Jude Law talks viral response to “Firebrand” fecal matter perfume: 'It was a very sensory set'

Law says that the film's director had "a unique perspective of history and how to create an authentic court."

When it comes to playing Henry VIII, Jude Law really stinks up the big screen — literally.

Last year, the actor made headlines at the Cannes Film Festival when he revealed that he asked a renowned perfumier to create a special scent for him to wear on the set of his new film Firebrand. The foul concoction featured notes of puss, blood, fecal matter, and sweat, he explained.

But Law never expected this behind-the-scenes tidbit to create such a stir online, mostly because it was part and parcel of the set of the film, which traces the last years of King Henry's life and the precarious survival of his final wife, Catherine Parr (Alicia Vikander).

"It was a very sensory set," he explains. "What I mean by that is [director] Karim [Aïnouz] had such a unique perspective of history and how to create an authentic court. Being from Brazil, he really wanted it to feel human and tangible. So, he would leave the windows open in this castle that we filmed in, and we'd have fires going and lots of animals around. There was the smell of animals, but equally he would have the sage and rosemary scent used to clean the rooms. And then there was food everywhere."

Related: Jude Law had a perfume of puss, blood, feces, and sweat made to play Henry VIII in Firebrand

"The scent that I wanted to bring in was just a reminder that there was also this repellent," Law continues. "There was this rancid presence, which everyone had to pretend wasn't really there because it was the king. It seemed like such an interesting addition to all these sensory elements that Karim was already using to create the right mood to perform in."

The stench, which historical record suggests could be smelled over three rooms away, came from Henry's rotting flesh. In his final years, he suffered from extremely painful deep vein ulcers in his legs.

"We went through doctors who specialize in that condition because you can still have them today," Law explains. "They were incredibly helpful in giving us a sense of the extremity of pain that they inflict on sufferers. Henry had them in both legs, and he didn't have any anesthetic. How he survived for 10 years is kind of miraculous. He's a very physically and mentally strong man to endure what was eye-watering pain."

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

"It was a physical shock," Vikander says of the stench. "The first time he opened this horrific box that everyone dreaded, it definitely brought something new to the scene. Smell is a very direct way into an emotional state."

<p>Roadside Attractions / courtesy Everett </p> Jude Law in 'Firebrand' as Henry VIII

Roadside Attractions / courtesy Everett

Jude Law in 'Firebrand' as Henry VIII

Related: How Firebrand makes Henry VIII's final wife, Catherine Parr, more than the last line of a nursery rhyme

For his part, Law got pretty accustomed to the stench, which is fitting given that Henry pretended it wasn't there and expected his courtiers to do the same.

"I got very used to it," he admits. "It was truly repulsive, but they became quite familiar to me, as did the costumes and various pads and weights that I wore to take on the posture and the size of it. Putting on the clothes was putting on the smell, which was putting on the king."

Though he turned to olfactory methods for process, Law never used any prosthetics to transform into the grotesque figure of Henry VIII. "There was no prosthetics," he reveals. "We did use certain accentuated weighted areas on the body. The costumes themselves and the layers of costume helped to add volume in certain other areas.

"The wounds on the legs were prosthetics, obviously, but no prosthetics on the face," he details. "It was all my own hair. We shaved hairlines and lowered hairlines and used our imagination and the posture was key. Getting the right weight distribution and wearing shoes that had discomfort so that his gait was painful and awkward and easy to repeat was important."

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Related: Jude Law doesn't think he leaned into 'playing handsome' when he was younger

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

"They're 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, the pain is what explains much of Henry's madness and rage in the final years of his life. "It's the overwhelming pain," he concludes. "He senses that the end is nigh and that, finally, he is going to have to answer for his behavior. Suddenly, how he's behaved is coming into question — and it probably sits deep, deep in his conscience that he's going to have to answer for the erratic, immoral behavior. You have someone who, in a delusional state, is absolutely unraveling and scared. I remember leaning on his fears quite a lot."

Firebrand is now in theaters.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.