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Jude Law Made Sure He Smelt Awful As Henry VIII In Firebrand

Some actors are real sticklers when it comes to historical accuracy and going full "Method." Daniel Day-Lewis learned to sew for "Phantom Thread" and insisted on being addressed as the President during the filming of "Lincoln." Jared Leto mailed his cast members dead rats as the Joker and needed help going to the bathroom on the set of "Morbius." Now, a new contender has emerged: Jude Law, fresh off his role as King Henry VIII in the new film "Firebrand."

During his press circuit for the film, which premiered at Cannes Film Festival, Law revealed that he went to... extreme lengths to realistically portray one of England's most infamous kings. "I read several interesting accounts that you could smell Henry three rooms away. His leg was rotting so badly. He hid it with rose oil," Law told the press at a panel for the movie, according to a report by Variety. "I thought it would have a great impact if I smelt awful."

So what did he do, exactly? He found a perfume specialist. "She makes wonderful scents, and she also makes awful scents. She somehow came up with this extraordinary variety of blood, fecal matter and sweat," he said. Not only that, but Law really went all-in: "Initially, I used it very subtly and thought I'd use it myself." Then things escalated. "It became a spray-fest."

Director Karim Aïnouz was also at the panel, and he was quite blunt about it all: "When Jude walked in on set, it was just horrible."


Jude Law plays Henry VIII at the end of his life in Firebrand

So why did Law feel like he needed to be quite so smelly during the filming of "Firebrand?" Well, as Law mentioned during that panel, Henry VIII's lore includes the fact that he went to enormous lengths to cover up the stench of a leg wound he incurred during a jousting match during his younger years. Towards the end of his life, as Henry became more feeble, his final two wives had to endure, well, whatever this smelled like — and as Law's co-star Alicia Vikander discovered while playing his final wife Catherine Parr, that was no easy feat.

Luckily, despite his perfume choices, did also say that he and Vikander found humor in their roles whenever possible — which is good, because the relationship between Parr and Henry hit some serious snags before his death. "It sounds really twisted because of course we did awful things to each other," Law said, of his and Vikander's characters, at the same panel. "But my memory is that we were laughing a lot."

Who was Catherine Parr?

Even if you're not a British history buff, you've probably heard of Henry VIII, and you've likely heard of at least one of his wives — like his second wife, Anne Boleyn, whom he beheaded after a short marriage that led to the formation of the Church of England. There's even a popular rhyme to help you remember the fates of all his wives: "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived."

That last distinction, "survived," belongs to Catherine Parr, whose predecessor Katherine Howard lost her head to the king and who very nearly ran dangerously afoul of the regent herself. Parr and Henry married in 1543, and though he only died four years later in 1547, those years were definitely fraught; an extremely intelligent and well-educated woman, Parr enraged Henry by writing books that were believed to be anti-Protestant, the faith of the very church he built. Though they reconciled before he passed away, there's no question that Parr came awfully close to meeting the same fate as two of Henry's previous wives, which is clearly what "Firebrand" is set to explore.

The movie received an eight minute standing ovation at Cannes, and as of this writing, it is in competition for the 2023 Palme D'or.