Jude Law might not think of himself as a method actor, but he brought a certain amount of verisimilitude to set while filming his latest movie Firebrand—although the rest of the cast and crew probably wish that he hadn’t.
Law, who plays Henry VIII in the historical drama, recently explained at a press conference following a screening at the Cannes Film Festival that while researching the Tudor king, he learned that he suffered from leg ulcers which reeked, and used that as inspiration.
“I read several interesting accounts that you could smell Henry three rooms away,” said Law. “His leg was rotting so badly. He hid it with rose oil… I thought it would have a great impact if I smelt awful.”
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He recalled seeking out a specialist fragrance maker to concoct a particularly awful perfume that he could wear while shooting his scenes. “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. “Initally, I used it very subtly and thought I’d use it myself… It became a spray-fest.”
Law’s stench certainly made an impression on director Karim Aïnouz, who described the smell as “just horrible” when the actor arrived on set.
Firebrand is based on the novel Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle, and focuses on Henry VIII’s marriage to his sixth and final wife, Katherine Parr, played by Alicia Vikander. “It sounds really twisted because of course we did awful things to each other,” said Law. “But my memory is that we were laughing a lot.”
Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV.
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