Later this fall, he revamps Michael Caine's amorous, amoral Alfie, and he joins Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts and Dustin Hoffman in the David O. Russell ensemble comedy I Heart Huckabees. Come December, he'll co-star with Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen in director Mike Nichols' sexual drama Closer, and make cameos opposite Jim Carrey in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator (playing Errol Flynn to Leo's Howard Hughes).
First to take flight is an aviation action-adventure of another kind, first-time director Kerry Conran's highly stylized Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (opening Sept. 17, see Hollywood Product, p. 61). Part Buck Rogers serial, part Fritz Lang's Metropolis, the movie casts Law as an intrepid '30s fighter pilot battling an army of world-dominating robots. With a former flame (Gwyneth Paltrow) in tow, he traverses the globe from the film-noirish streets of New York to the subfreezing mountain ranges of Nepal to the sweltering jungles of South America ... all without ever leaving the London sound stage where the film was entirely shot utilizing blue-screen special effects.
Creative Loafing: What were the primary challenges of acting within the technological framework of the film?
Jude Law: After the first week or two, I suppose it was keeping everything fresh and focused. As the robots got bigger and more menacing, the challenge was finding new ways to react and express shock, while also maintaining a certain sense of reality. We wanted something with a straight-up, old-fashioned feel to it. We never wanted to send it up, you know? To me, the key was paying homage to this genre, to this period of uncynical and straightforward action-adventures, playing it for real rather than spoofing it or winking at the audience or forcing it with any modern-day sensibilities. Walking that line was probably the biggest challenge.
How was it working with Laurence Olivier?
Isn't that cool? I have to admit, it was my idea to use him in that role [of the mastermind behind those invading robots]. We thought about Anthony Hopkins or Ben Kingsley or Ian McKellen, these great living actors who've all played bad guys before, but given the twist at the end of the story, it just seemed like a good idea to find someone who was actually deceased, and someone who might make more of an impact on a modern audience who wouldn't be able to necessarily identify the actor as the guy who'd done Silence of the Lambs or Sexy Beast or X-Men. At the same time, for audiences who did know who he was, it made sort of a great in-joke. His estate was delighted to oblige.
With six movies coming out between now and the end of the year, do you feel any danger of being overexposed?
Actually, yes, and that's a shame, because it took me two years to make them all, and here they are all coming out at basically the same time. In England, we have this saying about waiting an hour for a bus, and then four coming all at once. The one good thing is they're all completely different types of films and characters, in the hands of wonderfully talented directors, and in some way each of them will appeal to very different audiences. Hopefully, the only thing that joins them is that they're all good.
Why remake Alfie?
To be perfectly honest, that was my question, initially. We're taking this iconic '60s character and transplanting him into the modern world. He has a very particular philosophy about life and a very particular attitude about sex, and we haven't necessarily updated him all that much. It's women who've changed so dramatically over the 30 or 35 years since the first Alfie was made. That's what ultimately fascinated me about doing it. The question wasn't so much about how the inner-voice of men has changed, or whether it will ever change, as it was about how the women in the story may respond to that differently now than they did then.