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Jude Law Had a Perfume of Blood, Feces, and Sweat Made So He Could Smell Like Henry VIII for His Role in ‘Firebrand’

Jude Law went to great lengths to portray Henry VIII in an authentic manner – resorting to a unique approach.

Jude Law
Image Source: VENICE, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 03: Jude Law attends the premiere of 'The Young Pope' during the 73rd Venice Film Festival at Palazzo del Casino on September 3, 2016 in Venice, Italy. (BAKOUNINE @ Shutterstock)

In his later years, Henry VIII’s appearance and hygiene weren’t exactly pleasing to the senses. And Jude Law, taking his portrayal of the 15th-century king in Firebrand seriously, went to great lengths to capture the essence of the character.

During a lively press conference at the Cannes Film Festival, Law shared his unique approach to immersing himself in the role. He revealed that he consulted with a gifted perfumer to create a fragrance that would truly evoke the odorous presence of Henry VIII.

Law recounted intriguing historical accounts that described how Henry’s putrid leg odor was masked by the scent of rose oil. Inspired by these details, the actor wanted to make a strong olfactory impact by smelling truly terrible.

With the help of the talented perfumer, who Law praised for creating both “wonderful scents” and “awful scents,” he crafted a concoction that contained notes of pus, blood, fecal matter, and sweat.

At first, Law used the perfume subtly, intending to keep it to himself. However, the mischievous director, Karim Aïnouz, managed to get his hands on it. From that point on, according to Law, it became a “spray fest” on set.

Law and his co-star Alicia Vikander, who portrayed Henry’s sixth and final wife Catherine Parr, shared amusing anecdotes about crew members gagging and dry-heaving from the overpowering stench.

While Aïnouz admitted that Law’s presence on set with the pungent perfume was genuinely dreadful, he couldn’t resist spraying the rooms with it when the cast and crew left to eat. The repulsive scent had an astonishing effect, “triggering a lot” and creating an incredible atmosphere.

Perhaps the unique tactic paid off, as Firebrand received an enthusiastic eight-minute ovation at Cannes. In the realm of film festival ovations, that’s quite impressive—surpassing Johnny Depp’s divisive seven-minute applause for Jeanne du Barry but falling short of Martin Scorsese’s nine-minute standing ovation for Killers of the Flower Moon.

One can’t help but wonder if a tad more fecal matter scent would have pushed the standing ovation beyond the 10-minute mark. Nonetheless, Law’s commitment to his craft and his willingness to delve into the depths of character truly made a lasting impression.

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