I first recall Jude Law as most do, serving as Dickie Greenleaf, the foil to Matt Damon's Tom Ripley in Anthony Minghella's 1999 adaptation of THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. For that role, Law received his first of two Academy Award nominations (here for Best Supporting Actor, later for Best Actor in 2003 for COLD MOUNTAIN), but, prior to that performance, Law had already begun building a name for himself with WILDE, GATTACA, MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL and David Cronenberg's EXISTENZ on his resume.
From there, Law's career has never let up, churning out high profile film after film that, if not of high quality themselves, at least contain yet another fantastic Jude Law contribution - ENEMY AT THE GATES, A.I., ROAD TO PERDITION, I ♥ HUCKABEES, SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW, ALFIE, CLOSER, THE AVIATOR, LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, ALL THE KING'S MEN, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS, a pair of SHERLOCK HOLMES movies, REPO MEN, HUGO, ANNA KARENINA and RISE OF THE GUARDIANS. Most actors would kill to have a couple of those films to their credit, but Law has made it a habit of attracting interesting roles that have never locked him into one particular character type.
His latest film SIDE EFFECTS marks his second collaboration with director Steven Soderbergh, working off a Scott Z. Burns script (the first being CONTAGION in 2011). This time around, Law plays reputable psychiatrist Jonathan Banks, who gets caught in a web of mystery after some tragic events befall one of his patients, and he finds his diagnoses and prescriptions under the microscope. Once again, it's a top-notch performance from Law, as if we should expect anything less from him any time he makes his presence felt on-screen, and serves as the driving force to this very smart, adult fare that is rare at the movie theatre these days.
I had the chance to hop on the phone with Law last week to discuss his approach to the role, his decision to work with Soderbergh and Burns once again, his own feelings on psychiatry and mental health pharmaceuticals and, of course, the obligatory probing about the future of the SHERLOCK HOLMES franchise, so enjoy...
Jude Law - Hello there.
The Infamous Billy The Kidd - Hey, how are you?
Jude Law - I’m fine, how are you today?
The Kidd - I’m fine. Good to talk to you this afternoon.
Jude Law - And you. Where are you?
The Kidd - I am in Florida.
Jude Law - Is it sunny?
The Kidd - It is sunny and it’s probably about 82 degrees outside.
Jude Law - Oh you lucky thing. I’m in Los Angeles and it’s been raining for two days.
The Kidd - Well I am very sorry to hear that for you.
Jude Law - Send me some sun.
The Kidd - [Laughs] I will do my best.
Jude Law - Thank you.
The Kidd - So this is your second time now working with Steven Soderbergh, as well as working off a script by Scott Burns with CONTAGION being the last one. Is that familiarity something that drives you to do a picture like this? Kinda working with good people who you’ve done good work with before? Or does it still go back to a character piquing your interest, or a certain story and how you’d be able to play it?
Jude Law - It’s kind of a mix of all those things. I mean, the relationship I have with Scott and Steven is obviously a positive one. I don’t have to... I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks that they do great work. So It would have had to have been a particularly bad part for me to go, “No, I’m not interested.” Obviously I was keen to work in a bigger capacity with Steven, and you know when you’re in the hands of a director of his caliber you’re gonna be safe... You know you’re going to be in something intelligent and stylish and slick. And you know that the experience is going to be rewarding and beneficial. Those are all pretty big boxes to tick, I think, from my point of view. Equally, it’s an even easier decision to make when you’re reading a script that’s incredibly entertaining and thrilling and smart. We all have an opinion on whether we should take, or how much we should take, or how much we should rely on prescription drugs, and I think the subject matter is handled very evenly...
The Kidd - Well yeah, there’s so much going on in the film with these sprawling story arcs of different characters. At times it’s very difficult to know where it’s going, which is refreshing, because a lot of times you’ll see a film and you know how it’s laid out and it follows a specific formula.
Jude Law - Well I know Steven and Scott both thought that that genre... that you could put DOUBLE INDEMNITY and BODY HEAT and FATAL ATTRACTION into what used to be a very popular one and for some reason people have stopped making those films. It’s an entertaining element of film going, I think.
The Kidd - When you get a script like this, what is your reaction to the complexity of it all? Because like you said, they don’t make films like this as often as they used to, so to have something fall into your lap like this where you’re kind of taking a lot of different elements from films that we’ve seen before, and doing it in a very intelligent manner. As an actor, what is your reaction to getting a project like that as opposed to some of the other things you may have seen along the way?
Jude Law - Well, you jump at the opportunity, because they’re few and far between. It’s always rewarding being on something that you are stimulated by yourself. There was an authenticity that Steve wanted which means that you’re also delving into a topic or an area of life that perhaps you don’t know as much about. In this particular instance it was a really very interesting subject to investigate.
