At Heart a Problem-Solver: Jude Law on Side Effects

CraveOnline talks with the dash handsome Jude Law about Side Effects, typecasting, and medicine.

Witney Seiboldby Witney Seibold

Jude Law is one of the most visible and ubiquitous (not to say the handsomest) leading men currently working in the Hollywood system. He has worked with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Terry Gilliam, David Cronenberg, and just about every other talented director in Hollywood. His most recent film paired him once again with Steven Soderbergh. He has been nominated for several awards, including the Jude Law Ubiquity Award, assigned in my own household to actors who seem to appear in the most number of films in a given year (I believe 2004 saw six Jude Law films).

Steven Soderberh's ever-penultimate career is churning out several unexpected projects on his way to his announced retirement. Late-period Soderbergh has seen movies like Contagion, Magic Mike, Haywire, and now Side Effects, due out this Friday. Side Effects tells the story of a young depressed woman (Rooney Mara) who is given an experimental antidepressant by her caring and ambitious psychiatrist Dr. Banks (Law) which has some surprising, well, side effects.

Charming, tired, and playfully rumpled, the charming Mr. Law was kind enough to sit with CraveOnline and while away ten minutes chatting about his most recent film, his typecasting, and the difference between American and British medicine.

Side Effects opens in theaters on Friday, Feruary 7th. 

CraveOnline: In your honest opinion, will Steven Soderbergh ever really retire?

Jude Law: Only he really knows. He's not really someone who would say something for effect. I also could understand that in order to have something like that – that sabbatical – to mean it… I imagine, and I don't really know him well enough to say, but I imagine that since I know he's a very talented guy in other areas, and I think he would probably want to commit wholly to something else maybe. Give it a try. But I wouldn't be surprised if he were to, y'know, sort of come back in five to ten years and start making movies again.

Side Effects is all about the American medical industry. Your character, Dr. Banks, has a great line about the difference between American medicine and British medicine.

Yes! The approach of it, and how it's perceived.

Does that hold true?

Very much so. Very much so. And I don't know if either is better or worse. I suppose ultimately openness is probably a better policy. It's just, socially, not something one discusses [in England], y'know? Here [in America] it's almost a cliché to say “I need to see my shrink, I gotta go.” Y'know what I mean? And “What are you taking for that? You should try these.” You just wouldn't talk like that in England. And I don't think you could – I think if you were to say to a friend “I need to go to a psychiatrist,” the friend would be very concerned.

Was there a lot of talk about the politics and the mechanics of American psychiatry on set?

Yeah. One of the things about Steven [Soderbergh] and [screenwriter] Scott [Z. Burns] is their precision and their accuracy. They want things to be accurate and real. So I felt a great responsibility to make sure Banks was a realistic and authentic film psychiatrist. And that took a lot of work.

What sort of work did you do? A lot of reading on psychology, I imagine.

A little bit of that. There's only so much of that I can do, without then having to embark on a medical degree. Which wasn't going to happen. [Laughs] Dr. Sasha Bardey who was our consultant and a friend of Scott's… he was incredibly generous with his time, and kind of used his influence and levers to get us into places. He gave us access to Bellevue [Hospital in New York] and the doctors there.

The first half of Side Effects is very rigorously detailed about psychology and pharmacology. The second half is more of a thriller. Your character, in the middle of that, turns from a caring psychologist into a sort of paranoid character. For a bit, he almost seems like an antihero or a villain.

Well he's desperate. He's someone who loses everything, and wants to regain it. He also knows something isn't right. He's also, at heart, a problem-solver. Psychiatry is very much like looking at a riddle. It's what he does. And suddenly there's a riddle in front of him that doesn't make sense, and he wants to get to the bottom of it. But look at the state he's in; his whole life is threatened. And sort of crumbles very, very quickly. [Trying not to give away the plot] Those twists, those turns, those nuances were all in the script, so for me, I had to make it genuine, I had to make it authentic. I had to commit.

He's a bit cruel.

You think so? Maybe a little to [character name removed to protect the plot], but that's not 'til the end.

Well at the end especially, but in the middle, he's convinced that [character] is a wicked person, even though there's no evidence to support him as yet.

Well he's suspicious, isn't he? He's suspicious. And he doesn't act on those suspicions until he knows for certain. And by then, you could argue, that he has every right to be mean. This [character] has totally screwed him over. And [that character] is also, very arguably, a very dangerous person.

You've worked Soderbergh a few times now. You've also worked with just about every talented director there is working right now: Spielberg, Scorsese, Cronenberg, Gilliam. Is there anyone you still would like to work with?

Of course! I would love to work with the Coen Brothers. I would love to work with Paul Thomas Anderson. I would love to work with some of those people you mentioned again. Or Sam Mendes again. I loved working with Sam. Road to Perdition. Moving, that movie. Moving. Always upsets me at the end. Something about dads. Y'know it's about dads, that film. Y'know? Fathers and sons.

You're very very scary at the end of that. That ghoul. You've played your share of villains – Dr. Banks is even a bit of a bastard – but in most of your roles, you're cast as essentially the ideal of male attractiveness. Sky Captain, Errol Flynn, etc…

[Modestly] Sometimes, yeah…

What would you say to being typecast as, essentially, a very handsome man?

I don't feel too restricted by typecasting; I try to avoid it, really. I just follow my nose to what piques my curiosity, to what I haven't done yet and what's going to be a challenge. And so far I feel quite fulfilled in that regard. Usually it's trying to find something I haven't done. Not something that I read and immediately think “I can do that.” I usually read stuff and go “Okay, that's going to be tricky. That's going to be hard.” But also who's involved. Who's going to hold my hand?

What was the first record you bought with your own money?

It was a single, and it was “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers. 1982.

Wow. Very cool. Mine was a comedy record. Everyone I talk to has a much cooler record that I had.

I love comedy records. It's a great way to listen to comedy. I used to do that. I used to do that a lot. I guess it's all on DVD now, or they do live shows now so you buy the DVD. Records are making a resurgence in the UK.