Crumbling Time-Prince Jude Law wants the world to know he's perfectly happy to at long last to look like a disgusting skin monster just like everyone else. With his recent conversation with T Magazine ("Who Are You Calling Pretty Boy"), Law has finally completed the ancient ritual of the Aging Male Beauty interview, declaring his utter relief to have finally slid into human levels of attractiveness.
The Aging Male Beauty interview is a beloved rite of passage, typically performed in the colder Oscar months, and its performance is eagerly awaited by fans of these withered faunlets. Twenty years from now, God willing, Channing Tatum will split a porterhouse with a Times columnist to talk about his performance as King Lear and declare himself "strangely comforted" by the sight of crows' feet and other signs of impending senescence.
Law's sylphlike beauty, at its height, was so dazzling that to gaze upon him directly was tantamount to committing suicide. In 1997 alone, his turn as Lord Alfred Douglas in Wilde led to the death of Stephen Fry, whose ghost is now very popular on Twitter, and half a dozen key grips.
Now, of course, the glory has departed from his careworn face and his once-celebrated looks are but bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. The interviewer cannot help but point this out:
The familiarly firm-jawed, elegantly lean star with the piercing blue eyes and the almost unfair level of handsomeness had been replaced by someone else, Off-Duty Jude. This version was heftier, less gorgeous and had a beard, something Law tends to grow between roles since it is the only time he gets to pick what happens to his hair, but which has the negative effect of obscuring his face. Also, O.D.J. was wearing a pair of verging-on-sloppy sweatpants.
Jude Law makes a gurgling attempt at speech. His mangled, ancient jaw falls hammering to the floor as his eyes widen in silent panic. Countless blackened years past the point of being able to ingest nutrients from human food, he can only stare longingly when the interviewer's breakfast arrives. No longer able to just hit his mark and smile blindingly at a blonde wig wearing a sundress through an entire feature film, as he did during Alfie, he has learned the value of working for a living.
Law feels he has come through a period, too, when he did not pick his roles as wisely as he should have, or pay as much attention to what he wanted from his career. He was working constantly, but not necessarily with care, in part because he had a family to support and financial demands to meet. He had started looking at acting as just a job.
"Without sounding too pretentious, it's difficult to remember that it's an art form and you are, maybe, an artist and you have to make decisions on that level," he said. "I feel kind of more confident, more settled as a human being, more settled in my own skin."
Aged pretty boys must always claim they are more settled or more comfortable in their own skin, even as it sags and pools into a leathery lizard-cape around their hollow, useless joints. Tobey Maguire had to do it, even though it's only now, at 37, that he's finally been freed from his man-boy prison and allowed to grow up. Leonardo DiCaprio spent forty years "coming of age," furiously trying to conceal his celestial beauty with beards and pleated pants. Gods in disguise, all of them, desperate to be counted among the numbers of men.
The process wasn't always easy. Law's director for Anna Karenina, Joe Wright, had to constantly remind him to resemble a human man rather than Lady Amalthea, the doelike human incarnation of the Last Unicorn.
It was a matter of suggesting that he did less and not more," Wright said. "I had to stop him doing his ‘handsome face' " - raised eyebrows, furrowed brow, wide-open eyes.
The deed was done - Law's radiance has been diminished and gone to sleep eternally in the Halls of Mandos, although our world is perhaps a poorer place for it. He is now grizzled and masculine and festooned in sweatpants, like a weary prospector trapped inside of a Walgreens. He is ugly enough to Act, and that is enough for now.
The witch that came (the withered hag)
To wash the steps with pail and rag,
Was once the beauty Abishag,
The picture pride of Hollywood.
Too many fall from great and good
For you to doubt the likelihood.
Die early and avoid the fate.
Or if predestined to die late,
Make up your mind to die in state.
Upon delivering this final, opaque koan to the interviewer, Jude Law shuffled slowly away, head shaking but unbowed, to greet his old friend Death.