- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2004

NEW YORK — It’s hard to imagine audiences getting sick of seeing Jude Law on the big screen. The British actor’s gilded accent and unblemished good looks are right out of the movie star handbook.

That theory gets a stiff test this movie season as the actor is slated to appear in six, count ‘em, films by year’s end.

Pair Mr. Law with Ben Stiller, and you’re talking roughly half the movies out of Hollywood this year.

“There’s a sense of, ‘Oh, no, not another Jude Law film,’” he says with a reassuring grin. “I better hide for a couple of years and let the appetite grow.”

At least the impending Law feast represents a balanced diet. “I spent two years making these films, and they’re all coming out in four months,” the actor says. “It’s a bit of a shame. They’re all completely different.”

“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” opening today, casts Mr. Law as a Han Solo type fighting robots in a computer-generated world inspired by the glamorous Hollywood of yore.

Next up is “I Heart Huckabee’s,” an existential detective comedy, followed by starring roles in both the ‘60s sex comedy remake “Alfie” and Mike Nichols’ relationship drama “Closer.”

Lesser roles in “The Aviator” — he plays Errol Flynn, of course — and as the voice in “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” complete the fall 2004 six pack.

Looking crisp and casual in a white button-down shirt, Mr. Law seems balanced on the edge — poised to embrace A-list leading man status, reluctant to forfeit his actorly cred. You can see it in his manner, the way he answers questions.

The actor first made an impact as the genetically idealized man who sells his identity to Ethan Hawke’s character in 1997’s “Gattaca.”

Other roles followed, but his megawatt charm outshone Matt Damon in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999), earning him an Oscar nomination and the industry’s attention.

His star was on the rise, but that’s a journey many have begun, only to miss their connecting flight.

“Sky Captain” reunites Mr. Law with “Ripley” co-star Gwyneth Paltrow, who capped her own career rise with an Oscar in 1998. The project also marks the first time his name proved his growing clout in the industry.

“It was a huge gear change for me when [‘Sky Captain’ producer] Jon [Avnet] said, ‘You get involved with this, and it will help get it made,” says Mr. Law, who also gets a producer credit on the film.

“I never made a film thinking, ‘This is my blockbuster movie,’” he says. “At the time, I thought it was more art house than action adventure.”

The release timing echoes that assessment. While the film might at first seem ideal for a summer opening, the studio opted for a mid-September bow, when the competition and expectations are softer.

Mr. Law says first-time writer/director Kerry Conran sold him on the concept behind “Sky Captain” based on a low-budget short he submitted.

“Kerry’s vision was so clear from this six-minute teaser trailer,” Mr. Law says. “There was such a sense of vision, composition, rhythm, depth of field. My name attached empowered someone like Kerry to see his vision through.”

It didn’t hurt, he adds, that he finally found a project he could let his young children watch.

The PG-rated film’s utter lack of cynicism appealed to him, especially after researching his role as Errol Flynn to prepare for Martin Scorsese’s upcoming “The Aviator.”

“I watched ‘Captain Blood’ with my kids … there was nothing bloodthirsty or depressing. They had a clarity, a cleanliness to them,” he says. “The good guys were clean-cut and straight up. That vibe is lacking in family films today. They’re getting too seedy.”

He isn’t ready to protest R-rated movies, but his argument for balance sounds sincere enough.

“There’s room for all kinds of films, but I felt this kind of film lost its place in the market,” he says.

Is that so much to ask — that in Hollywood’s world of tomorrow there will remain a small place for the world of yesterday?

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