Filed under: The Cast
IT would have been the ideal role for Marlon Brando at the end of his career. Instead, the final days of the rotund Henry VIII are to be depicted in a fourth series of The Tudors by the svelte Jonathan Rhys Meyers — without the aid of a fat suit.
In his last years, the English monarch is thought to have swollen to well over 20 stone, with a waist measurement of 54in, and required a crane to hoist him on to his horse.
However, the makers of The Tudors, which has already been accused of taking too much artistic licence, want the Irish actor to keep his “matinée idol looks” right to the end of the saga.
“We still want him to be appealing,” said Morgan O’Sullivan, an executive producer. “We don’t want to destroy his good looks. An exact portrayal of Henry is not a factor that we think is important.
“We are not in the business of making Jonny look like Henry VIII. We have accepted that from day one. We have been criticised for not casting someone with red hair. But you either cast him exactly like Henry VIII or you choose to deal with it differently. We chose from the start to have him looking fit. So there will never be a fat suit. That would be unreal.”
Producers say they have aged Rhys Meyers, 31, “quite a bit” in the third series, but the Dublin-born actor has made it clear himself he doesn’t intend to pig out to get into character. He has argued that actors “are not famous because they’re pug ugly”, and that there was no point in selling a historical drama “to a country like America” featuring “a big fat 250lb red-haired guy with a beard”.
The third series of The Tudors is currently shooting at Ardmore studios in Co Wicklow, and a fourth series is almost certain to be shot there next year. “We’d be fairly confident that it will be made,” said O’Sullivan. “We have to air season three before the next one is committed, but it has gained tremendous popularity globally. We are in over 70 territories and now have journalists visiting us here from all over the world, including Brazil and Colombia.”
Roy Bodner, a spokesman for Peace Arch Entertainment, the Canadian co-producers, said a commitment to a fourth series is expected from Showtime, the American cable channel, “at some point in the near future”.
The third series, which will wrap at Ardmore next month, will take the saga of Henry VIII up to his divorce from fourth wife Anne of Cleves, played by the singer Joss Stone. It will be broadcast next year.
The fourth series, which will be the last, features the monarch’s final two wives.
“We have started writing scripts for the next series anyway,” O’Sullivan said. “But there will be no more than four, because we are out of story value then.”
O’Sullivan and Michael Hirst, the writer, have had a number of offers to make other drama series after The Tudors ends. “This has been so successful globally that we will do others,” O’Sullivan said. “It has opened myriad doors. We have had approaches from loads of people to do other series, but I’ve no idea what we’ll choose.
“When we started this show, my ambition was for Michael Hirst to be the only writer, and for it to be of feature-film quality, to turn it into event television. I used to work with Mary Tyler Moore, and you had 10 writers on a series like this, but we have one. It is one person’s vision, and that’s easier.”
Apart from obesity, Henry VIII is thought to have suffered a variety of other ailments in the last years of his life, including boils, gout, an ulcerated leg and even a sexually transmitted disease. Given that Hirst has said The Tudors is just 85% accurate, some of these gory details may be avoided.
The idea of beefing up to get into character was made famous by Robert De Niro, who put on 60lb to play boxer Jake La Motta as a bloated loser in the latter half of Raging Bull. Subsequent examples included Charlize Theron who gained 30lb to play murderer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, and George Clooney who put on 35lb for Syriana.
Stars who faked the fat
Julia Roberts put on a fat suit in order to appear about 14st when she played Catherine Zeta Jones’ younger sister in America’s Sweethearts.
Eddie Murphy got into a giant latex suit to play Sherman Klump in The Nutty Professor.
Gwyneth Paltrow donned a 300lb fat suit to star in Shallow Hal.
Ray Winstone wore a fat suit to play Henry VIII in the 2003 TV mini-series.
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