Jude Law on the 'internal horror' of 'The Nest,' shooting 'Fantastic Beasts 3' during COVID

Patrick Ryan


Imagine being stuck at home, unable to see close friends or relatives, as you and your partner drive each other mad. 

That may just sound like another day in pandemic lockdown to many, but it's also the premise of "The Nest" (in theaters). The chilly psychological drama stars Carrie Coon (HBO's "The Leftovers") as Allison, a passionate horse trainer whose husband Rory (Jude Law), a former commodities broker, uproots their family from the American suburbs to an English countryside estate. There, their marriage starts to unravel as Rory, driven by greed and a rough childhood, tries desperately to strike it rich, leaving Allison in a haunted mansion of their own making. 

The film, which is written and directed by Sean Durkin (2011's "Martha Marcy May Marlene"), is set in the Reagan-era ’80s, a period defined by consumerist culture. 

"He's a victim, in a way, of that belief system," Law says. "Rory always thinks he's doing the right thing for his family. He knows what it's like not to have and what it's like to want. And those traits have percolated through to where we are now. I still think there's a stain of that, where everything can be answered with a new pair of shoes or a handbag or the right car."

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Allison (Carrie Coon, left) and Rory (Jude Law) get a taste of high society when they move to England in "The Nest."

Law, 47, also starring in HBO miniseries "The Third Day" this month, talks to USA TODAY about "The Nest," the prescience of his 2011 pandemic thriller "Contagion," and shooting the next installment of "Harry Potter" spinoff "Fantastic Beasts" during COVID-19:

Question: "The Nest" is an unsettling family drama set in a creepy old mansion. Were there ever any ghost sightings while you were shooting? 

Jude Law: Not that I know of. It's an interesting theme, though: Sean talks about influential films like "Rosemary's Baby," "The Shining" and "The Exorcist." When you read his scripts, they have a very Gothic and suspenseful quality, which slowly reveals the sort of drama at its heart. There are always themes of internal horror that color his movies. 

"For a very gifted writer, he manages to find spaces in his writing where he just lets moments sit," Jude Law says of "The Nest" director Sean Durkin. "That's real elegant, confident filmmaking."

Q: You told Jimmy Fallon that you found it "a little odd" so many people were renting "Contagion" at the start of quarantine. Have you gone back and rewatched it in lockdown?

Law: I haven't. Listen, I don't know if it's that odd – I can understand people's curiosity. I guess it reveals that people look to stories for answers or some sense of connection. It's also funny that we were living through it and we still saw some sort of respite or escape in a fantasy version of (the pandemic). I rather like what Jimmy said: "We all wanted to see how it ended!" 

Q: Are there any lessons from the movie that you've applied to pandemic life? 

Law: The memory of the experts (who consulted on the film) telling us this was coming had always stayed in my head. So as I saw it spreading across the world, I don't know that I was hugely surprised. I've always been someone who's been accused of being overly clean and cautious with washing my hands, so that was something I was doing anyway.

Jude Law suited up for Steven Soderbergh's 2011 pandemic thriller "Contagion."

Q: Another of your films had a huge resurgence online during the lockdown: 1999's "The Talented Mr. Ripley," with Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Any theories as to why people were drawn to it while stuck at home

Law: I didn't know that! I haven't seen it in many years, but I certainly remember of my early films, I was always quite confident that "Ripley" was going to be possibly one of the only ones I'd made that could be considered a classic. It was in the hands of a fantastic filmmaker (Anthony Minghella) who had the right amount of money and the right lack of pressure on him, with a cast that were all just in their ascendancy. It was a beautifully made film on a complicated and very interesting subject. I could hazard a guess that the escapism of those beautiful Italian vistas and yachts and red sports cars may have been attractive during lockdown.

Gwyneth Paltrow, left, Jude Law and Matt Damon in 1999's "The Talented Mr. Ripley," which enjoyed renewed popularity on social media earlier this year.

Q: You returned to the set of "Fantastic Beasts 3" this month. How different has it been with COVID-19 safety measures in place? 

Law: Not hugely different. There are very specific guidelines, and there's a lot of testing and mask-wearing, obviously. They're creating bubbles within the crew, so certain departments don't intermingle. It's interesting. Film crews adapt and they've all taken to it swiftly and seriously. So it didn't feel too unfamiliar.

Q: J.K. Rowling (the film's co-writer and series creator) has been in the news these last few months for tweets about the trans community. What do you make of her comments or the backlash to them?

Law: I'm a great believer in appreciating, understanding, learning and keeping an open dialogue that makes everybody feel comfortable and everybody included. Boycotting or withdrawing support from someone online who has offended is understandable and can indeed be effective, but it can also stop people from listening to one another. I'd like to think that respectful dialogue is where change lives. 

Jude Law as young wizard Albus Dumbledore in 2018's "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," a prequel/spinoff of the "Harry Potter" franchise.

Q: You just signed on to play Captain Hook in Disney's live-action "Peter Pan, from director David Lowery ("A Ghost Story"). What drew you to his take on the character?

Law: It's too soon to say, we've just started looking into him. In fact, we're going to sit down this week for the first time, socially distanced, and start imagining what we can do and where we can go to. Certainly, to begin with, there's going to be an idea of trying to base him in reality. We want him to feel real threatening. 

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