Jude Law: 'I'm clear about the things I don't want to repeat and those I do'
Actor Jude Law addresses a press conference for the film Side Effects at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival in Berlin on February 12th. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Once almost cloned in suave cad roles, Jude Law has gone a little edgier for Steven Soderbergh’s latest and perhaps last film – is he finally ageing gracefully, asks TARA BRADY
Where are we with Jude Law? In the middle of the last decade, the English actor – now sleekly 40 – was close to unavoidable. In 2006 he was, according to industry yardstick the Ulmer Scale, one of Hollywood’s top 10 most bankable stars. There was so much Law about that Chris Rock, hosting the 2005 Oscars, constructed a joke around the star’s dazzling ubiquity. Musing on Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Alfie, Closer, The Aviator and I (Heart) Huckabees, you could be forgiven for thinking that they were cloning the poor fellow.
Then it all went a wee bit sour. The word went out that we could only take so many suave cads. Law was out. As he reaches his 40s, however, he now begins to seem a little like a treasure. He speaks carefully but appears comfortable in his well-preserved skin. It’s a treat to see him being figuratively torn apart in Steven Soderbergh’s breathless Hitchcockian melodrama Side Effects.
Did turning 40 change him? “Surprisingly quickly,” he says with a twinkle. “I mean I was amazed by the sudden change in myself. I felt calmer. Nothing rattles me any more. I feel like the pressure is off. I feel clearer about the things I don’t want to repeat and the things I do. Long may it last.”
Damn it anyway. You probably want to be told that Law comes across as a bit of a lounge lizard. In fact, he could hardly be more winning and down to earth. He seems genuinely shocked at the notion that an underling might operate the air-conditioning on his behalf. He answers the trickier questions with modest enthusiasm.
If we believe Soderbergh, Side Effects is to be the director’s final film for theatrical distribution. It’s an odd, intriguing piece of work. Law stars as a psychiatrist who, while caring for the disturbed Rooney Mara, finds his life rapidly disintegrating into all kinds of chaos. Part analysis of corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, part plot-hungry psycho-thriller, it bears all the signs of that director’s restless attitude to genre.
“He’s very intelligent, astute, mischievous, dark sometimes,” Law says. “He’s intriguing as a director because he operates the camera. He lights. He edits. The focus is very much on him. I don’t mean that in any kind of egotistical way. I just mean that the energy of the piece is all about him. He makes a lot of decisions then and there. He’s a master of the indie way.”
Law knows a bit about directors. He worked with Steven Spielberg on AI. He appeared in David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ. He’s also been on the other side of the megaphone from Wong Kar-wai, Terry Gilliam, Martin Scorsese and Mike Nichols.
“Yes, I’m very lucky,” he says. “I haven’t worked with anyone who is crap.” It all began in less-than-glamorous Lewisham. His parents, originally teachers, had a great interest in theatre and now run a drama school in France. One could argue that they gave David Jude Law a good start by granting him that nicely hip middle name. It is said it was selected partly in honour of a certain Beatles song and partly in tribute to Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure. Very stage friendly, sir.