Jude Law Steps into the Powerful and Monstrous Shoes of Henry VIII

Jude Law Steps into the Powerful and Monstrous Shoes of Henry VIII

Jude Law Steps into the Powerful and Monstrous Shoes of Henry VIII

Charming Jude Law, 51, is father to seven children but manages to balance his career and family life.

He says he’s always very present in his brood’s lives, encouraging their individual careers and passions. With his breakthrough performances in The Talented Mr. Ripley, the Alfie remake and Closer, Law now co-stars alongside Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, playing Henry VIII and his sixth wife, Catherine Parr in Firebrand. Parr, who survived Henry, is one of the least known and mythologized of Henry’s six wives. Yet, she was a feminist of sorts who bravely questioned the male patriarchy and even wrote best-selling books under her own name.

Law talks about how his parents encouraged him; how Vikander’s character was a “firebrand” who was a best-selling author; how he physically got into Henry’s character; and, about working with Michael Caine, while reprising two of the great actor’s iconic roles.

What interested you in playing Henry VIII in Firebrand, the story of Catherine Parr, his last wife?

Well, a big part of any project I do, is who’s doing it and I had the opportunity to play alongside Oscar winner Alicia Vikander as a strong-willed Queen of England. I grew up around opinionated, strong women including my sister and mum who not only directed theater, but also encouraged my acting. This new movie is about a strong woman, the high-born Catherine Parr, and many won’t know her story, as Henry’s other wives have more mythology. But here Catherine is really humanized, and we see a strong woman even back then in a patriarchal time and society. She actually wrote best-selling books under her own name. Personally, I enjoy doing projects where women are getting more opportunities to produce, direct, and be in front of and behind the camera.


How did you prepare to get into the role of playing such a well-known figure as Henry VIII?

Yeah, some great actors from Richard Burton and Robert Shaw have played him on screen. It helped to find Henry’s character when I took on his walk. An important thing for me was the pain—finding the physicality to portray both the weight he was carrying, and the pain he was enduring from leg ulcers. It’s extraordinary that he survived as long as he did without pain-killers, maybe just alcohol, back then. So, I wanted to play him as both formidable and vulnerable. And, once I got into the Henry mode, I kept at it. Luckily, most of my scenes were in one location, so it was easier to stay in the zone.

What role did the costumes play in capturing Henry?

In almost every role, costumes play an important part. Even more so here, because they wore their wealth, which meant larger-than-life outfits. At the same time, (director) Karim didn’t want them to look like “costumes” which was hard because you’re wearing gold and giant shoulder pads. He wanted us to live in them. But, our great costume team made it so we could wear them loosely, not rigidly. It added so much impact for me, and it created a sort of Henry silhouette.


Have you pointed your children into acting and performing?

I’ve always encouraged my children, like my parents did with me. When my parents both got into local theater, my sister and I would watch from the wings of this chilly old theater, just wide eyed and excited. Then I got roped into doing little parts, and that was that. I was in. Now, I just support my children in whatever passions and dreams they have. For example, I’ve been watching Raff performing in plays, since he was 5 or 6, just like I was. And I’ve also encouraged his music career, like with the others’ careers. But first, I’m their father, and it’s about supporting them into adulthood.

Did your parents study acting, how did they get the bug?

My parents were teachers, and to be honest, neither had parents who were keen on performers. But my parents met a group of friends when they moved to London, and for social reasons, they joined a local theater which was pretty strong in most communities. The legacy of theater was and is still very pervasive in the UK. They took to it like ducks to water, my father as an actor and my mother as a director.

Why did acting inspire you?

I was just okay at school and in sport, nothing great. But I was told very young that I was good at performing. And what kid doesn’t want to hear that they’re good at something—"Oh, Jude can do this”—And, I loved that reinforcement, and I especially appreciated being alongside adults.

How did you develop your love of movies?

My parents regularly took me and my sister (Natasha) to the cinema, and I became obsessed with films—arthouse, blockbuster, drama, comedy, whatever. But growing up in southeast London, the idea of being in films was so far removed, it didn’t seem real…acting in theater seemed more real. But I loved watching classic adventure movies with Errol Flynn, and it was a real treat when Scorsese asked me to play Flynn in The Aviator (in 2004).

What was it about movie idol Flynn that appealed to you?

I’d been a big fan of his swashbuckling classics as a kid, and it was fun investigating him. I did research at a library in LA, to listen to his TV/radio interviews, trying to get his unique Tasmanian/English/American accent. Scorsese had flown me in for a couple of days of filming, and I went straight into doing an amazing scene with Leonardo and Cate at this famous club—Marty had recreated the Cocoanut Club, the atmosphere was so authentic. and filming the party was already underway when I turned up.


How was it stepping into the shoes of two of Michael Caine’s notable roles, in Alfie (2003) and Sleuth (2007)?

In both films, I took on two of his many iconic roles. I actually brought the Sleuth script to him and it appealed to him that Nobel Prize-winner Harold Pinter had written the new screenplay. Michael wasn’t into rehashing Olivier’s role from the original, and he liked the fresh take that Pinter had brought. What you see is acting at its rawest. It’s mostly dialogue, and we only have each other to play off.

