Jude Law: The Esquire Cover Interview

​He's been a playboy, a robot, a soldier, a spy, a Danish prince and an English king. But in The Young Pope, Jude Law takes on his most daring role to date

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You have to say he looks good. So good, in fact, it's hard to believe that, at 43, Jude Law is no longer the dazzling tyro who broke through in the mid-Nineties, blazing with talent, fizzing with energy and going on to become one of the most successful British movie stars of his generation. Not that he's lost the talent or the energy, but he's a father of five now, with a 25-year professional acting career behind him as well as a long and tortuous period in the scalding glare of the media spotlight. You'd think he might show at least some small signs of wear and tear, even just out of politeness. But my goodness he's still a handsome man, in the flesh as much as in photographs. The hairline has receded a little, that's true, as if to give the rest of us something to cling to, and the famous blue eyes are now framed by faint lines — he's a film star, not a superhuman — but that aside I really can't see any evidence of war wounds.

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It's genetic, of course, the pulchritude, God-given, not that he believes in that stuff. But he works at it, too, five days a week in the gym, boxing training, hence the slim hips, the broad chest, the dynamic way he has of crossing a room, at speed, approaching my table in a half-crouch, offering a hand to shake and a solicitous, "How are you?"

It's a Thursday night in July and we're at the Colony Grill Room, the clubby, New York-style restaurant at the Beaumont Hotel, in Mayfair. Law slides into our corner booth, dapper as ever in a dark blazer over a white T-shirt, dark jeans and smart leather oxfords. Then he pulls out his phone and asks if I mind if he checks the football score.

As well as a film buff and a theatregoer and reader and a lover of fine things, Law is a sports fan. He's off to Wimbledon the morning after our dinner, where he'll be photographed looking even more debonair than he does now, in a white double-breasted suit, sitting in the Royal Box with his girlfriend, Phillipa Coan. But that's tomorrow. Right now, France are playing Germany in the second semi-final of Euro 2016, and Law is doing a good job of pretending he doesn't really mind that he can't get a signal on his phone to follow the action.

It's a measure of his commitment and enthusiasm for his new project, the one we're here to talk about, that he has agreed to miss the football at all. But then Law, it seems to me, brings a level of commitment and enthusiasm to everything he does, and everything he talks about. He starts with the wine list, which he approaches with the intense concentration of a surgeon about to make an incision. At length, after much study, he orders a bottle of full-blooded Italian red and then agonises over whether he's made the right choice, concerned that I won't like it, that he should reconsider. He checks again with the waiter and only then settles.

His dedication to our interview is no less marked. At one point, he even follows me outside so I can have a cigarette break, just to keep the conversation going. Later, after a couple of hours of talk and with dinner dispatched, I offer him the chance to call it a night. "I was going to order another drink," he says. And he requests a glass of Scotch, and keeps talking.

Perhaps his relaxed air is the result of the fact that Law is "resting" at the moment. He hasn't acted since February and has no firm plans to do so until next March, when he begins rehearsals on a new play. He hasn't been entirely idle: he has three projects in various stages of development through his own production company, Riff Raff. And a large family to keep up with. And a relatively new relationship to nurture. But for the most part, he says, he's just been living, and considering his next move.

"At the moment," he says, "I'm not in any rush to do anything unless I really am moved by it and curious about it. I'm not particularly interested in going over any ground I've already covered and I'm not flapping about the fact that there's nothing on the horizon."

Nothing on his horizon except an arresting, funny, complex and somewhat unprecedented eight-part TV series, beginning here in October. "Well, yes," he says, swallowing an oyster. "There is that."

If for nothing else, The Young Pope would be notable for a sensational casting decision: witty, provocative and mischievous. Jude Law is… the Pope! An actor whose most famous screen performances include a feckless playboy in The Talented Mr Ripley (1999); a robot called Gigolo Joe in AI Artificial Intelligence (2001); the caddish womaniser Alfie (2004); and Hollywood swordsman Errol Flynn in The Aviator (2004), is playing the leader of the Roman Catholic church. There is, surely, a frisson for the viewer in watching a man whose public image is hardly that of an ascetic, addressing the faithful from the balcony of St Peter's Basilica.

