In 1543, Katherine Parr was already a beautiful and wealthy widow in love with Thomas Seymour, the king’s brother-in-law, when Henry VIII chose her to be his sixth and last Queen. The 22-year age difference between the two and the fact that she was the goddaughter of his first wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon, were just a few details. When she was ‘chosen’, she accepted, and rightly lived out the last year of the tyrant king’s life, who had already divorced one wife, had two executed, been widowed, and dumped another before deciding that Katherine was his new passion. Once chosen, it was terrifying to deny the monarch’s attention.
Katherine lived through the last four years of Henry VIII, by then unstable, ill, and a feared figure. This period will be the heart of the film Firebrand, which opens in Cannes and marks the debut of Brazilian Karim Anouiz in a foreign film. Katherine Parr will be played by Alicia Vikander after Michelle Williams left the project. Henry VIII will be played by Jude Law. The narrative will be to highlight the tension and terror experienced by the Queen, who many bet that she only accepted to marry the King because 1) she was afraid to refuse and 2) she bet on the brevity of her life.
Based on the historical novel by author Elizabeth Fremantle, which in the original in English was Queen’s Gambit, but was changed to avoid confusion with the Netflix series, Firebrand already debuts with the potential to have a continuation, as it is part of a trilogy. The period that will be portrayed in the film is the first year of their marriage when Katherine is named regent during a war between England and France, led by Henry VIII.
The great religious turmoil in the kingdom, still shaken by the break with the Catholic Church, will also be one of the immediate problems for the queen, who defended the Protestants, but the main thing is her husband’s mental instability, increasingly sick and paranoid. So much so that she accuses a childhood friend of Katherine’s of treason and burns her at the stake, which makes Katherine fear for her own life.
Playing a member of the Royal Family is nothing new for Alicia, who, in 2012, played the sister of King George III, another Catherine, in the praised The Royal Affair, nor for Law, who played Henry V in the Theater (I saw !) and the duel of the two should be interesting, especially for the actor who will have to be characterized in the ‘size’ of the ‘great’ king. Sam Riley will play Thomas Seymour.
Cannes will have other interesting biopics, as we already mentioned here in MiscelAna, one that will even bring Johnny Depp speaking in French and playing King Louis XV in the film Jeanne du Barry. Katherine’s story, in part, was shown in Becoming Elizabeth and The Tudors. Ready for period production? I am!
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