Although he first appeared as just one of the latest crop of golden-skinned English imports to caress the hormones of American filmgoers, Jude Law is steadily proving that his talents lie beyond his ability to smolder seductively in front of the camera. Since 1995, when Law made the transition from British soap opera to Broadway via Sean Mathias' Indiscretions (in which he co-starred with Kathleen Turner), his work has increasingly garnered favorable notice from critics and moviegoers alike.
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Born in London on December 29, 1972, Law started acting as a teenager. Before Indiscretions, his most notable role was in Shopping (1994), a British production that gave him both initial recognition and an introduction to his future wife, actress Sadie Frost (the couple has two children). After the critical and commercial success of Indiscretions, Law began finding more work in film, starring as Claire Danes' boyfriend in I Love You, I Love You Not (1997) and as the genetically privileged man who sells his identity to Ethan Hawke in Gattaca (1997). Also in 1997, Law took on the plum role of Alfred Lord Douglas (or Bosie), Oscar Wilde's volatile lover in Wilde. Although none of these films received unanimously positive critical (or box-office) attention, they did help to further establish Law as an actor to be taken seriously. Law followed them with a small part in Bent (1997) and the more pivotal role of Billy, Jim Williams' hotheaded and ill-fated lover in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997). Following that film, Law went on to make a few smaller films, including Music From Another Room (also starring a still unknown Gretchen Mol) and The Final Cut, in which he played a sinister, deceased version of himself.
In 1999, Law appeared in David Cronenberg's cyberific eXistenZ and completed filming Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr. Ripley alongside Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett. The film earned widespread acclaim upon its release, much of which was lavished on Law's portrayal of the serially charming and devastatingly superficial Dickie Greenleaf. Law garnered both a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance, further cementing his reputation as one of the more promising up-and-coming actors on either side of the ocean.
After a turn as a Russian marksman facing off against a Nazi sniper in Enemy at the Gates (2001), Law returned to sci-fi with his role as love machine Gigolo Joe in Steven Spielberg's eagerly anticipated A.I.
In addition to his acting commitments, Law kept busy with Natural Nylon, the production company he founded with Sadie Frost, Sean Pertwee, Ewan McGregor, and Jonny Lee Miller. In 2002, Law starred alongside film veterans Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in the multiple Oscar-winning Road to Perdition and was on the path to an Oscar once again for his performance in Cold Mountain (2003) with Nicole Kidman and Renée Zellweger, who took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
After appearing in only two films in as many years, Law was virtually unavoidable in the last third of 2004, with substantial roles in a grand total of six films. First up, he played the title role in the blue-screened sci-fi action flick Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, starring alongside the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and a "resurrected" Laurence Olivier. A month later, he could be found starring in the remake of Alfie as well as in the ensemble cast of David O. Russell's comedy I Heart Huckabees. And before the close of the year, audiences could catch him in Mike Nichols' romantic drama Closer, as Errol Flynn in Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator, and providing the voice of the title character in the big-screen adaptation of Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events. Produced on an elephantine, effects-heavy budget by the wunderkind, billon-dollar powerhouse Scott Rudin (The Firm, Sister Act) and starring Jim Carrey, the film opened in December 2004 and received average to positive notices; such commentators as Newsweek's Sean Smith, The Washington Post's Desson Thomson, and others championed it (one referred to it as "a Tim Burton movie without the weird shafts of adolescent pain"); others were nonplussed. Roger Ebert complained, "It's odd, how the movie's gloom and doom are amusing at first, and then dampen down the humor. Although many Unfortunate Events do indeed occur in "Lemony Snicket," they cannot be called exciting because everyone is rather depressed by them." The picture nevertheless did excellent box office. Alfie - a remake of the 1966 Michael Caine vehicle, with Law taking over the Caine role - didn't fare so well with critics but performed adequately at the box.
Law ducked out of films for a year or so between 2004 and 2005, which led Variety to ask, "Where in the world is Jude Law?" The actor apparently needed a vacation, but his absence was short lived: Law ended his sabbatical after a year or so, and triumphantly returns to cinemas in 2006. In All the King's Men, Law plays second-string fiddle to an over-the-top Sean Penn. A political tale adapted from Robert Penn Warren's novel by Schindler's List scribe Steven Zaillian (who also directs), the movie weaves the tale of a Huey Long-like southern demagogue (Penn). The film will hit cinemas across the U.S. in September '06. Law is also re-teaming with his Cold Mountain collaborator, Anthony Minghella, in Breaking & Entering. Over the next several years, Law would enjoy his status as a leading man, appearing in a number of films like the Sherlock Holmes franchise, Hugo, and Contagion. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi