Jude Law doused himself in a specially-brewed scent blended from “blood, fecal matter and sweat,” to play Henry VIII in Firebrand, an acclaimed new period drama which has premiered at the Cannes film festival.
“I read several interesting accounts that you could smell Henry three rooms away,” said Law at a press conference in Cannes on Monday. “His leg was rotting so badly. He hid it with rose oil. I thought it would have a great impact if I smelt awful.”
A specialist perfumier was enlisted to make a custom brew, continued Law. “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, I used it very subtly. But then it became a spray fest.”
The film’s director, Karim Aïnouz, testified to the success of Law’s immersive approach. “When he walked in on set,” he said, “it was just horrible.”
Law has won plaudits for his performance in the film, which focuses on the king’s final marriage, to Catherine Parr (played by Alicia Vikander). The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw was impressed by the viscerality of Law’s performance, writing:
“The king’s bedchamber is perfumed by the pus splurging from Henry’s bloated and ulcerated legs as the doctor changes his bandages, getting thumped and screamed at by the royal patient. This Henry is peevish and cantankerous.
“And we at one stage get a full-on shot of His Majesty’s pale, fleshy bum as he has conjugal relations with Catherine – like the giant, shaved arse of a sheep. Did Law use a buttock double for this stomach-turning image?”
Law declared himself uninterested in the present-day monarchy, aside from its theatrical aspects. “I don’t really follow it,” he said. “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.”
Looking at photos of the coronation of Charles and Camilla earlier this month, “of this medieval ceremony and how it applied to today made me feel very modern,” said Law.
Law has fronted perfume ads for Dior Homme and Dior Homme Sport and is known to be a client of Azzi Glasser, a British “fragrance stylist”, whose raison d’etre is “recreating DNA through smell”.
After spending time with Law, Glasser made him a bespoke scent which is said to mix elements of key characters the actor has played, including Bosie in Wilde and Dr Watson opposite Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock. Law praised it as “me, I just never had it in a bottle before!” It is described by Glasser as “decadent, with a clean and classy accord of sexy vetivert and rich mosses.”