When he began work on the script that would become Dom Hemingway, writer-director Richard Shepard says he simply wanted to create an "unusual character."
"I wanted to make a crime movie that didn't involve a crime," he says of the film that opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre. "The crime actually happens 12 years before the story starts. As I was writing [the lead character] Dom [Hemingway], I was enjoying his company. I kept putting him in these situations and watching him fuck things up. All of that was making me laugh. I loved this guy but he was a mess.
Jude Law is probably the least likely guy to play Dom, a foul-mouthed ex-con prone to violent outbursts. And yet, he pulls it off. The film's plot centers on Dom and his sidekick (Richard E. Grant) as they try to retrieve the money that Dom feels is rightfully his for keeping his mouth shut while he served a 12-year prison term. In the process, Dom tries to connect with his long-lost daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke), who's tried to put him behind her.
"Jude is known as this heart throb, good looking guy," says Shepard. "But he's on the other side of 40 and his hair is receding. Dom is a mess of a guy but we put a device in his nose to make it look broken and we put some fake teeth on to give him the smoker's palate. That, along with the suit that was too tight for him, gave Jude a chance to lose himself in that character."
Law gained weight for the role too.
"Jude is an all-in actor, so spending a summer eating fish and chips and drinking beer wasn't that hard," Shepard says. "It was probably enjoyable. But Jude felt that between smoking cigarettes and drinking ten sodas a day as well as the fake beer he drank when we were shooting, he got pretty unhealthy, which made sense for Dom."
Shepard, who says he loves a good heist movie, consciously chose to circumvent the norms of the genre with the character-driven film.
"I wanted to follow a character who might be the third supporting character in another movie but is the lead character in this movie," he says. "That is what was challenging to me. Hopefully, you're getting the same entertainment you would from a heist movie. With not a lot of money comes more freedom. If this were a $50 million movie, we would have to have a big heist. Dom couldn't be so rough around the edges because you have to make a certain amount of money back. When you get into smaller movies, audiences can seek this out as an alternative and enjoy it a little bit more. I hope it's just enough off kilter."