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TIFF 2013: Why Jude Law couldn’t resist Don Hemingway role

Actor Jude Law laughs during a press conference for Dom Hemingway at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, Sept. 9, 2013.

GALIT RODAN/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Leave it to Jude Law to make profanity sound like poetry.

At a Toronto International Film Festival press conference Monday, the dapper 40-year-old British actor held court on his new comic caper Dom Hemingway , in which Law portrays the swaggering, volatile and endlessly foul-mouthed title character.

And it was clear he enjoyed himself.

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"I think at the heart of this seedy and bespoiled man is this poet, this Falstaff in a modern guise," said a relaxed-looking Law, clad in a casual denim shirt and dark trousers.

"He has a brilliant turn of phrase and a wonderful ability to riff off ideas, much of which is punctuated with fantastic profanity and use of the (F) word in various guises. And many other words – Cs and Bs and all sorts of things flying around.

"There's a sort of beauty to the way he constructs it, and it's at one time very entertaining and also appalling."

The eponymous character is a British gangster fresh off a 12-year prison stint that he endured to protect his boss, Mr. Fontaine (Oscar nominee Demian Bichir). Finally sprung, Hemingway approaches his freedom recklessly, immediately diving headlong into trouble with his trusty sidekick Dickie (Richard E. Grant) along for the ride.

The film also casts 26-year-old Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke as Hemingway's daughter, herself the mother of a young child – thus making Law an onscreen grandpa, a status he insisted didn't faze him.

"I certainly didn't have any trouble with it. I rather relished the idea," he said. "I think if anyone's going to have a first daughter, Emilia Clarke's a pretty great place to start."

Written and directed by Emmy winner Richard Shepard (The Matador), Dom Hemingway appealed to Law largely because of its boundary-bursting black comedy. From there, he clearly threw himself into the project. He had a hand in casting and even volunteered to read lines with any of the actors being considered for the film, which Shepard said was a tremendous help.

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His role required a non-ceasing supply of unstable intensity, and Law said he was cheerfully up for the task.

"His energy, it's infectious," gushed Clarke. "It's wonderful to play against."

Added Law when asked about his reserves of vigour: "I tend to sleep when the films are finished."

The two-time Oscar nominee has seemed to accept roles sparingly since reaching cinematic ubiquity a decade ago with a string of high-profile performances in films such as Cold Mountain, Road to Perdition, A.I. and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

In fact, Law says he's encouraged by the scripts that have been trickling his way, particularly those that – like this rambunctious comedy – allow him an opportunity to stretch his actorly legs.

"The work I've done in the past few years I'm really enjoying," Law said. "The roles get more and more interesting, more and more challenging."

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