Dom Hemingway: The Most Unlikeable Likeable Guy You’re Likely to Find
From the moment you meet Dom Hemingway, you can pretty much tell that you’re really not going to like him. Or you’re really going to like him. Or you’re really not going to like him for a while and then you’re really going to like him.
He’s a very complicated and polarizing figure.
Dom (Jude Law) is the title character in Richard Shepard’s (writer and director of 2007’s “The Hunting Party” and occasional director on HBO’s “Girls”) latest release, which is currently enjoying an exclusive run at Minneapolis’ Landmark Lagoon Cinema.
Dom is a complicated man – one who took the promise of money and the honor of not turning on his fellow criminals (and the prison sentence that went with it) over the love of his wife and young daughter.
He’s released to a world that’s barely recognizable to him – his wife is dead, his daughter hates him and he can’t even have a cigarette inside of his favorite pub.
He’s bold and brash and speaks without thinking. And – perhaps more importantly – he’s looking for what he believes is owed to him … his share of the loot and a sizeable reward for keeping his mouth shut.
“It’s a crime movie where there’s not a whole lot of crime,” Shepard said recently of his film. “It’s more character study than crime film.”
Writing the film, including a profanity-laden opening scene monologue (set in a prison shower) happened quickly and naturally.
“It came from sick, twisted mind,” Shepard joked, acknowledging that his scripts and stories aren’t for everyone. “
“The monologue came out easily … it was the first thing I wrote,” he said. “It’s not how you start every movie and we were asking, ‘Can we even do this?’ But Dom has such a massive ego and that proves to be his downfall throughout the movie.”
“Dom is difficult to like, but hard not to cheer for,” he continued, noting that Dom’s faults and penchant for being his own worst enemy is a lot of what made Law want to take on the role.
Shepard said that Law wasn’t who he had pictured when writing the film, but knew he wanted someone that nobody would expect to play the role. Law definitely fit that bill, with his refined Hollywood image and classical theatre background.
“He had never played someone like [Dom], but I’ve always been a fan and sensed that darkness from some of his other roles,” Shepard said. “And there’s definitely a Shakespearean aspect in terms of the dialogue in all of Dom’s long monologues.”
Law’s dedication to the character, including a weight gain and a haircut that really exposes a receding hairline, took it to another level and sold the rest of the cast – which includes Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir and Kerry Condon) – on the story.
“All of these actors realized it was a chance to get a front row seat to see Jude do something different,” he said. “I was definitely in hog heaven most of the time.”
While it’s typically hard for a writer/director to single out one scene or aspect of a film to call a “favorite,” Shepard said that in this case it was pretty easy.
He knew he wanted a character that saw Dom in a pure light, someone who didn’t have a preconceived notion of him based on his prior actions. They found that character in young actor Jordan Nash, who plays Jawara – Dom’s grandson.
“He’s just got these full eyes and when he looks at Dom they just say, ‘I accept and I’m interested in you.’”
“When you look back to the beginning of the movie you can’t imagine that 70 minutes later you’ll be felling for him,” Shepard added. “But I really want audiences to see this because it’s a good time with a character you don’t expect to have a good time with.”