What went on off the screen?

Michael was just a mesmerizing raconteur, and he told us so many stories not only about making his version of Alfie but his memories of his other great films, He was an ace storyteller, told with such love and humor, with such humanity. About his love of performing, and making films, and we became very close. You know, it was a pure accident that I got to play in Alfie, myself—it wasn’t an obsession of mine, and not that we were similar in style or even upbringing—although we both grew up in London—but doing Sleuth and Alfie were great personal challenges for me.


Check out author Ashley Jude Collie’s new cops and gangsters book, Harlem to Hollywood, and buy it on Amazon, worldwide.

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  • Zoe Slater

    It's fascinating to see Jude Law portraying Henry VIII in Firebrand. His emphasis on the humanization of Catherine Parr sheds light on a lesser-known yet significant historical figure. I'm eager to learn more about her story and how she challenged the patriarchy of her time.

  • ashley collie

    In reply to: Zoe Slater

    To be a best-selling author and all, took some courage for Parr. Thanks for commenting, Zoe. PS If you needed some fun cops/mobster reading this summer, check out my new book on Amazon. Cheers.

  • Eden Austin

    Jude Law’s dedication to embodying Henry VIII’s physicality, especially dealing with his pain and leg ulcers, is impressive. This level of commitment helps bring authenticity to historical characters, making them more relatable and vivid for the audience.

  • ashley collie

    In reply to: Eden Austin

    Eden, good actors often tell me that they're looking for one thing about a character to recreate that story. In this case, Henry's pain. PS If you needed some fun cops/mobster reading this summer, check out my new book on Amazon. Cheers.

  • Maxine Leonard

    Law’s reflection on his parents' involvement in local theater and their encouragement of his acting career is heartwarming. It’s inspiring to see how supportive family environments can nurture talent and passion, leading to successful careers in the arts.

  • ashley collie

    In reply to: Maxine Leonard

    They were teachers before, so encouraging was in their genes. Thanks for commenting. PS If you needed some fun cops/mobster reading this summer, check out my new book on Amazon. Cheers.

  • Coby Simpson

    The anecdotes about working with Michael Caine are wonderful. It’s clear that Caine’s influence and storytelling left a lasting impression on Law. Their collaborations on Alfie and Sleuth highlight the importance of mentorship and learning from legends in the industry.

  • ashley collie

    In reply to: Coby Simpson

    Coby, who wouldn't learn from Caine. Did you ever see him in the Harry Palmer (Ipcress Files)? Thanks for commenting. PS If you needed some fun cops/mobster reading this summer, check out my new book on Amazon. Cheers.

  • Nathan Walker

    Law’s appreciation for strong female characters and his desire to be involved in projects that empower women in the film industry is commendable. Firebrand seems like a perfect project for him, aligning with his values and interests in promoting female narratives.

  • ashley collie

    In reply to: Nathan Walker

    Nathan, his mother had a great influence on him, a strong, empowered woman. Thanks for commenting. PS If you needed some fun cops/mobster reading this summer, check out my new book on Amazon. Cheers.

  • Charles Webb

    Jude Law’s ability to balance a successful acting career with being a present and supportive father to his seven children is admirable. His approach to encouraging his children’s passions, whether in acting or other fields, mirrors the support he received from his own parents.

  • ashley collie

    In reply to: Charles Webb

    Charles, Henry had numerous kids from 6 wives. Jude (my middle name like his) has 7 kids from 4 partners. I think he's a lot more present than the King. Thanks for commenting. PS If you needed some fun cops/mobster reading this summer, check out my new book on Amazon. Cheers.

  • Tom Powell

    Love this interview ! Law’s lifelong passion for cinema, from arthouse to blockbuster films, highlights the diverse influences that have shaped his career. His enthusiasm for both classic and contemporary films underscores the richness of his experience and dedication to his craft !

  • ashley collie

    In reply to: Tom Powell

    Much appreciate it, Tom. Thanks for commenting. PS If you needed some fun cops/mobster reading this summer, check out my new book on Amazon. Cheers.

  • Tom Powell

    In reply to: ashley collie

    You're welcome !

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Ashley Jude Collie

Entertainment Expert

Ashley is an award-winning journalist/author/blogger who has written for Playboy, Toronto Star, Movie Entertainment, Sports Illustrated, Maclean's and others. He's interviewed various "leaders" in their fields, including: Oscar winners (Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lawrence, Alicia Vikander, Jane Fonda, Mira Sorvino, Geena Davis, Anthony Hopkins); Grammy winners (Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Ice Cube, Pete Townshend); MVPs in sports (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Kobe Bryant); and, business leaders (Amazon's Jeff Bezos). He has an upcoming novel, REJEX, coming out on Pulp Hero Press. And he has written several episodic TV shows, appeared on CNN, and blogged for Mademan, Medium, GritDaily and HuffPost.

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