EXCLUSIVE: Here’s a first look at Alicia Vikander’s turn as Katherine Parr in the Cannes-bound Firebrand.
Gabrielle Tana’s Brouhaha Entertainment has released the first-look photo of the Ex Machina star in costume for Brazilian helmer Karim Ainouz’s first English-language film. See it below.
Alicia Vikander plays opposite Jude Law (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Captain Marvel), who plays a scheming Henry VIII. Our exclusive photo shows Vikander with the ladies of her bedchamber, who are played by Ruby Bentall (Poldark), Bryony Hannah (Call The Midwife) and Maia Jemmett.
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Images of Law as the much-married Tudor king are being kept under wraps at Ainouz’s behest until the movie has screened in competition in Cannes.
A screening date hasn’t been officially set yet but it’s strongly rumoured that Firebrand will premiere at the Palais des Festivals on Sunday, May 21. FilmNation will be shopping on the Croisette.
‘She had no choice’
Both Tana (Philomena, The Dig, The Invisible Woman) and Ainouz (The Invisible Life of Eurydice Gusmao, Love for Sale, Futuro Beach) describe Firebrand as a “psychological thriller” that explores how Katherine, the last of Henry’s six wives, endured her union with the monstrous monarch and kept her head in the 16th Century.
“Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” is the famous rhyme associated with Henry’s six wives — Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jayne Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Katherine — and Henry’s shocking behavior is a prevalent theme in Firebrand.
Tana told us that Katherine had “no choice but to marry him — that was the way of the world then. When you’re told, ‘You’re marrying the king,’ you don’t say ‘no,’ and you have to make the most of it, which is what she did, for as long as she could.”
The movie, filmed on location in the Derbyshire region of the UK’s Peak District, is based on Elizabeth Fremantle’s gripping, bestselling historical novel Queen’s Gambit, about how Katherine strategized to survive.
However, the title was changed to Firebrand to avoid confusion with popular Netflix drama The Queen’s Gambit, which stars Anya Taylor-Joy as a chess master.
Tana said Firebrand is not a “romanticized’ film about a royal marriage. “Henry’s a butcher,” she added. “It was a rotten marriage. There’s usually pomp and circumstance [in royal couplings] but that’s not really what was there. It was much more visceral, and that’s what we’re getting to the heart of.”
There will be some surprises in the film, she added, because “history is open for lots of different interpretation.”
One important point is how the film shows the power of women, said Tana. “A lot of the most interesting world leaders have been women. There’s more complexity to the way in which they handle things, and more diplomacy.”
Still, danger lurked for Katherine in every corner of Henry’s court. However, the queen had “a kind of sisterhood to help her,” Tana explained: her ladies-in-waiting who watched her back, or more appropriately in this case, her neck. They were especially observant whenever Henry’s key adviser, Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester, was snooping about in the palace for evidence to send Katherine to the Tower of London to be executed. Simon Russell-Beale portrays Gardiner.
Katherine also formed a close bond with her step-daughters, Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth. Patsy Ferran (Jamestown), who won acclaim for her role as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire opposite Paul Mescal, portrays Mary. Junia Rees portrays Elizabeth.
Erin Doherty (The Crown, Chloe) portrays radical preacher Anne Askew, who was labelled a heretic by Henry and his supporters. while Sam Riley (Control, Maleficent) and Eddie Marsan (Vice, Ray Donovan) play key roles as brothers Thomas and Edward Seymour, who were senior courtiers.
Creatives on Firebrand include Oscar-winning hair and makeup designer Jenny Shircore and Oscar-winning costume designer Michael O’Connor. Helen Scott designed the production. Cinematographer Helene Louvart, a regular Ainouz collaborator, also made the trek to Derbyshire. Nina Gold cast the movie.
Tana formed the Brouhaha Entertainment banner in 2021 with Troy Lum (Saving Mr. Banks) and Andrew Mason (Dark City).
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