A week or so before our dinner at the Colony Grill, in a screening room in Rome within walking distance of the Vatican, I was shown unfinished versions of the first two episodes of The Young Pope. A co-production between Sky, HBO and Canal Plus, the series was written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, the singular film-maker responsible for The Great Beauty (2013), that ravishing document of Roman decadence, as well as the eccentric road movie This Must be the Place (2011), with Sean Penn as a zonked pop star on the trail of a Nazi, and last year's trippy Youth, in which Michael Caine's composer took the waters at an Alpine spa. We have grown accustomed to famous directors and big time movie stars working in television, but The Young Pope feels unique: it's arthouse TV, if there could be such a thing, from an auteur with a strange and uncompromising vision.

At its core, as its title suggests, is the portrait of one man: Lenny Belardo, an Italian-American abandoned by his parents and raised in the church by a nun, Sister Mary, a performance of steel-trap intelligence from Diane Keaton. In the first episode, aged just 47, he becomes Pope Pius XIII. This is where the casting gets really clever. Because Pius XIII is not some libertine in priest's vestments, as one might expect from the fact he looks like… well, like Jude Law, with a lupine glint in his eye. He's not a groovy, progressive pope. He's an ultra-conservative, an inflexible ideologue, combative, intransigent and vindictive. It is quite the role and Law plays it with relish. "There's a new Pope, now," he announces, at one point, like John Wayne in a Western, or James Cagney in a gangster flick.

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I don't want to give too much away — in part because in Rome I had to sign a document promising I would not give too much away — but a central theme of The Young Pope is concerned with the profile of a public figure, how one manufactures a persona, controls and manipulates an image, how one uses (or declines to use) the media to do that, and how the public reacts and relates to a very famous person. These are not concerns that are unfamiliar, or of no interest, to a movie star who has been a household name for two decades.

"This is where [Sorrentino] is so clever," says Law. "I mean, there's a gag already there [in his casting]. There are a lot of issues that Paolo deals with in this piece that I think are fantastically relevant and he deals with them with great intelligence and with subtlety and wit."

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For his part, Sorrentino, reached by email, denies that Law's own profile had anything to do with the decision to cast him as pope. "I frankly do not care much about the public image of the actors I work with," Sorrentino wrote to me. "It is not a social exercise I'm interested in." Instead, explaining his decision to approach Law for the role, Sorrentino mentioned a scene in Road to Perdition, Sam Mendes' atmospheric 2002 crime movie, in which Law played a psychotic photographer-assassin. "I only know that [in that film] Jude Law walked in a way that revealed all the inner world of that character. An actor who is able to say so much about a character through just a movement of the body is an actor out of the ordinary. It's something phenomenal. That tired and inevitable gait totally amazed me."

Still, though, there's something to savour in the sight of it: Jude Law is… the Pope!

"I mean, it is odd, isn't it?" Law says. "Especially at 43. And being an Englishman."

I tell him I think it's a delicious idea, and that I think audiences will be tickled by it, at the very least.

"Oh, good!"

I'm not surprised, as the lights dim and we tuck into our food, that Law is convivial company. I've interviewed him before, in the summer of 2006, over a steamy couple of days in New York City, where he was working on a film with the Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai. Back then, he was at the height of his fame as a leading man in Hollywood films — his name appeared on that year's list of cinema's 10 most bankable stars — and of his tabloid notoriety, too.

He seemed to be everywhere: at the movies, on billboards advertising fashion and fragrances, on the covers of magazines like this one, the front pages of newspapers, on chat shows and red carpets and all over the less high-flown websites. My article was a scoop, of sorts, in that he talked about the personal upheavals that had been obsessively, almost pathologically documented in the press. It seems cruel, frankly, to rake it all over again but, briefly, for those who really can't remember, these included: his marriage to Sadie Frost, mother of his three eldest children, and their 2003 divorce; his relationship with Sienna Miller, and their first break-up, in 2005; the exposure of his affair with his children's nanny, that same year.

