Jude Law was born in Lewisham in London to a headmaster father and a teacher mother. His birth name is David Jude Law. He claims that his parents named him Jude after both the Beatles song "Hey Jude" and the Thomas Hardy novel Jude the Obscure. He began acting at the age of fifteen at the National Youth Music Theatre and made his first television appearance at the age of seventeen. In 1995, he was featured in the play Indiscretions, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. In 1997, he married fellow actress Sadie Frost. The couple would go on to have three children together - Rafferty (born in 1996), Iris (born in 2000), and Rudy (born in 2002). His early film work includes Gattaca and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, both released in 1997. He also appeared in David Cronenberg's eXistenZ and the supernatural thriller The Wisdom of Crocodiles. It was his role in the latter film that caught the attention of director Anthony Minghella, who cast him in The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1999. Jude would go on to receive an Acadamy Award nomination for the role and to win a BAFTA.
His next major role would be as Russian sniper Vassili Zaitsev in Enemy at the Gates, opposite Ed Harris. In 2001, he appeared as a robot in Steven Spielberg's science fiction Pinocchio story, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. He took some time away from film to appear at the Old Vic Theatre in Doctor Faustus, playing the title role in Christopher Marlowe's classic tragedy. His next film would feature him in a supporting role opposite Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in an adaptation of the graphic novel Road to Perdition. Jude traveled to Romania to film the Civil War romantic drama Cold Mountain. His role in that film, as W.P. Inman, would earn him his second Oscar nomination. In 2003, while filming a remake of the Michael Caine classic Alfie, Jude became romantically involved with actress Sienna Miller. The two would split in 2006 after it was revealed that he'd had an affair with his children's nanny. Fall of 2004 saw the release of six movies featuring Jude: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, I ♥ Huckabees, Alfie, Closer, The Aviator, and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Jude took 2005 off and in 2006 was seen in Breaking & Entering, his final film with Anthony Minghella. He was also seen in a new adaptation of All the King's Men with Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet, and James Gandolfini. He also appeared in the romantic comedy The Holiday. In March of 2007, he was awards the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for his services to cinema. The next few years saw Jude taking smaller roles in films like My Blueberry Nights, Sleuth, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. In the later film, he took over the role originally played by Heath Ledger following Ledger's death. He was joined in his duties by Johnny Depp and Colin Farrel. The three actors later donated their salaries to Ledger's young daughter, Matilda.
Returning to theatre in 2009, he played one of Shakespeare's greatest characters in Hamlet. The role garnered him a great deal of praise. Jude also became a father for a fourth time in the fall of 2009. He tackled another literary classic in 2009 when he played John Watson opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. He would reprise the role two years later in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Jude has leant his support to many philanthropic causes. He has performed in benefits to help various theatres. He has traveled to other countries to aid those who have been affected by AIDS. Jude has also devoted energy to promote the UN's International Day of Peace.