Alicia Vikander on Working With an Unrecognizable Jude Law in ‘Firebrand’ and Why It’s Taken 10 Years to Reunite on Screen With Husband Michael Fassbender in ‘Hope’

King Henry VIII is most associated with ordering the killings of two of his wives while he had his marriages to another three annulled.

Usually forgotten or rarely mentioned is sixth and final spouse Catherine Parr. But Alicia Vikander is hoping her portrayal of Parr in the new drama “Firebrand” will bring more attention to the royal widow.

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“I must confess, I almost felt a bit embarrassed when I was sent the script because I think if I knew anything, it was probably more about the wives that didn’t make it,” the Oscar winner tells me on a new episode of the “Just for Variety” podcast. “I was, in one way, sad. But then I realized speaking to other people, it seemed like that was the general feel for most, that we have the least knowledge about this woman who actually did survive X amount of years living with this man, and even outlived him.”

An almost unrecognizable Jude Law co-stars as the king. “I think it was one of the bigger rehearsals we had,” Vikander recalls of seeing Law in wardrobe for the first time. “Because mostly because we wanted to see, can he fit through the door and things like that.”

While Law wasn’t Method in his work, Vikander explains, “I think he stayed within that character a bit more in the beginning, the first week maybe, to just feel what it’s like… The beard, too — that takes up a big space. But when we got further into the shooting, actually started to do some of the more tough scenes, then you needed a break from it, to have a little breather before you do the next deep dive.”

The film is as much about soapy palace intrigue as it is about domestic violence. Parr suffered both physical and emotional abuse by the king and his supporters. At one point, he ordered his minions to find evidence of her supposed betrayals so he could have an excuse to order her execution. Parr had no choice but to stay with him so, as Vikander explains, she had to “justify her existence,” knowing full well what the king was capable of.

“She had to create a relationship with this man,” Vikander says. “I think, if anything, she maybe loved the monarch and the king, because from reading her texts, she feels it’s a role that she sees herself within, almost like she’s been chosen by God to become a queen.”

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 18: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY - For Non-Editorial use please seek approval from Fashion House) Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender attend the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2025 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on June 18, 2024 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images)
Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender made a rare public appearance at the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2025 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on June 18.

A veteran of dramas, Vikander is used to working with heavy material. But she also knows how to unwind at the end of day when filming her most challenging jobs — by watching HGTV. She’s a home design aficionado who is often redoing some part of the house she shares with husband Michael Fassbender and their young son. “It’s probably my biggest hobby,” Vikander says.

Speaking of Fassbender, Vikander and the “Shame” actor are set to reunite on the big screen in the upcoming thriller “Hope” for the first time since they met in 2014 while playing a married couple in the film “The Light Between Oceans.” They married in 2017 and welcomed their son in 2021.

The couple wasn’t pitched other movies together until “Hope,” but Vikander says that recently changed: “Maybe because one person dared to ask, now other people come.”

“Firebrand” is in theaters now.

You can listen to the full conversation with Vikander on “Just for Variety” above or wherever you download your favorite podcasts. Also featured in the episode, on the red carpet with Austin Butler at the Los Angeles premiere of “The Bikeriders.”

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