Jude Law may have started his big screen career on a rampage against consumer goods in the mall basher flick Shopping (1994), but seven years later he's allowed himself to be turned into a more than willing product of mass consumption himself, and an erotic one at that in Steven Spielberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
The guy who beat out Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck a few years ago as Jane Magazine's popular choice for sexiest "male actor you want creasing your sheets," apparently decided it was time to prove it in a big way.
Law is let loose into the futuristic dystopia of A. I. as the sex robot Gigolo Joe, programmed to please a dwindling but no less demanding female population. The windup boy toy takes time out to team up with toy boy and fellow 'mecha' Haley Joel Osment as they dodge dangerous humans, proving his appliance reliance in more ways than one.
As if conscious at all times of actress spouse Sadie Frost peering over his shoulder, Law tended to dismiss any notion of himself as a more human type of hunk in the real world. The self-effacing star also described the process of being outfitted with a rather novel face as Gigolo Joe, and how he sees A. I. playing out as the creative cross-fertilization of the very dissimilar Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick.
Who is this Gigolo Joe, and how did you go about burrowing into his robot soul?
Yes, Joe is quite an extraordinary character. He's a robot who is supposed to be really good at his job. So in terms of giving Joe an organic energy that mixed with his mechanical side, I studied mime, some dance and even peacock movements. As a robot who is programmed to display various kinds of seductive behavior, I had to be skillful in the art of attraction, and multiple transformations and physical movements to go along with that. So the intent was that I be a mixture of many things, and a combination of organic and plastic, and also romantic and futuristic.
What was behind that temporary face lift you got for the movie?
At first they were going to give me prosthetic features for my entire face, but that idea was dropped as being too synthetic looking. What they settled on eventually, in order to retain some human element, was a prosthetic jaw. And also a kind of softened plastic facial makeup that would allow for facial expressiveness. And for a little bit of the real me to show through.
What kind of dancing did you get into for the movie?
I worked with choreographer Francesca Jaynes for a few months to create motion specific to the character. Joe needed a kind of movement that was quick, and full of grace and ease. That involved cultivating a style in line with what I'm supposed to be programmed to do, which is to be seductive and attract the interest of intended customers.
What Francesca and I did was mostly Fred Astaire, with a little Gene Kelly added in later on. But Steven definitely wanted that dance movement, as part of Joe's seductive appeal. So I needed a certain amount of training, because I hadn't done much professional dancing in the past, beyond taking a few classes.
To what extent do you immerse yourself in a role to get it just right?
I feel better if I can learn as much information as I can about the world that the director is creating.
That's just a hangup of mine, because I left school early on before finishing. Not that I'm a great believer of becoming the part and staying in the part. But I am a believer in learning and understanding as much as possible. Then I feel that I can relax and operate within the role comfortably.
What's going on with that robot mania in A. I. ?
This is a world where humans feels in control because of their technological advances, but the reality is that they've become so dependent on these 'mechas,' these mechanicized robots, to do everything for them. It's gone beyond robots as helpers, to the expectation that they will keep you entertained, and keep humans from being lonely. This dependency has gone to such extremes over the course of time, that the mechas are even expected to provide emotional services, amusement and even love. That's where Joe comes in. You might say that he's a sex mecha. He's programmed to provide pleasure for his customers, and fulfill their every desire.
Well, I think the most important concept that has been preserved in A. I. , is that Stanley Kubrick envisioned the project as a futuristic fairy tale, rather than a doomsday thriller.
Stanley had talked about the story as a kind of futuristic take on Pinocchio. And I think that Steven has been completely faithful to Stanley's vision. But this movie is a rather strange and unusual marriage of minds of these two geniuses. You could definitely sense Stanley's presence and influence on the set. It was like the ghost of Kubrick was there all the time.
What concept do you feel ultimately emerges from the creative fusion of these very distinctive visionaries?
I feel that A. I. is a kind of warning to human beings about the ramifications of everything they create or produce. Because these mechanized devices will outlast them, and effect future generations in unimaginable and sometimes disturbing ways. So we have the opportunity and the choice, if we are aware, to leave behind a legacy of ruin, or of hope. And I was also relieved that my character gets a bit humanized himself too in the course of the story. You know, he learns to care about something beyond himself when he starts to care about David during their wandering.
What are you going to be amazing us with next?
I'll be coming up in road to perdition, The (2001). It's a mob drama directed by Sam Mendes, and it takes place during the time of Al Capone, who is played by Alfred Molina. The film has an extraordinary cast, Tom Hanks and Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Stanley Tucci.
Exactly how understanding has your wife Sadie Frost been of this, well, sex machine that you play with such great relish in A. I. ?
Sadie definitely teases me about some of the things that have been written about me, and I'd say Gigolo Joe just gave her one reason more to keep at it. But we get a big laugh out of that kind of thing. Because I've never thought of myself that way.
Whatever happens to me along the way, I'm an actor first. So if finding myself in that kind of spotlight has anything to do with opening doors to getting good parts, then I have no problem going anywhere. I'm willing take off in any direction and play any part if the story speaks to me and intrigues me.
But I certainly don't look in the mirror and see a sex symbol there. You know, I've always thought of myself as a bit grungy. Just an ordinary, unkempt sort of guy. And I wouldn't know how to go about selling myself as a sex symbol. I guess you could say that's not how I've been programmed.