The cast of Alfie talks about the film
Jude Law will be one of the first people to tell you how much he loves New York City.
"As an Englishman coming here, I always feel like something might happen, like you always feel you can stay up a little longer, you can sleep a little less, you can squeeze in another gallery or another party," he sighs.
He should know. Over the past two months, the 31-year-old actor has spent considerable amounts of time in the city promoting two of six latest films, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," an ambitious homage to 1930s futuristic science fiction, and a contemporary take on the 1966 film "Alfie."
Today, Jude, wearing a trim, textured mahogany blazer over a jet-black silk shirt and faded denims, appears tired, but in good spirits.
In person, Law is magnetic: he's polite and captivating, contemplative and witty, but surprisingly shy. His South London-accented voice crescendoes occasionally, but more often than not, it's soft and pensive.
Unlike many of today's rising generation of wannabe A-listers, Law ventured the high road to reach the Hollywood halcyon status he's at today. Rather than appearing in blockbuster upon blockbuster or romantic comedy, Jude preferred more daring turns. He's played a serial killer, the gay lover (twice), a paralyzed example of genetic perfection – even a robotic male gigolo.
"When I saw him in ‘Road to Perdition' in a smaller part, he was so different from that beautiful man in ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley,'" says "Alfie" costar Jane Krakowski. "I thought, ‘Wow, this guy is going to have a really long career.' He's going to get better and better as he goes along. It'll be more and more interesting as he gets older because he was willing to take both leading man and character parts."
Jude is as talented as he is captivating, dexterous as he is handsome — and he knows it. It would be easy to hate him if he wasn't so polite, well-mannered, and god-awful disarming. Just when you think he's all about business, he flashes a megawatt grin and you're a goner.
"That smile," gushes screenwriter Elaine Pope knowingly. "It's killer!"
"He walks into the room and you go, ‘Hello, who are you?'" she says. "He's so gorgeous, he's irresistible, just this charming guy. His look, the way he carries himself. He's very warm and I don't know anybody who isn't crazed from him, women and men. I don't know anybody in the world who doesn't think, ‘Hm, yummy.'"
Yet, as easy as it could have been for him to rely solely on good looks, he has time and time again displayed formidable acting chops. Who can forget his turn as the self-indulgent Dickie Greenleaf or the slick steps of Gigolo Joe?
"He's not just a gorgeous man, but a great actor," comments Krakowski. "He approaches parts as if they were character roles. I feel as though he's a character actor in a leading man's body and to me, that makes all of his performances interesting."
Judging from Jude's choices, it's odd he hesitated to embrace his inevitable leading man status. But with "Cold Mountain," a film that favored silent stoicism over the 50 or some lines he spoke during the three-hour epic, it looks as though the actor's is coming around.
And, though "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" further thrusts Jude into the spotlight, his turn as the hedonistic lothario Alfie Elkins should cement this talented actor in pop culture's collective consciousness. While his name headlined "Sky Captain," the film's true star was its blue-screen special effects.
In this remake of "Alfie," the film's star is purely, singularly Jude. Taking the film that put actor Michael Caine on the map, director Charles Shyer gives the highly controversial classic a contemporary, cosmopolitan twist. This Alfie prowls the streets of New York City as a limousine driver living a charmed, carefree — not to mention sexually hyperactive — life.
To prepare for the role, the actor purposefully did not reference the first film.
"Having embarked on this with Charles, we talked about the original occasionally, but really I think we both felt we knew it so well and were so inspired by it that I certainly never went back and studied it," Jude says.
"When I did ‘Cold Mountain,' I read the novel twice, put it down, and that was it. I think that was the way Anthony [Minghella] wrote it, and I have a feeling that was the way Charles wrote this. You have to move away from it and remember the essence, feel what influence it left on you and be inspired by that. I think I would have made a mistake if I tried to be Michael [Caine] playing Alfie. I felt I had to be Jude playing Alfie and discover the character for myself."
"My whole thing with Jude was, he's a very shy guy… My goal was to get him to sell this lifestyle to the audience," says Shyer. "Let them know that you believe in what you're selling because you've got to be the guy who convinces us that you believe ‘face, boobs and bum' [one of the character's maxims] are the only things that count."
In some ways, it may be Jude's most difficult feat yet on several fronts: it was a challenge for Jude who is in every single frame of the movie. Many of his lines are spoken directly to the camera as personal asides, employing a similar technique used in the original film. "Alfie" rests entirely on his shoulders.
"This is his coming-out party for me," Shyer says. "This is his movie."
Jude's costar Nia Long, who plays one of his many love interests, recalls her time on set with the actor.
"None of the girls, none of us actually saw each other," she says. "I had him for two weeks, Marisa [Tomei] had him for two weeks. We shared him! It was funny, because one day, I left, came back and I said, ‘God, how are you feeling? You've had all these different women in a short period of time. Are you ok?' He was like, ‘Ugh, it's like eating too many chocolates!' I thought that was the perfect way to describe it."
While Alfie's freewheeling romps appear to be the stuff dreams are made of, the film's upbeat, comedic air develops a darker, moralistic overtone. This man's reckless ways eventually come back to haunt him.
When asked whether he's had similar experiences to his his character, Jude shrugs.
"Yeah, I had my Alfie days: my late teens, those years when suddenly you're legally allowed into bars and clubs. Suddenly you realize the world is kind of offering itself to you. But I would say, if you look at my life, I was someone who always looked for commitment and that was just what I was…I don't know, that's in my make-up and I guess I had my moment at 21 rather than at 31, and that's why I got married and had children."
Jude refers to his relationship with actress Sadie Frost. The two met while filming the British film "Shopping." Their six-year marriage made headlines with accusations by tabloids of infidelity on Jude's part (which were later cleared), news of Frost suffering from post-natal depression, a scare when daughter Iris accidentally swallowed an ecstasy pill, and finally, the couple's divorce last year – all while he worked on seven films during a two-year stint.
Now, with six of those films releasing within a five-month period, Jude can afford to take a breather. Not only can he see the fruits of his labor professionally, but he can also admit to a fulfilling personal life with his three children and 22-year-old girlfriend and actress Sienna Miller, who plays one of Alfie's girlfriends in the movie.
"They're the real thing," Shyer says of their relationship. "I kind of feel I'll be invited to the wedding!"
Jude, ever the gentleman, focuses on promoting "Alfie," shying away from unnecessary personal details, except to call Miller a talented actress he'd love to work with again.
But for better or for worse, a little bit of the man behind the star surfaces: the character actor, the English gentleman, the sensitive thinker.
"I think the beautiful thing about this film is that there are so many levels to it, it's not just about a guy who likes to screw around, it's about relationships. I think every one of us recognizes at least one in-route or out-route or survival tactic of the relationships in this film and can all identify at having been either the dumped or the dumper or the cheat or the cheater or at some point in our lives. I think that's the beauty of it in the end -- it's actually a piece about relationships."
Fair enough, Jude.
Dont't forget to also check out: Alfie