The Talented Mr. Law
So began a career as giddy as a slumber party. For The Talented Mr. Ripley, in which Law, 27, playing American playboy Dickie Greenleaf, looks as stunning as the film's Italian seaside locales, he dove into his role—literally—as if he were auditioning for Sea World. At the start of filming in July of 1998, says director Anthony Minghella, "we were taking a boat toward this island we were going to be shooting on. One minute we were in the boat and the next he and [costar] Matt [Damon] had just jumped into the ocean. He's got all the volume controls of his spirit turned up." Or as another colleague, Ripley costume designer Ann Roth, analyzed his gifts: "He's got a cute heinie."
Cause for celebration indeed, and Law didn't miss the chance on New Year's Eve, when he stood on a London rooftop "letting off rockets like there was no tomorrow," says host and pal Dominic Anciano. At a Christmas party, Law was seen demonstrating other kinds of pyrotechnics with Sadie Frost, 31, his wife since 1997. "I saw them in a corner snogging," says Anciano, using a British term for a manner of kissing more often associated with the French. "They were really going for it."
Law has been going for it since he first decided to become an actor—at age 4. Named for the conflicted hero of Thomas Hardy's Victorian novel Jude the Obscure, the son of Maggie and Peter (now retired school-teachers living in France) adored the slapstick silent films of Harold Lloyd while growing up with older sister Natasha, 29, a graphic designer. Law trained for six years at the National Youth Music Theatre, where he "had a bit of an attitude at first," says Taylor. "[But] he was dominant in the group without being domineering. When he played the lead in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the girls went bananas."
When the British soap Families offered him a part, Law quit school at 18 ("it was very difficult for the son of two teachers to pull out of his exams," says Taylor) to play a rebellious teen. ("It was easy," he told one interviewer. "I was playing myself.") Law had more than his share of girlfriends, but on the set of the film Shopping in 1993, Law met Frost, the mother of now 8-year-old Finlay, her son by singer Gary Kemp of the 1980s band Spandau Ballet. "Right from the start I knew I was falling in love," Frost, who left Kemp after the shoot, told Scotland on Sunday. Today, Law and Frost make their home in London's arty Primrose Hill neighborhood with their son Rafferty, 3, and Finlay. Sometimes on the weekends they stroll through nearby Regents Park with Law's close friend Ewan McGregor (the pair met at an audition in 1990 when a director
gave them $30 and ordered them to get drunk so he could see how they got along), his wife, Eva Mavrakis, and their daughter. "They seem to be a very relaxed, matey bunch," says Phil Speed, a regular at the actors' local pub, the Albert. "The young kids seem to get on together as well as their parents." In fact, playing Daddy is Law's favorite role: His and Frost's film contracts include days off for their children's school events, and friends know not to telephone after 6:30 p.m. because that's dinnertime for the kids. Sounds a long way from Dickie Greenleaf's Italian idyll. "We're really boring," Law told The Independent on Sunday. "If someone wants to know my recipe for veggie loaf, I'll give it to them."
Matthew Beard in London and Michelle Caruso in Los Angeles