The formerly resplendent Jude Law abused his body dramatically to play a vulgar, violent, safe-cracking alcoholic in “Dom Hemingway.” The actor drank soda, smoked cigarettes and ate junk food to put on 20 pounds. He donned mutton chop sideburns and sported nasty-looking teeth, a scar and bad skin.
The comedic crime drama takes place in London and was written and directed by Richard Shepard (“The Matador”). Law’s performance was exquisite in that he completely transformed himself. The film opens on this raunchy naked guy shouting about how great his penis is. We’ve never seen the actor like this. He beats a guy bloody and just casually goes for another beer in a pub afterwards. He throws women over his shoulder, falls down drunk. He’s a self-righteous loser of an ex-con who wallows in drunken self-pity and never changes. Dom Hemingway is so rank and disgusting I couldn’t find a single thing to care about.
The cinematography was impressively creative, like when Law flies out of a car and heads right at you, mouth wide open, in slo-mo. The bright lime greens and oranges and the whole screen turning red are fun, and the soundtrack was fab, but my biggest problem was that it had no story. The movie is a character sketch and more of an “SNL” skit than enough to warrant a full-length film. I was disappointed because I’d loved the trailer.
Fifteen-year-old boys will probably like it but I grew restless. Luckily, nobody was sitting near me at the press screening so I could check my emails and text during this long, drawn-out “Sexy Beast” wannabe.
I wish I’d interviewed the director before seeing the film. Shepard’s love for his character and for Jude Law was palpable and his enthusiasm endearing.
Dorri Olds: What was your elevator pitch to get this movie made?
Richard Shepard: I didn’t have to pitch it. I wrote it. There’s no way to explain Dom without really reading Dom. He’s not a one-sentence description sort of guy. The whole movie is an exploration into his character so it takes 90–100 pages to even scratch the surface of him. I wrote Dom on specifically wanting to tell this story about this guy and ultimately the words and the script were the pitch. This isn’t the kind of movie you’re going to walk in and say, “This is a movie about a guy…” The movie is mostly a character sketch. Things happen and it’s fast-moving, but it’s not what you expect in these sorts of movies. I wanted to make something as original as possible.
I asked about the elevator pitch because I was having a hard time putting a description into a sentence.
I think it’s a movie about a guy who is a mess of a man who shoots off his mouth as well as shoots himself in the foot at every turn. He’s deeply flawed and that’s what made it so fun to write and direct and why Jude Law is so connected to it emotionally.
Was there any improv?
We had a lot of rehearsal time and Jude and I went through the script and dissected each word, but generally the script we shot was the script I wrote and kept exactly word for word. Even the amount of “fucks” in a sentence would be discussed and dissected and then very specifically we’d say, “Don’t add one more. Don’t remove one more.” Jude and the rest of the cast were able to take the dialogue and make it feel like it’s just coming out spontaneously. That made it very fresh.
Did you enjoy working with Jude Law?
It was incredible. I’ve never had an experience like I had working with him. He was beyond just an insanely decent human being and a down-to-earth guy who is great to go out for a beer with and hang out with, he is an incredibly dedicated and prepared actor. He was dedicated to Dom on every level. We had hours of discussion about whether to have a broken nose, no broken nose, facial hair, no facial hair, hair greased back and wardrobe. We were able to shoot the movie in 30 days because we were incredibly well prepared.
But beyond well prepared we were deeply in. We talked about Dom as if he were a real person. I understood Dom because I created him and I knew Jude understood because he took this creation and made it his own.
“Dom Hemingway” opens in select theaters on Wednesday, April 2. It will expand nationally throughout April. The cast includes Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir, Emilia Clarke and an adorable boy named Jordan A. Nash, who I hope to see more of. Rated R. 93 min.
Watch the trailer below: