Jude Law took Method acting to the next sensory level.
The star of “Firebrand,” who plays King Henry VIII at the end of the royal’s life, revealed during the Cannes press conference that he commissioned a custom “awful” fragrance to get into character. Law had no problem smelling like “puss, blood, fecal matter, and sweat” opposite co-star Alicia Vikander, who plays Queen Katherine Parr, in Karim Aïnouz’s period piece.
“I read these several interesting accounts that at this period, you could smell Henry three rooms away because his leg was rotten so badly. He hid it with rose oil,” Law told the press corps (check out a clip courtesy of Variety below). “So I just thought it would have a great impact if I smelled awful. I went to this brilliant perfumier. She makes wonderful scents. But she also makes awful scents. And she somehow managed to come up with this extraordinary variety of his puss, blood, fecal matter, and sweat.”
Law continued, “Initially I used it very subtly. I just sort of thought I would use it myself and that that would have an impact. When [director] Karim got ahold of it, it became a spray fest.”
Co-star Vikander added that even the camera operator started getting queasy by the scent on set.
Director Aïnouz recalled, “The smell was incredible. It really triggered a lot. When he walked on set, it was just [awful]. But it was wonderful to use that. We had a little box with all these scents that started to travel around.”
IndieWire critic David Ehrlich applauded the period piece for feeling “immediately raw and lived in,” in part due to Law and Vikander’s respective performances.
“Maddening as it is that Law surely reverted back to his natural beauty as soon as the shoot was over (a superpower that continues to enable his exquisite second life as a character actor), the sense of a god trapped inside a monster’s body serves the menacing power of a volatile character whose terrible strength is disguised by his physical weakness,” Ehrlich wrote. “Which isn’t to suggest that anyone in court ever loses sight of Henry’s eagerness to behead anyone who crosses him. After a certain point, the story is largely dictated by the gushing wound in Henry’s leg, while Katherine’s dream of disseminating an English-language bible that the common folk might actually be able to read — a dream so dear to her that she’s willing to risk her life for it — fades into an afterthought.”