Law does not discuss his personal life; indeed his cool reserve makes you feel trailer park, you’d call it in America, for even asking. But what exactly is he talking about? Who is doing all this cheating, lying, deceiving, and smiling? Who is getting treated like shit? (I couldn’t help but wonder; know what I mean?)
Law has the reserve of bitterness common among the newly divorced. As Susan Sarandon put it, “for a while there, his private life was really tabloid hell.” (One rumor had it that he was the father of Kate Moss’s baby; it can be dismissed pretty easily as fueled by the fantasy of a genetically perfect human—which, in fact, Law played in Gattaca.) There’s an irresistible touch of novelistic satisfaction in the fact that the woman from whom he recently and acrimoniously divorced is named Sadie Frost. The two met playing opposite each other in the British film Shopping when he was 21 and she was 27. They dated for a few years, then they had their first son, then they got married. It lasted six years.
Soon after his marriage dissolved, Law met Sienna Miller, 22. Miller—whose father is a New Yorker and mother is a Londoner and was raised in both places—plays Law’s most serious love interest in Alfie. The two of them read Vogue together and smash their champagne glasses in a shattering New Year’s Eve toast and literally burn up his bed. (In the original, her character is a pathetic waif who scrubs his floor and never leaves the house: a slave. She has been updated as a bipolar Bungalow 8 babe.) “When they first met, to be honest, I think Sienna was a little gaga . . . but Jude’s a cool customer,” says director Charles Shyer. “He was going through a lot of shit in those days. I think—well, I know, because we talked about it—that one of the reasons he did all these movies in a row”—Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, I Heart Huckabees, Alfie, Lemony Snicket’sA Series of Unfortunate Events, The Aviator, and Closer, all six of which will be out before year’s end—“is because it allowed him to involve himself in something other than legal fighting.”
Now it would seem that Law has come around and is every bit as gaga as Miller. In between shots and squints at David Bailey’s studio, Law’s cell phone rings and it’s Miller calling from Venice. He laughs, hard, and says, “Lots of love. See you tomorrow, yeh? Love you. Did you really? You didn’t! Love you. Lots of love. Love you, too.” Unlike Alfie, Law doesn’t seem particularly invested in romantic independence. “Probably because I come from a family that’s still together, you know, that’s where my heart lies,” he says.
The British tabloids have reported that he and Miller recently became engaged. “We’re not,” says Law. “Unfortunately.”
Law lived in New York once, for a year, while he was in Cocteau’s Indiscretions on Broadway. (He appeared naked onstage and was nominated for a Tony.) “Without sounding too naff, I fell in love with it then completely,” he says as we walk toward Primrose Hill, a few blocks away from his home in London. In Manhattan, he lived in Alphabet City and was a regular at the bar 2A. “But this was, like, eleven years ago, so it was slightly more colorful. I still find it very exciting, but it’s just sad—and it happens the world over—London, too, is going through this peculiar sort of refurbishment, do you know what I mean? Where you go to an area which used to be wonderfully kind of seedy and homegrown, if you like, and now you’ve got apartment blocks and parking and sanitized warehouses rather than squats and art studios.” Still, Law says he’d still like to buy a place in the city once his kids get a little older and he can travel with them more freely.
“There’s an amazing natural sort of drive in New York that makes me want to do more, think more, see more,” he says. “Working there was a joy. You could feel the city and the life of the city just literally jumping into the camera; there was no containing it. When I’ve been there on weeks off, I go to more exhibitions and movies and plays and parties then I would ever do in London. There’s a logistic kind of angle to that; it always seems like it’s a very simple equation to get from one place to another . . . You just go ten up and four across. Here it’s like, Does anyone know where it is? Maybe one person does, or maybe just the cabdriver.”
Law cross-examines his idea of making a real-estate commitment to Manhattan. “I’m a big fan of dipping in and out of cities. I love going in, staying a week or two weeks, and then getting back out . . . an affair.”
If Alfie’s New York life—a life of affairs and dipping in and out and ceaseless, vertiginous motion—is at one end of the spectrum, Law’s London life would appear to be at the other. We reach the top of the muddy hill. “This is probably the best view of London, unknown to most people apart from Londoners or Londoners who live around here,” he says. “I’ve lived here for eleven years! It’s where 101 Dalmatians is set, yeh? This is where the dogs come away from their owners to meet each other, and when the midnight howl starts, it starts at the top of the hill. That’s the BT Tower, see the Gherkin? That slightly conical thing. Yeah, it’s shiny. I live just down there; we come here three times a day with our dogs.” He laughs. “I keep thinking we’re going to run into my little posse . . . that every dog is my dog and every kid is my kid.”
Being a father is clearly the most important thing in Law’s life besides acting. He bums cigarettes but worries that his kids won’t like the smell on him. After a quick lunch at a neighborhood café, he jokes, “You should really be eating more of the vegetables and the greens. I’m concerned—as a father.” He is worried about the American election because of what it will mean for the world left to his children. (I tell him I assume he wants to see Bush out and he says, “I can’t believe everyone doesn’t.”)
Two years ago, Law’s daughter, Iris, had an experience that would render any parent frantic. She was at a child’s birthday party at the Soho House in London (just like the one in New York except actually in England instead of just full of English accents), and she picked up a piece of an ecstasy tablet, ostensibly left around from the night before. It has been widely reported that Iris took the X, but Law says “in fact, nothing was ingested or digested. I wasn’t there but luckily it was spotted very, very quickly by another adult . . . It was clear that it wasn’t a sweet or a piece of chocolate.” Suffice it to say that the Law children won’t be eating any more cupcakes at the Soho House.
“They’re having a very weird time, aren’t they, because they’re growing up with me as their dad,” says Law. “My worry was always that I wasn’t this dad who was going to be home at five every night. Later, I realized this is my life; I am their father. You have to embrace what you do.”
Michael Caine’s Alfie might accuse Law—with his prettiness and his privacy and his dogs and his kids—of being “a bit mumsy.”
Then again, in the modern world, that’s part of his appeal.