Voices: Jude Law regrets not making the most of his youthful good looks? I know how he feels

Jude Law as playboy Dickie Greenleaf  in hit 1999 movie ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’
Jude Law as playboy Dickie Greenleaf in hit 1999 movie ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’

Jude Law, who plays a smelly Henry VIII with rotting legs in the new film Firebrand, has opened up about his acting career, saying he’s full of regret about not leaning into playing handsome roles when younger.

“I was trying to play against my looks in my early twenties and now I’m saggy and balding,” he told DuJour magazine. “I wish I had played it up more.”

I never thought I’d identify with the Hollywood actor – but sadly I do. Like Law, I wish I’d made the most of my good looks, instead of wasting time trying to hide myself in baggy clothes, worrying if my bum looked too big after watching Trinny and Susannah’s TV show What Not To Wear and going on endless diets throughout my teens and twenties.

It isn’t easy, though, as Law has discovered. You can’t just turn back the clock. When a school friend handed me a photograph of myself, aged 17, that she’d kept in one side of a heart locket with herself on the other side, I nearly wept. And it wasn’t because I was nostalgic about our school days. I just couldn’t imagine being as beautiful as the girl in front of me – my younger self, decades ago – and not jumping for joy.

It is mindblowing. Was I on another planet? When I finally pulled out a load of old photos from a stored-away box, I gasped. Me standing on a beach, looking hungover, another playing lacrosse – I would have looked sensational in a bin bag.

If I woke up tomorrow and looked like my younger self, it would be like winning the lottery. But it didn’t feel like that at the time. I didn’t grow out of my shockingly low self-esteem until my thirties – after a lifetime of self-doubt. I spent my life chasing the wrong men: handsome and charismatic partners who were emotionally unavailable. I never dressed up or showed off. I was reserved and ethereal, preferring to glide around in Picnic at Hanging Rock-style oversized white nightdresses, rather than showing off my body as a sexually confident person.

As I worried more about my weight, the negative chatter drowned out anything that resembled reality. I worried my legs looked a bit bandy. I critiqued my own body ruthlessly from all angles – I was self-obsessed and stuck in a shame spiral.

Yet it was all a fiction. I was the opposite of the ogre I’d made myself out to be! I was supposed to be casting models for face cream ads and music videos for pop stars like Julian Lennon and Boy George when I worked part-time for a film production company – instead, I was chosen to appear in them. It didn’t register with me that it was because I looked drop-dead gorgeous and should have been proud of it. I was clueless and feeling insecure.

I could have had practically any man I wanted – and should have been waltzing down the street feeling like I owned it. Nobody would have argued. But no – I was unable to enjoy it. And that is a tragedy.

I skulked around undermining my good looks and trying to be gritty – just like Law, who in his younger years tried to audition for less attractive roles, such as playing a disabled swimmer in 1997’s Gattaca.

At 51, Law is now unlikely to be offered classically handsome roles again – such as playboy Dickie Greenleaf in hit 1999 movie The Talented Mr Ripley – and although he claims it’s a relief (and even went as far as to hire a perfume specialist to create a personalised “blood, sweat and faecal matter” perfume for his most recent role as Henry VIII), it’s still a jab in the heart when you realise how you’ve downplayed yourself.

And now that I’ve entered the years of Morpheus8 non-invasive facelifts to freshen up my face, or consider tear trough fillers for the bags under my eyes caused by a constant juggle with two small children, I look back at my youth and I want to scream at my younger self for not realising how good I had it.

I’m not saying that youthful looks are all that matter, but I do wish I’d enjoyed mine more. I just hope that I can learn from this – and love my body before I get bingo wings.