The Face
April, 1998.

For the accompanying pictures to this article, click here.

copyright of article belongs to "the Face" magazine, U.K.


(Shopping and f*cking with Britainís young buck actor-king. Or, how he stopped worrying and learned to love dubious films about joy-riding, give it some Wilde style, and takes his cues from Clint Eastwood and Kevin Spacey. Oh, and donate his piss to Ethan Hawke and his saliva to Uma Thurman. Deborah Ross is all ears (and lips)


Jude Law is sex on a stick. His best friends are fellow actors Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller. He is 25 years old, married, with a wee boy. He has kissed Uma Thurman (and Stephen Fry), drunk beer with Clint Eastwood, and will soon compare chest measurements with Matt Damon. Is Jude Law too good to be true?


Jude Law. An excellent actor, possibly. An extremely beautiful 25-year-old, certainly. I am overcome. Jude, youíre so gorgeous, I say. Jude, understandably alarmed:
"Would you like to go for a walk?" And: "Do you need some fresh air?" A walk? What with uphill bits and things? Fresh air? Does it hurt? Canít I just sit here, looking at your eyes. Iíve never seen eyes so exquisitely green". "Yes, a walk", he announces firmly. So off we go. Him, energetically. Me, sulkily. Jude lives in Primrose Hill, north London. So does pretty much everyone else, it would seem. "Thatís Ewan McGregorís road", Jude points out. "Sean Pertwee lives just behind that square", he continues. "Thatís Jonny Lee Millerís place", he concludes. Yes, they are all terrific mates. Always popping in and out of each others houses. Even have their own production company. Natural Nylon, with quite a few scripts in development, plus a co-production with David Cronenberg due to start shooting in Canada in a few weeks, which stars Jude and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Jude is so hot and so booked up, he wonít even be reading any new scripts until October. This month he has two films coming out, one directed by Clint Eastwood (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), the other starring Jude with Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke (Gattaca). Judeís agent can put his feet up and read Hello! for the rest of the year. If I canít marry Jude, Iíll be his agent. Either would do, I think.

"Though tabloid criticism will miss the mark, Shopping isnít without its problem. The minimal script may avoid preachering, but it doesnít give the cast much to work with, and for all his efforts to appear dorky, Jude Law is too good-looking to come off as anything other than the archetypal cool rebel". THE FACE, March 1994

JUDE LAW. When did we first take note of that name? In 1994, probably, when he starred in the disastrously received film Shopping. Intended as an exploration of ram-raiding culture, it just never cut it. "Embarrassing", was the best anyone could say about it. Jude knew it was bad while he was making it. He had to say lines like: "Come on Jo, this is the nineties. Sex isnít safe any more."

Still, he was 21, had the lead in a film, plus a driver to pick him up and drop him off. "It was nice for the ego." Now though, he realises "Thatís not, what itís about.". He isnít ashamed of Shopping. He wasnít even disappointed when it was so universally panned. It was good experience. Now he is even proud of it, in a strange kind of way. "It did pave the way for Trainspotting"

He packed himself off to the theatre. The London fringe, then starring a role in the Nationalís production of Jean Cocteauís Les Parents terribles, which transferred to Broadway in 1995 with the more American-friendly title Indescretions, caused a bit of a stir with Judeís full frontal nudity, and earned him a Tony nomination. That, plus the attention of important movie people with important movie scripts. He auditioned for Gattaca, which would become his first Hollywood film, and he was seen by Clintís "people". Two years later, "Midnight" would be his second Hollywood film.

And it was while on Broadway that fellow Brit-thesp-abroad Rufus Sewell handed him the script for an Oscar Wilde biopic. "This is a really good script", Rufus said to June, as they headed out to "get toasted" one night. "Thereís a really good part for you."

So it came to pass that Judeís UK debut, this time round was Wilde. He played Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) to Stephen Fryís Oscar. Bosie is wilful and vindictive and reckless and spoilt yet, still Oscar loves him. Bosieís beautiful, but he canít return love, having never been loved himself. Jude certainly brought a necessarily vulnerability to the part. Ewan and Sean and Jonny tease Jude about his looks. "Youíll be fine", they say. "Youíll just play the pretty boys"" He wonít though. Hugh Grant, yes. Jude Law, no. He will be a great deal better than that, I think. And hope.