If that makes the experience of interviewing him back then sound like it must have been fraught, it was actually anything but. I don't suppose the interview itself was much fun for Law, who was being asked to account, in public, for actions that he regretted, but afterwards we went out on the town with a gang of his friends and stayed up into the small hours, drinking on his penthouse balcony. He was a gracious host, an excellent storyteller, and a thoughtful interviewee.

He grew up in Lewisham, south London, the son of teachers, with an elder sister, Natasha, who is an artist. His parents were keen amateur dramatists. "They had a passion for theatre, film and music, so there was a lot of that around the house. It was a very happy childhood, I had a lot of love. A lot of encouragement, enthusiasm."

From an early age he was "a massive film nerd". At 14, he was bunking off school and taking the train into central London, in his uniform, watching three films in a row at the Prince of Wales cinema, off Leicester Square — hallowed seminary for many a trainee London cinephile — and making it home in time to pretend he'd been at school all day.

Law's professional career started early. He had already done a considerable amount of theatre when, at 17, he was offered a part in a TV show, Families, in Manchester. "It was an extraordinary learning curve," he says, glowing at the memory (and, possibly, the wine). "I got myself a flat, I had a bit of money in my pocket for the first time. I was going out, socialising and then learning to curb that to get up at six and be on set."

He was there at the height of Madchester, when the city became briefly the coolest place on the planet. "Martin Glyn Murray, who played my brother in that show, was in [indie band] The Mock Turtles so I had a kind of inroad with him. I went to the Haçienda a lot, saw Primal Scream live there in 1989, went to Spike Island for The Stone Roses, all of that. It was just a brilliant time."

His name was made initially on the stage, where, at 22, he won the Olivier Award for 1995's Best Newcomer in Cocteau's Indiscretions, which later transferred to Broadway. By then, he'd already met Sadie Frost. He became a father for the first time in 1996, at 24, to Rafferty (Iris followed, in 2000, and Rudy in 2002) and he and Frost married in 1997, at which point he became stepfather to Finlay, her son with Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet. International stardom arrived in 1999, thanks to The Talented Mr Ripley, set in Fifties Italy, adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel and directed by Anthony Minghella, with whom he would go on to work twice more before the director's death, in 2008.

It is still perhaps his defining role. In Ripley, Law is magnetic. Blond and honey- tanned, he plays Dickie Greenleaf, the charismatic tearaway son of an American shipping magnate, and he perfectly captures the chilly self-possession and the frightening entitlement of the very young, very rich and very beautiful. Even among some of the brightest stars of his generation — Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman — Law shines, trousering all his scenes with the dexterity of a Neapolitan pickpocket. All despite the fact his character is killed off less than an hour into a film that runs for more than two. He won the Bafta for Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for an Oscar. His own image and that of the character he played — the bad boy, catnip to women and men — became indivisible. "People thought I was Dickie Greenleaf," Law says. "They assumed I was on a yacht, playing a saxophone." Pause. "Me and Simon Le Bon."

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"Life-changing," is how Law describes the film now. "Just in terms of the scale of the attention, the calibre of the people I was suddenly rubbing shoulders with in the business: Anthony had won nine Oscars [for The English Patient], Matt had just won an Oscar, Gwyneth was about to, Cate, Philip… All of them had a lot of attention and I was in with them, and it intensified the spotlight on me. Work-wise it was extraordinary: suddenly all these directors who you hope to work with one day are calling you because you're the new person on the block. You're fresh meat."

Fresh meat for the tabloids, too. It was around the time of Ripley, he says, that he became aware his public profile was no longer in his control. "I remember somebody showing me a magazine that had a photo of me and [his son] Raff walking down the street. I had this immediate feeling of being appalled. I used to look down on the people in those magazines. I remember having a wonderful snobbery, when I was 19, 20: 'I will never be like that, that is just despicable.'

