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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 October, 2004, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Law defends 'too charming' Alfie
June Law and Sienna Miller in Alfie
Some critics have decried Jude Law's Alfie as "too likeable"

Actor Jude Law and director Charles Shyer have defended their film Alfie from critics who say they have removed the sharp edge of the 1966 original.

The 1960s Alfie Elkins, played by Michael Caine, was a misogynist who treated the women he dated with contempt. The film's plot surrounded the way this attitude eventually caused Alfie's world to implode.

Some critics have said the updated film makes the character too likeable and charming, dramatically blunting its impact compared to the bleak original.

But Law told the BBC the film-makers had realised it would be "a very different world" if the character had been kept as "brutal with the women as he was in the original".

"Calling them 'it', demanding food and darning and cleaning. It would have been a very different universe that we'd have had to discover in a modern time to get away with it," Law said.

Multiple seduction

The new version of Alfie transfers the central character to New York, and reworks - by necessity - the older film's most harrowing scenes, in which one of Alfie's girlfriends goes through a backstreet abortion.

Sarah Churchwell on the BBC's Newsnight Review said that "it is the cruelty and brutality of the original Alfie which is striking - in transposing the central question from class to sex it loses its bite".

Jude Law and Susan Sarandon in Alfie
People say he's a nicer guy - I find him more manipulative
Jude Law
But Law defended criticism that the film pulls its punches in comparison to director Lewis Gilbert's original work.

He argued that because of the "rising strength" of women in the last 40 years, the film-makers had to acknowledge Alfie would have a charming facade in order to maintain his multiple seduction.

"People often come out and say, 'he's a nicer guy, he's more seductive' - I find him more manipulative," Law said.

"When you do then get into his inner workings, or you're able to see the contrast between how he talks to the girls and then how he talks about them to camera, you realise that it's more of an act, and it's less honest, less revealing of what he's really thinking and what he really wants."

Law said the character's newly-acquired need to be seductive was a key theme to the new film.

"It's about veneer, it's about this terrible modern need to look good, to wear the right thing, say the right thing, be charming, do it all with a smile.

Michael Caine in Alfie (1966)
Michael Caine's Alfie referred to a woman as "it"
"In fact, if you scratch, the people are still behaving as despicably to each other as they were in the 60s, when we see it as a very bleak film... I think all we've done is paint that with a gloss."

Director Charles Shyer agreed - but also said that the film was partly a response to a "new kind of misogyny".

"I do feel that in the 70s, 80s, early 90s, this film wouldn't have worked as well as today, and wouldn't have been as relevant," he said.

He blamed this on what he said was a slide to the right of the political spectrum in the US, hip-hop music - which he said was guilty of "objectifying women" - and TV programmes.

He agreed that Law should not have played the character in the same way as Michael Caine.

"It wouldn't have worked," he said. "Times have changed, and I think you have to reflect that in the movie. I didn't feel we pulled punches."

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22 Oct 04 |  Entertainment
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