Gattaca has just opened here. This is Andrew Niccolís stylishly eerie sci-fi thriller, set in a world where embryos are genetically programmed to be perfect. To cut a two-hour script short, Jude plays Eugene, a genetically superior athlete who, after an accident, becomes a bitter, alcoholic paraplegic in a wheelchair. Jude gives good paraplegic. Or, as Niccol himself said: "He became so convincing that after the production I saw a photograph of him standing up and didnít recognise him."
To earn money, Eugene rents out his genetic identity to someone inferior (Hawke), who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Jude says the film is about "the human spirit that will always rise". He says: "Itís like, no matter how much concrete you put down, grass will always push through."

Jude can be touchingly earnest. The New York Times described his performance as "the most stunning movie debut of the year" (Wilde is only about to open in America). He gets to kiss Uma Thurman a bit. Jude: kissing Stephen and kissing Uma. Compare and contrast if you will.
"Well, unfortunately, I had the longer kisses with Stephen." No, of course, he didnít mind having to kiss Fry. "Itís part and parcel of the job."
Who couldnít you possibly kiss, even if a script demanded it? David Mellor? "It would have to be a very good script."
Michael Portillo? "Ditto, I think."
Cilla Black? "I love Cilla Black."

"What was so great about the part of Bosie, and which is why I so wanted to do it, is that on one hand he was commanding, he was manipulating, and that shows the power of his personality. But at the same time he was victimised and used. It was interesting, too, playing a younger man in an older manís world. It kind of drowned him. Is that a metaphor for myself? A young man in an old manís world, hmm - I donít know. This is what Iíve always wanted to do, Iíve always really enjoyed it, but when the opportunity arises youíve got to take it and do your damndest to do it well. There was always part of me that didnít want to go for the easy option, keep quiet, keep my head down, please the institution." Jude Law, Contents magazine, spring 1998

WE ARE climbing the hill in Primrose Hill by this time. I am lagging behind rather. Jude is fit. Jude goes to a gym. We reach the top. No, letís get this right. Jude reaches the top. Then, 10 minutes later, I reach the top. Jude is glowing. I have to have a sit down.
I must say, now Iíve got my breath back, the view over London is very fine from up here. Jude comes here a lot with his 18-month-old son, Rafferty, to fly their kite. Jude is a besotted father. Judeís got a burn on one elbow from breakdancing for Raff the other day in the kitchen; he fell and scraped his arm along the wooden floor. A breakdancing besotted father! I wish I had one of those.
If Jude is worried about anything, it is: "Am I spending enough time with Raff?"

Jude plays as volatile hustler in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Also featuring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack, Midnight is based on the best-selling book which itself was based on the real-life shooting of a bisexual druggie (Law) by his antique-dealing socialite lover (Spacey) in Savannah, Georgia in 1981.

"Heís sort of the ultimate rebel, but heís also a little boy lost in a toy shop. My main aim was to make Billy as real and unglamorous as possible." Jude said that of his Shopping character in 1994. It could equally apply to Billy Hansen, the whippet-thin lowlife he plays with convincingly seedy allure in Midnight.

Jude didnít meet Clint until he got on set, because Clint doesnít audition his actors. "He thinks heíll intimidate them", says Jude. Clint took Jude out for a drink at Pinkie Masters, "a dirty bar in Savannah where you can buy boiled peanuts". They just talked about babies. "Clint had a new baby he was crazy about. He said that when he was young, he never got to see his kids."

Jude is quite mature, I think. A lot of men donít get it when it comes to children, but he does. I like him a lot for it. But, more importantly, Clint? Whatís he like? Clintís just so "cool", he says. He never says "Action" or "Cut". He says "Begin" and "Hold it there". Yes, Jude is married, sadly. And, even more upsettingly, he seems happily married. His wife is Sadie Frost, the actress he met while filming Shopping ("Jude looks prettier than me", humphed Sadie on the set). Sadie is also one of the Natural Nylon gang.

She was, he says, by far the best thing to come out of that film, bar the door-to-door drivers. She was married to Spandau Balletís Gary Kemp at the time, "so it was a complicated start, yes." They went on a secret holiday together after the filming. They came back and it wasnít Sadie and Gary anymore. It was Sadie and Jude. "She just blew me away", he says.

Itís very blustery up here. I canít get my fag lit. Jude wonders if we should go down to the pub. Whatís there to wonder about? We go down. Downhill is easier.

