Jude Law had an explosive film career in the 1990s and early 2000s, and though he continues to star in high-profile films like the Sherlock Holmes series and Side Effects he’s also made a regular effort of returning to his roots as a theater actor. In a revealing interview with The Guardian, Law talks about why he keeps going back to the stage.
Though Law is known for his good looks, he of course admits that he wanted to be discovered for his talent. He says, “I wanted to be recognized as an actor, not for my looks or whatever.”
But after doing years of work in theater he was finally offered film roles after becoming a father. He explains, “I’d done 10 or 12 plays back to back. Suddenly this new medium offered itself and I was fortunate enough to work with some good people. Plus the money helped with a young family. It felt like an exciting time.” However, while growing up he never expected that he would ever be in a movie. He recalls, “I never planned a career in film. I don’t know anyone who grew up in the 70s in Lewisham who did. It just wasn’t realistic. Theatre was. I grew up watching and loving film but it was this other world – movie stars were like Newman and Mitchum and McQueen. And then this amazing crop of actors – Tim Roth, Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis – came along. Tim and Gary were round the corner from where I lived. That was very, very, very influential for me. I remember seeing Daniel Day-Lewis in My Beautiful Launderette and thinking: ‘Oh, film can be part of my world as well.’”
Though Law could have continued his career exclusively doing film, he didn’t want to abandon the stage. He reveals, “I had to take a handle on what I was doing. I had to make a bit of money for the family, but I also had to think about how to please myself – and working in a play every year or every two years was an important step in that direction.” When asked why, he adds, “I’ll be honest. I feel – oh, I’m not going to give you that cliche that I feel more at home – but I feel more in control of the process in theatre and it’s more familiar to me.”
Recently he has crossed a few roles off his “must do” list. In 2009 he crossed off Hamlet. He says, “I wanted to play him before I was 40. My feeling is always commit and do it. You don’t want to get to 50 and have not played Hamlet.” Later this year he’ll cross off another by starring in the lead role in Henry V, pointing out, “I wanted to play Henry before I was 40 too, but I just missed it. He died when he was 37 so he has got to be played as a young king and I think I can get there with a little help from prosthetics. I’m joking.”
Now in his forties, Law is adamant that as an actor he will only improve with age. He says, “The roles should get more complex. I look back and I’m proud of the work I’ve done but not fulfilled by it. I feel in some areas I’ve only scratched the surface.”