March 8, 2005

Hey Jude: Who Are You?

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At last weekend’s Oscars, notorious Hollywood maverick Sean Penn took great offense to host Chris Rock’s inquiry regarding Jude Law: “Who is Jude Law? Why is he in every movie I have seen in the last four years? He’s in everything. Even the movies he’s not acting in, if you look at the credits, he made cupcakes or something.” Later that evening, when Penn took the stage as a presenter, he felt the need to remind the world that Law is actually a fine actor, and that the joke was unwarranted. Nevertheless, the question actually remains the same: who is Jude Law?

Well, first of all, he’s similar to Penn in that he’s a guy who can’t take a joke either. In fact, mere moments after Rock’s jab, a reportedly infuriated Law fired his agent, Josh Lieberman of Los Angeles’ Creative Artists Agency — as if the joke was their fault.

I’m fairly certain that neither the audience that night nor members of the Academy actually have doubts about Law’s acting abilities. I don’t. After all, he is a two-time Academy Award nominee, for his roles in The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain, and he produced other commendable performances in films such as Road to Perdition and Closer. Highlighting all four of those performances is his unpretentious and subtle portrayal of anxious characters struggling with their identities and their lives.

Okay, but that aside, Jude Law really is in every movie, isn’t he? He’s even in an upcoming film with Sean Penn himself. Ah, no wonder Penn was offended. The movie is entitled All the King’s Men, based on Robert Penn Warren’s novel about the life of populist Southerner Willie Stark. Though it hasn’t finished filming yet, this movie has to be considered an early favorite to garner attention for next year’s Academy Awards. The cast is beyond remarkable. Alongside Penn and Law are Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet and Patricia Clarkson. Not bad, not bad at all. Those five have been nominated for a combined 15 Academy Awards.

But, to be fair, there are at least five other films scheduled for release this year that have Oscar potential as well. To start with, there’s Cinderella Man, starring another actor who seems to be in every big movie — Russell Crowe. Since 1997, Crowe has been in five films nominated for Best Picture: LA Confidential, The Insider, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The only more impressive streak that comes to mind is Cate Blanchett’s. The actress has amazingly starred in five Best Picture nominated films in the last seven years, four of them in a row.

Starring alongside Renee Zellweger in Cinderella Man, Crowe plays Depression-era fighter and folk hero Jim Braddock. This has Oscar written all over it — it’s a true story about an underdog, and it’s directed by Ron Howard.

This is only Crowe’s second film since being nominated for his brilliant role as John Nash in A Beautiful Mind in 2001 (also a Ron Howard collaboration). This actually seems to be a familiar phenomenon — Oscar nominees and winners disappearing for the year or two after their nominations. After all, where were 2003 winners Sean Penn and Charlize Theron in 2004? And how about 2002 winners Adrien Brody and Nicole Kidman? So while you might expect to see Jude Law in every film in 2005, don’t expect to see much of Jamie Foxx and Hilary Swank.

Other high profile films set for release this year are all remakes of some sort. Firstly, there’s Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated take on H.G. Wells’ classic thriller War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise and Tim Robbins. The film is reportedly the most expensive ever made. Also upcoming in 2005 is the cinematic version of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring the impressively versatile Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, as well as an on-screen version of Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist, with Oscar winner Ben Kingsley as the contemptible Fagin. Finally, after enjoying tremendous success on Broadway, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick will star in a film version of Mel Brook’s The Producers.

All of these films should hopefully provide the same satisfaction brought to audiences last year by films like Million Dollar Baby, The Aviator, and Finding Neverland. And who knows? Maybe Jude Law will win an Oscar next year.

Archived article by Avash Kalra
Sun Staff Writer