Into his local. A bloody Mary each, although he shouldnít, really. He is trying not to drink so much, he says. Itís a bottle of white wine a night, at least. Heís trying not to smoke, either. He smokes mine, which is always the way with people who imagine theyíve given up. We run out pretty quickly. I offer to go to the newsagent next door to replenish supplies. He says I canít. The newsagent was rude to Sadie last week. She was flicking through a magazine as one does. The newsagent shouted at her. "Are you buying that or what?" She said she was. He said: "Donít bother. I know about people like you." Jude later rushed round to have it out with him. "What did you mean? ĎPeople like you?í How dare you be so rude to my wife."
Jude was tempted to punch the newsagent, yes. He went to a tough school. He knows how to fight good. He decided against it. Heís learned to restrain himself, he says. Heís decided to boycott the newsagent instead. This doesnít seem so dashing somehow. "Iím not buying my Variety from you, you horrid newsagent" does lack a certain drama. But Jude does seem a very sane, sensible sort of bloke, actually. At least I think though, until he tells me where the next nearest newsagent is. Itís down that road, across that square, past Seanís, round the corner and then round the next corner. Another walk? Are you mad? I settle for a brand I donít like from the pub machine. Jude grew up in Lewisham, south London. His father, Peter, was the deputy head of a primary school. His mother, Maggie, taught English as a second language to immigrant children. Jude has a sister, Natasha, who is now part-writer, part-artist. Judeís called Jude because, he says, his mother has always been much taken with Thomas Hardyís Jude the Obscure. Jude didnít read it until he was 18. He was quite shocked. "So depressing!"

Jude attempted his local comp, Kidbrooke School, which was a rough place - "a kid was macheted to death there."
Jude was known as "poofter" initially, because he was so pretty. He spent a lot of time trying to avoid the roaming gangs who wanted to beat him up. He did this until he got bored of it, and decided that if anyone punched him, heíd punch them back. He did. And got good at it. He learned, he says, "how to not feel pain, while inflicting it". He became one of the best thugs in the school. So Judeís parents took him away and - "against their political sway" - placed him at Alleynís School in Dulwich, a private job.
He didnít mind. By this time, there was only one thing on his mind, and that was acting. The first film he remembers seeing?
"The Rescuers at the Lewisham Coronet. My sister was scared. I remember being impressed it could have such an effect."
He says he went to John Travoltaís house in Hollywood once. And? And? "He had an aeroplane on his lawn!" Jude is still deliciously starstruck. I ask him about Hollywood stardom. Is it something you choose? Or something thatís thrust upon you? He thinks, initially, itís something thatís thrust upon you, "depending how big the film is". I disagree. I think itís something you choose. Hugh Grant is a Hollywood star. Daniel Day-Lewis isnít, though he could be if he wanted to. He thinks I might have a point. No, he doesnít want that kind of stardom. Although if it means "working with great people", he wouldnít mind brushing up against it every now and then.

"In the summer Iím working with Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow in a film directed by Anthony Minghella [The English Patient]. Itís called The Talented Mr Ripley, and itís adapted from the book by Patricia Highsmith which was also made into a film called Plein Soleil. But itís Matt Damonís film. He plays Ripley, and I play the one Ripley kills. Iím into it because Iím playing a real all-American boy-next-door. And I like the challenge of that. Because I have been playing weirdos. This one, itís what you see is what you get. All-over-tan, tennis-playing, yacht-sailing. I kinda like that." Jude Law, February 1998

JUDEíS FIRST performance? In a primary-school play, he thinks. He was George in a production of George and the Dragon. He got to run about with a sword. The dragon was made up of three boys. Every time he stabbed the dragon, one of the boys had to run off. It was thrilling. He started acting for proper at 12, with the National Youth Music Theatre. By 14, he had become grossly theatrical. And hateful. He even started writing a book, called My Autobiography. "so arrogant," he remembers wincingly. He had a lot of friends at 14, but not by the time he was 15. He is not so arrogant now. I tell him he is the current "Guy of the Month" in Cosmopolitan. He is thrilled. "Am I really?" Youíre not having me on?" He can seem quite childlike and innocent sometimes.
He left school at 16, for a part in the Granada TV soap, Families. An Anglo-Australian affair, I didnít really land properly anywhere. "The bucket end of soaps", he admits. His parents, yes, would have liked him to have gone on to further education, "but where cool about it. I still had time to go back, if things didnít work out." Jude played Nathan, who was into drugs and bad behaviour.
"Rather like me at that point,"
Jude spent less time acting, more time rewriting his own dialogue, because it was just so unsayably bad. It was even worse than the dialogue in Shopping. No, he canít remember any lines now. Heís probably blanked them out. Still, he had a good time. The money was terrific. He had a flat in Manchester. It was girls, drugs, booze, clubs, more girls, nice suits, more booze.
"I went bananas."
He says by the time re returned to London, and met Sadie, he was ready to settle down. He didnít have any wild oats left to sow. "I just didnít want to go clubbing any more."

