself in a depressive life in Myles, New York. Law is producer for this movie – his second production. He has also made his directorial debut in a segment of the made for TV film Tube Tales (1999) – one of nine short pieces, with others by Ewan McGregor, Bob Hoskins and Stephen Hopkins (director of many of the episodes of 24 as well as The Life and Death of Peter Sellers).

Sean Penn was right. Jude Law is “one of our finest actors” and now needs to consolidate his career with some careful character choices and focused direction. He enjoys acting on stage, taking time out of a hectic movie schedule earlier in his career to appear on stage in Marlowe’s Dr Faustus and is rumoured to be interested in playing Hamlet. Getting back to the stage for a period may help hone is already strong acting skills.

We will see a lot more of Jude Law. Watch for him in Break and Enter.

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