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"And there I was with this beautiful baby in my arms, this innocent little sprite. I suppose I'd always assumed that was a choice that someone had made, to get into that magazine. And then I realised, 'Oh no, no, no. They choose.' And that scared me."

Dark grey washed wool-denim double-breasted coat, £2,080, by Prada. White cotton T-shirt, £80, by Sandro. Beige wool trousers, £2,060, by Brunello Cucinelli. Black leather double monk strap shoes, £425, by Mr Hare

Professionally, things were going well. Not every film was a critical and commercial smash, but he had eye-catching cameos in AI, and in Road to Perdition. I saw him on stage, in Doctor Faustus at the Young Vic, in 2002, and the buzz around him was close to deafening. At the 2004 Oscars, he was nominated for Best Actor for Anthony Minghella's epic romance, Cold Mountain.

But as his marriage broke down, suddenly the attention, which he'd found discomfiting anyway, became unpleasant. "First it got crazy," he says, "and then it got nasty." He doesn't know why, exactly.

"Certainly it's not some Bond villain sat somewhere going, 'When shall I go to Phase Two?' That's not happening. I think things changed because of my divorce," he says. "It's almost like, 'There's a chink in his armour! Now we want to know the dirt.'"

When, following his split from Frost, he began a relationship with Sienna Miller, his Alfie co-star, the attention intensified. "One day I was anonymous," Miller told me when I interviewed her in 2009. "The next day people were outside my flat." The coverage of her and Law's comings and goings was, she described to me, "complete saturation".

"I do remember feeling slightly beaten down by it," Law tells me now. "By the constant presence of [paparazzi] outside my house. And the interaction with these people you don't want in your life. They're trying to be chatty and friendly and you just want to punch them in the face. Don't be chatty. Don't give me, 'Good morning, mate.' Just because you've been sitting outside my house for four months doesn't mean we're mates."

What neither he nor Miller knew at the height of the coverage of their lives — although they certainly suspected it — was that since at least 2003 they, and their friends and colleagues, among many other people, had had their phones "hacked" by journalists at Rupert Murdoch's News International. When the scale of the hacking, and News International's attempts to cover it up, were revealed in 2011, the story became a national scandal, leading to a public inquiry into press standards, chaired by Lord Leveson, as well as criminal trials and convictions.

Does Law feel that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, his period of greatest fame happening to coincide with the period of the tabloids' most rampant lawbreaking? Or is it something else that caused him to be apparently singled out for abuse?

"I think I put people's backs up a little bit," he says. "I don't know why that is, but I feel like I do. I felt like [the newspapers] were waiting to put the boot in. And when they did, they did it with glee. I really don't know, though. It might also be — and I say this with absolute seriousness — it might also be my own paranoia."

Does he feel in any way responsible for the intensity of coverage of his private life?

"Am I responsible? How could I be? By my behaviour?"

Yes, I tell him. He provided the tabloids with ammunition. If he'd never done anything newsworthy…

"No," he says, "I don't think I was responsible. It's funny. I've never really looked at it from that angle. Wow. No, I don't." He pauses, takes his time deciding what he wants to say. "The reason I'm sort of mulling it over so much is I suppose when I look at it from [the newspapers'] point of view, you can't blame them, in a way. They must have gone, 'He hasn't done that, has he? Fucking great! Let's get it out.'"

Exactly, I say. It's a story.

"OK," he says, "there are obvious aspects to this that we're sort of dancing around, to do with sex. The truth is, if those were the only instances [when he'd become a story for the papers] then maybe I would go, 'Blimey, yeah. They really got me there!'

"But they could get a photo as random as me walking down the road pulling a funny face, and then write a piece saying, 'Oh, he's obviously really angry.' You go, 'So I'm supposed to just stay inside and not move at all, otherwise I'm provoking them?' Is that right? It's bizarre. Do you see what I mean? You begin to think, 'Where does this end?' If everything I do is fuel, then the fire's out of control."