The Kidd - What is your process in terms of preparing to take on a role like Dr. Jonathan Banks? You’re moving into types of psychiatric medicine and mental illness and what not. So did you do a lot of research into pharmaceuticals? Did you do it more on the clinical side? What was your process in terms of trying to bring this character to life off the page?
Jude Law - Well you have to rely on... You want to bring a level of authenticity, and you want to know what you’re talking about. Often, it’s also a good excuse to open your own eyes to another sort of career, and another world. There was... I thought it was very important that I observed psychiatrists as they practice, and understand to a degree what they’re trying to ascertain in practice, and also to get a sense of the boundaries. And the intimacies of a psychiatrist and his or her patients. You know, obviously at the end of the day also you’re only as good as the part you’re given, and I think, like I said, there’s a huge amount of work that’s actually gone into the reality, and the fleshing out and the three dimensions of the character by the writer, Scott.
The Kidd - When you’re looking into things like antidepressants, mental illness, and kind of medical trials, and the ways these drugs are prescribed, was there anything about the part or anything about the research that actually surprised you going into this role which does take a very authentic look at things and kind of questions things a lot that I think a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily know from what we see on TV, the ads that are put out to us as far as what these drugs do?
Jude Law - Yeah, I think I was... I took away a few things, really. I think I was ultimately really impressed and inspired by the process of psychiatry, and the skill that these people have, and the face that they have in the medicine, and the good it can do. I mean, this is a film that is perhaps, to some degree.... It’s more about the abuse of prescription drugs. We mustn't forget that they are also used and effective in incredibly good circumstances, positive circumstances. I was always a little bit cynical about the area of pharmacological... Our relationship with pharmacology. And this sort of highlighted that, so it wasn’t like I learned about the abuse that some people take on medicine, but this really just highlighted that. I also took away... I was really quite moved by the desperate sickness in some of the institutions that I went to, whether it was in the young people in the wards of Bellevue, or the inmates at Ward’s Island.
The Kidd - One of the things... There’s one line, really, in the film that struck me really effectively, and it’s when your character is talking about the perception of medicine in terms of American Society and overseas, in the U.K. And there’s negative association with taking drugs like this in the U.K. whereas in American society... Someone is taking a pill and they’re...
Jude Law - They’re getting better.
The Kidd - Yes. So can you talk a little bit about this “magic pill society” that we live in where we... Automatically when someone’s taking a medication or on a pill we think that it’s always helping them and in some cases it may or may not. I think that deals with the statement of the film, as well.
Jude Law - Yeah, it does... Well it’s just a very different relationship and a different perception. To a degree, I sort of admire that it’s sort of an open book here. People discuss what they take and the effects it has and who they’re seeing and whether they’re any good or not or... “I recommend my psychiatrist, she’s great, changed my life,” or whatever it might be. In England, it’s a much more private affair if you are taking something or if you are seeing someone. And... I don’t know, I don’t know quite how much more to explore that then it’s just a sort of social difference.
The Kidd - Let me ask you a little bit about... I know you’re working with Wes Anderson on THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL...
Jude Law - Oh, no... well... It’s a tiny role. I’ve done it already. It was like a week’s work.
The Kidd - I just wanted to ask you, because I had read that you’d kind of begged to be a part of working on a picture with him, so I just wanted...
Jude Law - I don’t know about begging...
The Kidd - Really, really wanted to badly.
Jude Law - I wrote to him as an admirer of his work, and we met a couple of times and then i was fortunate enough to be asked to play a small part in it.
The Kidd - And I wanted to ask you one more question about the future of SHERLOCK HOLMES. Robert Downey Jr. is obviously locked up a lot with the Marvel films and you have quite a number of films on your plate coming up, but there’s always an open-ended... Everything was left kind of open-ended with the last film. Have there been discussions on doing a third film as far as...
Jude Law - Of course there is, there’s lots of interest. I mean we had a ball making those, and we love that the audience seems to enjoy it as much as we do. And the good news is there’s a lot of... There are a lot of books and adventures and stories that we haven’t yet tapped into. I’ve got a feeling that we will get back together and do it again... sometime... I don’t know when that will be though.
The Kidd - Has there been any discussion about where things would go specifically? Obviously with Moriarty in the second film, that’s Sherlock Holmes’s key nemesis right there. Has there been anything beyond where it would go once you moved past that relationship with Moriarty?
Jude Law - Not really... But when you go to the books there’s just so many great characters, and adventures that we haven’t tapped on. So it’s a rich back catalog of possibilities. [Laughs] I’m being really cagey, aren’t I?
The Kidd - A little bit, but that’s okay, I completely understand. Thank you very much, I really enjoyed the film. It’s a very mature, adult drama, which we don’t get a lot of these days.
Jude Law - I’m glad you liked it.
The Kidd - So thank you very much, and I appreciate you talking to me today.
Jude Law - Pleasure, mate. Best wishes.
SIDE EFFECTS opens in theatres this Friday, February 8.
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