If the baton wasn’t exactly passed from one generation of British acting greats to another with 2004′s “Alfie,” starring Jude Law in the role made iconic by Michael Caine, then this month’s “Sleuth” at least lets the two duke it out, mano a mano.
Thirty-five years after Caine matched wits with Laurence Olivier in the cat-and-mouse story, Kenneth Branagh has directed a new version of “Sleuth,” with a completely new script from famed playwright Harold Pinter. This time it’s Caine in the duplicitous elder role and Law donning the famed mantle of Milo Tindle.
MTV News spent some time chatting up Law and Caine about their new film, why neither man has joined the “Harry Potter” franchise and which superheroes they’re preoccupied with playing.
MTV: Jude, you’re playing a role Michael famously already portrayed. And Michael is watching you do it. So on the set, who is this more surreal for?
Jude Law: Certainly it’s more foolish for me.
Michael Caine: From the start, I never would have remade the [original] script because I thought we did a perfectly good job with it in the first place. There was no point. Why do it again? But this was an entirely different script, so there was no case of déjà vu for me with this. There are no lines in this screenplay that were in the other screenplay. Jude brought me this and I was very keen to do it.
MTV: Michael, how do you compare these two versions of “Sleuth”?
Caine: I loved playing Milo in the first one, and I adored playing this part. When Larry [Olivier] played it, he was written as a dangerous eccentric. This one is a murderous psychopath which is much more my sort of thing. [He laughs.] I do dangerous psychopaths very well.
Law: What’s interesting about both films is that they are both in their own right very different, but interesting and intelligent and humorous looks at why and how men fight, and that’s something man has been doing since time began. It’s still just two blokes fighting and forgetting why they’re fighting, and using every tool — sexuality, youth, age and wisdom — using money, using wits, and at the end of the day not really caring why they win as long as they do win.
MTV: Jude, you’ve now tackled Alfie and Milo Tindle. Any other roles in Michael’s filmography you want to try?
Law: No, of course. It’s got to stop.
Caine: “Gambit”! I can play the Herbert Lom part. And he can play my part in “Gambit.”
Law: People are starting to talk, you see.
Caine: [He laughs.]
Law: I’ve got to put an end to my Michael Caine season.
MTV: What if they want to remake “The Talented Mr. Ripley” in 20 years? Will you play Dickie’s dad?
Law: No, what we’re going to do is I’m going to remake ["Sleuth"] again.
Caine: And play my part! He could do a re-remake.
Law: And [the next] Milo hasn’t been born yet. Isn’t that weird?
MTV: Maybe it could be Dakota Fanning? Switch it up.
Law: Twist it. No, she’ll be too old. I bet she’s never heard that before! [He laughs.]
Caine: You’ll probably be living in a spaceship or something.
MTV: “Sleuth” goes sci-fi. When you look at Jude’s career, does it remind you of your own?
Caine: It’s all a different ballgame for everybody. You do what you do, and that’s it. I always said, when I’m an old man I want to sit there regretting the things I did, not the things I didn’t do, because it’s terrible to sit back and think, “If only I had done that, I wonder what would have happened.” Well I did it all, and I know what happened. [He laughs.]
MTV: How is it that I have two of the most notable English actors working today and neither of you have appeared in a “Harry Potter” film?
Caine: Nobody asked me.
Law: Yeah, nobody asked me either. We’re running out quick, aren’t we?
Caine: It’s not my sort of film anyway.
MTV: They’ve never approached you, Jude?
Law: No. I was a bit old for Harry.
Caine: I haven’t read the books. I haven’t seen the films. They’re children’s films. I don’t watch children’s films.
MTV: Let’s talk superheroes. Michael, you’re the star of the teaser trailer for “The Dark Knight.”
Caine: [He laughs.] I’ll tell you who it’s about. It’s about Heath Ledger as the Joker. He will be the talking point of the next Batman.
MTV: Who will people be most scared by in the film? The Joker or Two-Face?
Caine: The Joker.
Law: Is Two-Face in it as well?
Caine: Yeah, but I never saw him. I saw the Joker, and it’s one of the scariest performances I’ve ever seen.
MTV: Does Alfred see some action?
Caine: Not a lot. I thought ["Batman Begins"] was the best Batman I’d ever seen. I can say that. I was only the butler. That’s a very good picture, but “Dark Knight” will be different.
MTV: You’ve been linked to Superman and Batman over the years, Jude. Has a role like that ever come close to happening?
Caine: You’d be good at one of those guys!
Law: Yeah, cheers. I don’t know. My athletic build …
Caine: And there’s a lot of money in it.
Law: There is, isn’t there? I don’t know why I’ve never been interested. They’ve never come my way really.
MTV: Isn’t it true you have a Rorschach [of "The Watchmen"] tattoo?
MTV: Your name was linked with that film.
Law: It was, yeah.
MTV: Did you talk to the director, Zack Snyder?
Law: I did. But I think it’s [shooting] now. I’m making another film.
MTV: What are you doing next?
Law: “The Repossession Mambo.” It’s a kind of “A Clockwork Orange” of the future. Very unusual.
MTV: Can you say anything about your role?
Law: Not really. You have to guess from my haircut.
MTV: Are you in the war?
Law: No, I’ve come back from the war.
Caine: I’m doing a movie called “Is There Anybody There,” which is about a little boy of 10 who lives in an old people’s home, and he keeps making friends. Of course every time he makes a friend, the people die. So he gets a camera and a tape recorder looking for their ghosts. And a very old magician comes in to die: me. It’s a wonderful script.
MTV: Where’s the role for Jude? You’re going to break up the team?
Caine: He’s too young for an old people’s home!
Law: We’ve got time.
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