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To what extent does he think the attention had a negative effect on his career?

"I think it must have done," he says. "Although having said that, the one check I always did was, 'Am I still working? Yes, I am. Then I'm all right.' The fact was, I managed to keep getting jobs."

Researching my story on Law in 2006, I talked to Anthony Minghella. Law, he told me then, is "our most undervalued actor". "Somehow," he said, "the collision of his personal and private life with his work as an actor has obfuscated his quality."

Michael Grandage, who has directed Law in two plays — Hamlet in 2009 and Henry V in 2015 — and in a new film, Genius (2016), takes a more generous view. "The public perception of Jude," Grandage tells me, "is what we, the public, put on him. It's not his doing. So it's our problem, not his, in a weird way."

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And in any case, Grandage thinks, "even [when it comes to] the most salacious aspects of his private life, I don't think the public go all high and mighty and sit on top of some fantastic moral high ground, going, 'Who does he think he is?' I mean, he hasn't murdered anybody. He hasn't stolen from anybody. He hasn't spied for another country. He's had a fantastic time!"

"Isn't there a little bit of all of us," Grandage wonders, "going, 'Christ, I wish I could have a bit of that'? That's probably the real truth of it. I think one of the reasons he is so popular is he's one of our bad boys, if you like. Deep down in the English psyche, I think we enjoy those people's behaviour."

Law chose not to appear before the Leveson Inquiry. "I took that decision very seriously," he says. "There were a number of reasons. It seemed to me that they already had a lot of people from my industry who'd suffered for the same reasons as me and did they really need another one? Second, after the court cases I'd just had enough. I also felt that I would be recounting stories that they had already written, only for them to then rewrite them."

This did indeed happen: the Leveson Inquiry and the criminal trials allowed the papers to report again the personal details of the hacking victims' lives.

"It's like the echo, you know: 'He had an affair;' 'He had an affair;' 'He had an affair!' It's like, 'Fucking hell, I thought I'd put that to bed.' And then it comes back and hits you again."

I couldn't help noticing, I tell him, that The Young Pope will be shown on Sky Atlantic, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Which means he works for the man whose company hacked his phone, and from whom he received £130,000 in damages and a written apology for what Law's lawyer called "a sustained campaign of surveillance, pursuit and harassment."

"Yeah, I know, it's a funny one." He pauses. "I have to be a bit careful here."

He considers for a moment.

"First of all, when I took the job, I don't think [Sky] had bought [the show]. When I heard they had, I thought, 'Well, in my opinion he's supporting something great here.' Do I have an issue with the other areas of [the Murdoch empire]? Well, yeah, I do. But what's your question? 'Does that sit uncomfortably with me?'"

Yes; did it give you pause?

"No, I wanted to work with Paolo. I liked the piece."

I tell him that if I were writing this for Private Eye, I'd say that makes him a hypocrite.

"Yeah, maybe," he says. "Maybe. Jesus. I'm trying to think of who I can work for that I haven't had problems with. Fucking everybody. Maybe I need to take up gardening."

He looks momentarily deflated but then quickly rallies. "You know what? I don't feel like it necessarily erodes my moral stance on the way another area of [Murdoch's] empire treated me. I think I had a right to complain, I got an apology, I got a payout. I bet Private Eye probably would call me a hypocrite. But in answer to your question: no, it didn't really give me pause.

"Anyway, if I turn down the role in The Young Pope, I don't think that Rupert Murdoch's going to suddenly feel slighted."

No, I say, he would have found another actor instead.

"And he'd probably have hacked them as well."

Understandably, perhaps, Law has been more circumspect, in recent years, in his dealings with the media. Interviews are rare, TV appearances few and far between, red carpet appearances kept to a minimum.

He has, however, continued to act in mainstream Hollywood films, most famously as Watson to Robert Downey Jr's Holmes in Guy Ritchie's 2009 action-bromance, Sherlock Holmes, and its 2011 sequel. He has worked as part of a starry ensemble in two Steven Soderbergh thrillers, Contagion (2011) and Side Effects (2013), and in character roles for many other leading directors, including Martin Scorsese, in Hugo (2011); Joe Wright, in Anna Karenina (2012) and Wes Anderson, in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). He had a funny cameo, as a smooth British agent, in last year's comedy blockbuster, Spy, and he has starred in smaller, more offbeat indies.

Completed and awaiting release, meanwhile, are two films that demonstrate Law's range, and the variety of projects he attempts. Genius, which has already played in the US but is yet to find a distributor here, is a period drama about the relationship between the novelist Thomas Wolfe and the editor Max Perkins, adapted by John Logan (Gladiator, Skyfall) and directed by Michael Grandage, with Law starring alongside Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.

Set in Thirties New York, at times the film looks as dusty as an old manuscript, but, as with the contents of dusty old manuscripts, there is much to admire, especially in the performances: Firth's punctilious Perkins counterpointed with Law's manic, grandiose Wolfe. Then, next spring we'll see Law in chain mail as the warlord Vortigern, in Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

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Perhaps most gratifyingly, in recent years Law has consolidated his position as one of the London stage's most popular and respected leading men, in some of the most demanding roles in the canon. Michael Grandage first met Law when they worked together on Hamlet. I asked him what he learned about Law from that experience.

"I learned that he's fearless," says the director. "And utterly un-vain as well, which is very interesting in one who's so good looking. I can't even begin to tell you how much those two qualities mean in the theatre, or in film. Jude Law is prepared to go anywhere, to investigate any part of himself if it's going to bring something meaningful to the character he's going to play."

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I wondered if Grandage ever felt that Law's celebrity inhibited what they were trying to do, or distracted the audience from the work?

"I think he's enormously aware of that," Grandage says. "I think he sees it as his primary job to get rid of all the perceptions and possibly prejudices that might come with people who are viewing him as Jude Law and to get them to be absorbed in the character as quickly as possible. It makes him even more determined to go, 'I'm going to get you to engage with somebody called Hamlet now.'"

Grandage thinks there'll be more opportunities for Law to show his range as he ages: "I think as he continues into his forties, the idea that he will get to display the huge reserves of character-based talent he's got is incredibly exciting."

These days Law lives in Highgate, in north London, with Phillipa Coan, a psychologist. He shares custody of his three teenage children with Sadie Frost. They live with him for a week, then her for a week, and so on: "It really depends on their mum's work schedule and my work schedule, but it's kind of half and half. And I live opposite their school so even when they're coming up from mum's, they're usually at mine picking up stuff.

"I lived alone a long time," he says, "and I was all right with that, actually. I was quite good at it. But I do love domestic life. I really enjoy running a house. I like the

satisfaction of getting the kids off to school or getting them back and making nice food in the evening."

Being a dad has, he says, "always been an amazing anchor in my life. My kids came first and I never felt like they were holding me back. Quite the opposite." His eldest son, Rafferty, 19, has been dipping a toe in his father's world. I mention to Law that I watched Rafferty modelling in the Dolce & Gabbana catwalk show in Milan in June. Does he worry about Rafferty following him into the spotlight?

"Well, he's 19. He doesn't really necessarily want to hear from me on that. But yes, I do worry," he says. "I went in without any guidance. On numerous occasions I've wondered, 'Gosh, did I ask for this? Did I milk it? What could I have done differently?' From that point of view there are pieces of advice I would like to give. But he's got to find his own path and make his own mistakes, and have his own triumphs. Those lessons are best learned in the field. And I think he's a really lovely, smart, talented kid. And he's going to be fine."

As well as his kids with Frost, he has two very young children. "Two babies, yeah." Sophia, who will turn seven in September, is the daughter of Samantha Burke, an American model. Ada, who was born in March 2015, is the daughter of a British musician, Catherine Harding. This, I guess, must make his life quite complicated.

