Jude Law talks about the viral perfume “Firebrand” made from feces

In his role as Henry VIII, Jude Law is truly a disappointment on screen – in the truest sense of the word.

Last year, the actor made headlines at the Cannes Film Festival when he announced that he had asked a renowned perfumer to create a special fragrance for him to wear on the set of his new film. arsonist. The disgusting mixture smelled of pus, blood, feces and sweat, he explained.

But Law never expected that this insider report would cause such a stir on the Internet. Especially because it was an integral part of the film set, which traces the last years of King Henry's life and the precarious survival of his last wife, Catherine Parr (Alicia Vikander).

“It was a very sensual set,” he explains. “What I mean by that is [director] Karim [Aïnouz] had such a unique perspective on the story and how to create an authentic court. Being from Brazil, he wanted it to feel human and tangible. So in this castle where we were filming, he left the windows open, we had fires and lots of animals around. There was the smell of animals, but he also left the sage and rosemary scent that he used to cleanse the rooms. And then there was food everywhere.”

“The scent I wanted to bring in was just a reminder that there was this repellent as well,” Law continues. “There was this rancid presence that everyone had to pretend wasn't there because it was the king. It seemed like such an interesting addition to all of these sensory elements that Karim was already using to set the right mood for his performance.”

The stench, which according to historical records could be smelled three rooms away, came from Henry's decaying flesh. In the last years of his life, he suffered from extremely painful deep vein ulcers in his legs.

“We reached out to doctors who specialize in this disease, because they are still available today,” explains Law. “They were incredibly helpful in giving us a sense of the extreme pain this disease causes those affected. Henry had it in both legs and was not given anesthesia. The fact that he survived for 10 years is a true miracle. He is very strong physically and mentally to endure this unbearable pain.”

While Law tried to evoke this, others on set had to endure his rancid smell.

“It was a physical shock,” Vikander says of the smell. “When he first opened that horrific box that everyone feared, it definitely brought something new to the scene. Smells are a very direct path to an emotional state.”

Jude Law as Henry VIII in “Firebrand”.

Roadside attractions / Courtesy of Everett

Law, for his part, became quite accustomed to the stench, which is fitting since Henry pretended it didn't exist and expected his courtiers to do the same.

“I got very used to it,” he admits. “It was really repulsive, but they became quite familiar to me, as did the costumes and the various pads and weights I wore to take the pose and the size of it. Putting on the clothes meant putting on the smell, which in turn meant putting on the king.”

Although he used olfactory methods to create the costume, Law never used prosthetics to transform himself into the grotesque figure of Henry VIII. “There were no prosthetics,” he reveals. “We used certain accentuated, weighted areas on the body. The costumes themselves and the costume layers helped to add volume in certain other places.”

“The wounds on the legs were obviously prosthetics, but there were no prosthetics on the face,” he explains. “It was all my own hair. We shaved and lowered hairlines and used our imagination, and posture was crucial. It was important to get the weight distribution right and to wear shoes that were uncomfortable, so his gait was painful and awkward and could easily be repeated.”

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Law also points out that the smells were a way to keep the impact of these wounds on Henry's life and that of those around him ever present, even when the prosthetics were not visible.

“They were a big part of who Henry was at that point,” he says. “And they became a big part of the performance in many ways because the pain was always present.”

In fact, for Law, it is pain that explains much of Henry's madness and rage in the last years of his life. “It's the overwhelming pain,” he concludes. “He feels that the end is near and that he must finally answer for his behavior. Suddenly his behavior is being questioned – and probably deep, deep in his conscience that he must answer for his erratic, immoral behavior. Here we have someone who is completely confused and frightened in a delusional state. I remember leaning on his fears quite a lot.”

Arsonist is now in theaters.