He is still quite bad with money though. In particular, he canít resist new trainers. His justification is: "I have very smelly feet, so I need new ones every couple of weeks."
Sadie gets a bit cross about this "Are those new trainers?" she will ask. "Theyíre newish", heíll reply sheepishly. Having identified this at the weak spot in their marriage, I tell Jude that, should he wish to come and live with me, I wonít have a problem re trainers. He can buy six new pairs every day before breakfast, for all I care. He can charge them to me, even. He says, he loves Sadie very much.
"She taught me about what love means. She taught me about the friendship, the companionship, the being there for each other. Sadie pops into the pub. Sadie is young and pretty and thin. There is lots of kissing on the mouth. Excuse me. I am trying to do an interview here After 18 months of Families, Jude thought: "Enoughís enough", He could have gone to role on The Bill or Coronation Street, but he didnít want to. He really though it was time he did some theatre.
"Iíd earned a lot of money. Iíd spent a lot of money. But I hadnít paid my dues."

Back in London, Jude did plays at the Hampstead Theatre, the Bush, the Gate, then it was off to the National. Then he gave his regards to Broadway.

Ironically, it was being on Broadway that turned him back on to films. Before the casting agents came to watch, and before the scripts started to come his way, there were his friends. He phoned Ewan almost daily from his dressing room. Heíd met him a few years before, when both were struggling actors. They met when they both auditioned for a film which was never made.
"It was set in the Sixties, and was about a group of teenagers stained by sex and drugs and rockíníroll."
The director, wanting to see them in action, gave them £20 and sent them down the pub "to get pissed". They duly obliged. A friendship was formed. Jude even shared a flat with Ewan, before moving in with Sadie. Did they tag their milk in the fridge? You know, "JL" felt-tipped on one carton, "EM" on the other? No. "We were lucky, if we even had milk in."

Ewan was making Trainspotting while Jude was on Broadway. Often when Jude spoke to him, Ewan would have just got back from a shoot. "And I could see the excitement. The excitement you only get with films." An excitement you canít get at the theatre? "You do get impatient with audiences after a while. You want to shout: Keep up! Keep up!" Nowadays, Judeís the one itís hard to keep up with. Heís lined up for so many things. eXistenZ, the Cronenberg film about a virtual reality game gone berserk, is next.

"Itís David Cronenbergís take on existentialism. Itís set in a contemporary world where there are metal detectors everywhere, so all your hardware has to be made out of human flesh and bone." Then itís the Matt Damon film in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, waiting to land, is The Wisdom of Crocodiles with Timothy Spall the Stewpot from Grange Hill. Itís "a film about a guy who lives to love" and itís "a film with a serial killer side", and it sounds like a cross between American Psycho and In the Company of Men. Then thereís The Final Cut, a lo-fi, largely improvised film directed by a "very old friend" of Sadieís. "Me and Sadie kind of play ourselves, and Ray Winstoneís in it. Itís basically about dealing with your friends.."

Natural Nylon seems pretty busy, too. Nora, a film about James Joyceís wife which stars Ewan, is due out later this year. Scripts are being worked on. Thereís one about Brian Epstein. Natural Nylon are using eXistenZ - their co-production with Cronenberg - as a warm-up for their fist stand-alone effort. "Cause there was part of us going, ĎChrist, weíve got these big projects lined up, and as an actual physical production company, we have no experience!í" The first big one, starring all the gang together, is to be a period drama called The Hellfire Club.

"The club was perceived by eighteenth-century London society as this elite. But it was a bunch of guys who were, for various reasons, the best of their generation"

Frankly, I am not sure if this Natural Nylon stuff is pretentious, or encouraging. Itís one thing to rent an office in Soho, but another to make a half-decent film. Itíll be interesting to see what these boy-men come up with. Watch this space, as they say, which shouldnít be too difficult, because if Judeís in it, it wonít be a space any more, Itíll be Jude, and heís lovely to watch.

Jude, shall we have sex?
"Err, I am afraid I really do have to go off to a meeting now"

This is a good job, actually. What with that hill, I find Iím quite tired. I wouldnít have been at my best.

Very, very special thanks to Annika who typed this whole article up for us, and scanned the photographs!