"IT'S LIKE THE SUN SHINES ON YOU AND IT'S GLORIOUS," WROTE director Anthony Minghella in his screenplay for The Talented Mr. Ripley
. "And then he forgets you and it's very, very cold. When you have his attention you feel like you're the only person in the world." What actor could bring such power to the screen? In casting the role of wealthy American expatriate Dickie Greenleaf, Minghella looked to a stage-trained Englishman. "Jude Law
was the only one I could think of," says the director. "He has beauty with an edge." Minghella picked right. Despite the film's star power of Matt Damon
and Gwyneth Paltrow
, Law, 27, earned Ripley
's only acting Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actor. But even before his breakout performance, the 5'11" Law made waves with his compelling contradictions. "Jude's got extremely cute cheekbones and a cruel but sensual mouth," says Sean Mathias, a London theater director and friend of the actor's. "His appeal is in the contrast." Whether he plays it dreamy or dangerous, he always dazzles. Says Kathleen Turner, 45, who in 1995 portrayed Law's mother in Broadway's Indiscretions
: "Jude's a sexy son of a gun. The women in the audience just swooned over him." And they may still, but Law, the son of now-retired school-teacher parents Peter, 56, and Maggie, 53, has been married since 1997 to actress Sadie Frost, 31. They live with their son Rafferty, 3, and Frost's son Finlay, 9, from a previous marriage, in a north London apartment not far from where Law grew up. The actor has recently finished shooting the World War II drama Enemy at the Gates
in Germany. He's dirty and haggard for much of the film. "After Ripley," he told columnist Liz Smith in March, "I said I wanted something far away from that luxury setting. So here I am, traumatized in battle scenes, cleaning up the mud and broken glass between takes, looking like hell." Well, we know he cleans up nicely.