"It does," he says. He seems philosophical about this, as about so much else. "I'm certainly not in the situation where I have to throw my hands up and go, 'God, life's impossible!' You've got to learn to deal with everything life throws at you. And you try your best to make everything work. That's all you can do.

"This is the last I'll say on it," he says. "I think about all of them every single day, pretty much all day. And in some way, anything else I'm doing, whether it's at work or anything, they are the reason I'm doing it, or they are what I'm thinking about that's giving me some sort of motivation or inspiration to do what I do."

It seems like a mad question but I ask it anyway: would he like to have more kids? "Gosh, yeah, maybe."

Does he have regrets?

"I do," he says. "I regret hurting people. It's an awful thing. And trying to gain the forgiveness or the understanding of someone you've hurt, or heal a pain that you may have inflicted, that's where regret hits hard. But regret is really interesting. It's something I think about in terms of lessons learned. In a way, to regret something is almost to regret the lesson learned from it. And if you've learned your lesson then it was probably a good thing in some way. Fucking up or being an idiot and having to pay the consequences for that? It's how you learn."

It's a trite question to ask someone who's just spent seven months playing the Pope, but does the idea of confession and absolution appeal to him?

"It does, actually," he says. "But I don't necessarily think that it's something that you can go to someone else for. I think confession is facing yourself and saying, 'You did this and this is the consequence.' And absolution is going, to yourself, 'I know I did and I learned my lesson.' Or it's going to the last person on the planet you'd want to admit it to, and saying, 'I think I've done this and I think I have to admit it.'"

Next March, he'll begin rehearsals for Obsession, at the Barbican in London, with Ivo van Hove, who is among the most in-

demand theatre directors of the moment. It is a stage adaptation of Luchino Visconti's neorealist classic Ossessione, from 1943, itself based on James M Cain's novel of desperate sexual infatuation, The Postman Always Rings Twice. Law plays Gino (Frank in the book), the magnetic drifter who begins an affair with the bored, beautiful wife of the owner of a rural roadside truck stop. It's an opportunity, he says, to create another fascinating, flawed man, in concert with another gifted director. Which is, after all, what Law does best.

"I've always said that acting's the greatest therapy of all," Michael Grandage says, "because the process of getting to build a character means you have to talk about yourself, your background, your prejudices, your dark places. You have to open all sorts of doors that I guess is what should happen in a good therapy session. And then you have to pack it all up together again, create a person out of all of that stuff and then go out on stage in front of hundreds of people and be that person. I think he sees that as part of a process of dealing also with his life."

"Jude Law," Paolo Sorrentino writes, "is not only a great actor, but a real star... A star is someone who leaves intact the mystery of himself as a man and, at the same time, along with the work on the character, releases doses of authenticity and truth about himself."

"He is somebody who has an insatiable appetite for life in every part of it," says Grandage. "He's undoubtedly one of those men who walks down the street and looks up. And sees things that the rest of the world, who are looking down, don't see."

A bit like the Pope, perhaps. Maybe that casting isn't so surprising, after all.

The first episode of The Young Pope airs on Sky Atlantic in October

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Britain's Most Outspoken Rock Star
Noel Gallagher on marriage, midlife crises, fame and the highs and lows of Oasis
Daniel Craig On His Decade As 007
The actor on Spectre, masculinity and life as the world's most famous spy
The Wisdom Of Kate Winslet
Forty things the most gifted actor of her generation has learned by forty
Paul McCartney Is Esquire's August Cover Star
An exclusive interview with our greatest living rock star
Jake Gyllenhaal Is Esquire's July Cover Star
He's the star of some of the most interesting films in American cinema. And he keeps getting better
Mark Ronson Is Esquire's June Cover Star
The tastemaking producer reflects on a life and career at the sharp end of the music business
Painting Mugs With Tom Hardy
Catching up with the most exciting actor of his generation as Child 44 hits the cinema