Jude Law wore a horrifying concoction of scents, a pungent blend of “blood, fecal matter and sweat,” to play Henry VIII in “Firebrand,” a historical drama about the final days of the king and his sixth and last wife Katherine Parr.
“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 said at Monday’s Cannes Film Festival press conference for “Firebrand,” which debuted at the Palais a day prior. “I thought it would have a great impact if I smelt awful.”
So, he went to perfume specialist to create a custom, revolting blend of smells. “She makes wonderful scents, and she also makes awful scents. She somehow came up with this extraordinary variety of blood, fecal matter and sweat.”
“Initially,” he said, “I used it very subtly and thought I’d use it myself. But then it became a spray fest.”
The film’s director Karim Aïnouz shook his head as he remembered the stinky brew, which permeated the entire production. “When he walked in on set,” he said, “it was just horrible.”
Despite embodying a monarch for the film, Law says he’s uninterested in the happenings of the aristocracy. Earlier in the press conference, the actor burst out laughing when he was asked by a journalist to share his thoughts on the British Royal family.
“I kind of see it like theater, although I’m slightly more obsessed by theater,” Law said. “I don’t really follow it. As a chapter in history it’s kind of intriguing how it relates to itself, it you look backwards.”
“But I’m not one for gossip. I don’t really enjoy it. I find no interest in it, and I don’t really enjoy following tittle tattle stories. And but there was something remarkable about looking at the photos of this medieval ceremony and how it applied to today made me feel very modern,” Law continued, alluding to the recent Coronation of Charles III and Camilla.
Vikander, who plays Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife, Katherine Parr, said she was equally disinterested about the Swedish monarchy. “I agree with Jude on most things that he said. But yeah, I don’t follow it really myself.”
Though he played a cruel character, Law remembers that he and Vikander kept it light on set. “It sounds really twisted because of course we did awful things to each other,” he said. “But my memory is that we were laughing a lot.”
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