When committing to his monstrous interpretation of Henry VIII in the Karim Ainouz film “Firebrand,” Jude Law really went the distance. “I thought it would have a great impact if I smelled awful,” Law said at a Monday press conference the day after the film’s Cannes Film Festival premiere. “Because you could smell (the real) Henry three rooms away.”
To embody the stinky Tudor with a rotting leg, the actor said he commissioned a stomach-churning scent from a British perfumer – a delightful mix of puss, blood, fecal matter and sweat, Law said with pride – and then dosed himself on set.
“Every camera operator was hurling,” added Alicia Vikander. “Jude, you were really wonderfully terrifying!”
If anything, that level of grandiose and gruesome detail sets “Firebrand” apart from other costume dramas.
“With an oozing, infected leg wound that sometimes has him screaming in agony or frothing in fury, Henry is a charismatic yet repulsive creation,” The Wrap’s Nicholas Barber described it. “When he grunts and groans on top of Catherine in bed, it’s less erotic than you might imagine any sex scene featuring Alicia Vikander and Jude Law could possibly be.”
So you could imagine Law’s reaction when asked to compare that rancid Tudor and his savage court to the recent coronation of Charles III.
“Thanks,” Law deadpanned, looking for a safe way out. “I kind of see it as theater — although I’m slightly more obsessed with theater.”
If the film offers a terrifying portrayal of a violent and abusive absolute monarch, the actor found a more human way in by viewing Henry as above all a victim of abuse himself.
“To be separated from his family, brought up under guard, and fed the lies that he was only second to God — what does that do to someone?” Law wondered. “When you add to that the paranoia of the time and (his) physical frailties, he suddenly became very empathetic.”