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Jude Law: A More Complex Karenin

In Joe Wright's ANNA KARENINA, Jude Law – one of the current screen's great heartthrobs – plays strikingly against type as the unexciting, balding Alexei Karenin, the cuckolded husband of the title heroine. “It was brave of Jude taking on the part of the older man, as it were,” says producer Tim Bevan. “He dove into this character, and I feel that he and Tom [Stoppard] have imparted a whole dimension to Karenin that isn’t necessarily in the book. He’s a more rounded character here, not just a cold fish.” Stoppard’s script, which Law calls “remarkable,” hugely impressed the actor and was a significant reason behind him taking on the role of Karenin. “The piece looks at different angles of love and relationships, honestly and openly and without judgment,” says Law. “There is such an elegance to the way Tom writes dialogue. It’s masterful screenwriting.” Law saw in Stoppard's script a much more complex and human version of Karenin than had been previously identified: “I’m sympathetic to all the characters in the story; you need to understand all sides, and that’s part of why Tolstoy’s novel is so beloved and still engenders discussion. To me, Karenin is ripe to have his heart broken. My feeling is that as far as Karenin sees it, he is offering everything that he should to the marriage. What he doesn’t necessarily bring is passion and romance, and that is not necessarily something that’s in him; it’s probably the way he was brought up, and probably the way he observed his parents behaving. He is carrying his heart as best he knows it.” Law continues, “What’s wonderful about the part is that you see slowly and gradually how his vulnerability awakens; he takes his eyes off his work, which is so much a defining part of him, and the human being comes out to fight for his wife and family. By the end, he’s traveled quite an interesting journey.” The critics have already celebrated Law's Karenin, with Empire declaring that Law is one of the film's "stand-outs" while Oliver Lyttleton of The Playlist wrote,“Law is excellent a part that's older and more buttoned-up than the kind he normally gets; the perspective of the script is more empathetic to Karenin than you might expect, and the actor succeeds entirely in giving you reason to feel for him, while also making you understand why Anna might turn elsewhere.”

Jude Law: Growing up Wilde

It has been said a number of times about Jude Law that he did things early. Born in South London in the early 1970s, Law gravitated to the stage at a young age, joining the National Youth Music Theatre at 14. He made his TV debut at 16, and had his first major small-screen role in the soap Families a year later. After making his break into movies in 1994 with the gritty urban drama Shopping, he retreated to the theatre, confessing later that Shopping “wasn't a film in the end that I wanted to be in. As a young guy, I didn't think about that – I was just happy to be asked.” But, once on the West End, he found success – early, of course – earning an Olivier Award nomination in 1994 for Best Newcomer for Jean Cocteau's Les Parents Terrible. In 1995, he made his Broadway debut in the play (which was titled Indiscretions stateside), alongside Kathleen Turner, and came away with rave reviews and a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor. This success in the U.S. at the young age of 22 quickly translated into a career in Hollywood, though not before Law made a triumphant return to film in Wilde (1997), a biopic of Oscar Wilde in which Law played the brilliant Irish wit's foppish young lover, Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas. The part showed not only his incredible talent and promise, but also demonstrated that Law was an actor who was unafraid of taking on challenging and edgy roles. Recalls Law of making Wilde, “I just felt like, 'If I can do this one then I can do anything.' You're always trying to prove to yourself that you can overcome your fears.” Though much of Law's work since Wilde has been in the U.S., he stills lives in London and in recent years has been acting more in Blighty, whether it's in big blockbusters like the two Sherlock Holmes movies he's made with director Guy Ritchie and co-star Robert Downey Jr., prestigious pictures like Joe Wright's ANNA KARENINA, or taking to the stage, as he did in 2011 for the Donmar Warehouse's production of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie.

Jude Law: A Novel Approach to Stardom

One gets the sense that, had Jude Law stayed working in the U.K., there was a whole career that would have been mapped out before him, in large part made up of roles that played on his distinctive, chiseled good looks and his civilized and very charming Englishness. Law, though, has repeatedly expressed how he has been frustrated by being judged and pigeonholed by his appearance. "I just think that I felt a bit disappointed that that's what people wanted me to be,” he told The Guardian last year of his heartthrob status, “whereas I felt that I had lots of things to offer so I wanted to choose roles that went against it." While Law left behind Britain and a slew of Austen, Dickens and Brontë movies that might have been, he has often gravitated to literary adaptations that have pushed him in very different directions, such as playing quintessentially American characters like Billy Carl Hanson in Clint Eastwood’s 1997 take on John Berendt's Southern Gothic novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil or the stoic Confederate soldier W.P. Inman in Anthony Minghella's 2003 Oscar-winning adaptation of Charles Frazier's Civil War epic Cold Mountain. Law was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the latter performance, thriving under Minghella's direction just as he had when they'd first collaborated on 1999's The Talented Mr. Ripley. As Dickie Greenleaf, the rich Adonis murdered by Matt Damon's Tom Ripley in Minghella's take on Patricia Highsmith's psychothriller, Law got his first Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actor. Indeed, in many of his films, Law uses his easy good looks to defy expectations, creating darker, unexpected characters. In Mike Nichols' 2004 movie version of Patrick Marber's knotty stage quartet Closer, Law plays an obsessive, self-loathing novelist, and in 2007’s Sleuth (a reboot of the classic 1972 thriller), Jude Law plays a dangerous cat-and-mouse gang with Michael Caine (who poetically played Law’s role in the original version). Entertainment Weekly gleefully endorsed Law’s creepy reinvention of himself in Sleuth, noting he’s adorned with a “gigolo sleaziness that looks good on him.” Of course, one of his most suprising literary turns is as Dr. Watson in new Sherlock Holmes franchise with Robert Downey Jr. as the master detective. As the Boston Globe notes, his “fleet, dapper Dr. Watson - decades removed from a men’s club duffer like Nigel Bruce.”

Jude Law: An Auteur's Actor

Harlen Maguire, the near-demonic, facially disfigured hitman in Sam Mendes' 2002 Depression thriller Road to Perdition, is an ideal example of the kind of roles that Jude Law is drawn to – it didn't dwell on his physical beauty, it was based on compelling source material (Max Allan Collins' graphic novel), and was directed by a visionary director. When discussing casting Law in ANNA KARENINA, Joe Wright said, “I wanted to give Jude the space to shine, since I know what a great character actor he can be,” and Law is, in truth, that rare thing, a movie star who has the adventurous spirit (and lack of vanity) of a character actor. Law's first Hollywood film (actually made just before Wilde) was Andrew Niccol's sophisticated sci-fi Gattaca, which Law said was the first departure from the “vaguely confusing wilderness my jobs had been to this point.” Law's career has been boosted by Hollywood hits, such as Alfie and The Holiday, but he has mostly carved out a career in Hollywood working with auteurs, starting out with David Cronenberg's playful and highly inventive sci-fi thriller eXistenZ and Steven Spielberg’s A.I. (in which Law played the robot Gigolo Joe), and continuing with roles in offbeat films by David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees), Wong Kar-wai (My Blueberry Nights) and Terry Gilliam (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus). Law recently played the titular hero's father in Hugo for Martin Scorsese (whose The Aviator he cameo'd in as Errol Flynn back in 2004), and up ahead he is reteaming with his Contagion director Steven Soderbergh on Side Effects and working with MOONRISE KINGDOM's Wes Anderson on The Grand Budapest Hotel. Summing up his philosophy on his career, Law says, “I don’t want to get to an age where I look back and say, 'Oh, I never did that.' ”

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