Next month Jude Law stars in underwater thriller Black Sea, about a crew of submarine engineers who go in pursuit of some forgotten Nazi gold buried at the bottom of the ocean.
Law plays Captain Robinson, a recently laid-off sailor whose crew of mildly (or in some cases, deeply) unhinged British and Russian sea dogs soon turn against each another. Cue much shouting, fighting and exploding pipes.
With Dennis Kelly (Utopia) on writing duties and Kevin MacDonald (Last King Of Scotland) directing, it’s an entertaining enough jaunt – even if the plot holes are bigger than the submarine they go down on – and includes the added bonus of seeing Jude tackle a Scottish accent for the first time.
Here, we chat with the British actor about life underwater.
Why did you want to make Black Sea?
When I read the script, it struck me that Dennis had weaved a timeless heist story with a relevant social statement about skilled but obsolete men. There was something heroic and yet flawed about all the characters. And Kevin is a really great director. It was also unlike anything I’d ever done before – going on a mission on a submarine. It has a slightly Boys’ Own feel about it.
So you actually went underwater?
I was very lucky to be invited by the Royal Navy to go off on a submarine mission, so I went off for a couple of days with them. To be honest, more for a life experience than any sort of research. We shot the film on an actual submarine that some wonderful, crazy guy had bought and had sitting in an estuary in Rochester. Being there, rather than on a set, heightened the drama for us. You’re on top of each other and it gets very claustrophobia.
Any real fights, then?
Nah, we seemed to get on. There was a lot of humor.
We have to talk about the Scottish accent. We were impressed.
Really? I’m so glad you say that, it’s always a bit of a risk. Kevin, Dennis and I – we were trying to create a backstory that had a grittiness, a dignity to it. I also wanted to hint at a past for Robinson where he grew up beside the sea, or perhaps you could imagine his father also being laid off or let down by the government. Anyway, because Kevin’s Scottish it felt like a safer choice than going Irish…
It’s obviously an adventure film. But do you think there's a political message there too?
Well, to me, it was about the working man striking back a little bit, and also this idea of skilled laborers being obsolete to machinery, which is sadly an age-old dynamic in drama – we’ve got a computer that can do the job of fifty men.
Robinson, in time-honoured naval adventure tradition, seems to go a bit mad. It’s hard to figure out his motives.
Exactly. I went back to books like Moby Dick and Heart of Darkness to get a sense of the driven man who only sees an end, and carries everyone else with him. It’s only halfway along when everyone goes ‘actually, you’re insane. This is never going to work’. His survival is the moral quiz of the piece: does he deserve to make it or not?
You’ve made over 40 films. What sort of roles are you looking for now? What gets your juices going?
As long as there’s some kind of challenge, and as long as the director is not going to let you down, I’m open to anything. That’s literally all I think about: who’s directing it, is there something in there to mine, is it going to be an interesting journey, you know?
So what’s next?
Well I finished a film earlier this year with Paul Feig, who directed Bridesmaids.
That’s an out-and-out comedy with Melissa McCarthy. Then I’m in the middle of filming Genius, which is with a first-time director called Michael Grandage, who I’ve worked with in the theatre several times. That’s a literary piece about a writer and an editor, a true story, set in 1920’s New York.
Black Sea is out 5 December.