Henry VIII - Production Notes

Last Update: 30 October 2004
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Source: Masterpiece Theatre (PBS)
Frivolous Bits
By the numbers: Across two episodes, Henry VIII includes four weddings,
three births, six executions, five natural deaths and one funeral.
The jousting scene saw the use of over 5,000 gallons of fake rain and four
balsa jousting sticks worth £5,000 each being broken by stuntmen.
Actress Marsha Fitzalan -- who plays the Duchess of Norfolk -- is actually the
real-life daughter of the late 17th Duke of Norfolk.
Lady Jane Grey, uncrowned Queen of England for nine days following
Henry VIII's death, was executed at the same scaffold as Anne Boleyn and
Katherine Howard at the Tower of London.
In 1986, a film of Lady Jane Grey's life was made starring Helena Bonham
Carter as the tragic title character. Lady Jane also starred Cary Elwes and
Patrick Stewart.
To create a more realistic 'limp' for Henry after his riding accident, a button
was placed inside Ray Winstone's shoe to make the limp natural.
Henry VIII's, Katherine of Aragon's and Anne Boleyn's outfits were all made
from scratch. The rest were bought or rented, and then adapted for the production.
The total number of costumes exceeded 2,500. The principal court, including
Henry, the six Queens and the principal players (eg. Wolsey, Norfolk,
Cramner, Cromwell, etc.), required over 400 costumes. In addition to these
were the ladies in waiting (30), male and female courtiers (180), nuns
and monks (40), four different armies: Aske's, Henry's two and Buckingham's
(over 100) and the crowds of poor (over 400).
In preparation for a love scene between Ray Winstone and Helena Bonham
Carter, Ray's undergarments were soaked in teabags and hot water to give
them an aged look.
'Hair shirts' were worn throughout the 16th century to reflect someone's personal
torment, the rough material being a source of constant punishment. Assumpta
Serna/Katherine of Aragon's 'hair shirt' was made from a rough modern canvas
attached with leather lacing, and covered in Vaseline and brown powder.
Costumes which required an aged look for the poorer classes were smeared in
Vaseline and make-up powder was added to make them look soiled. A cheese
grater was used to add wear and tear to the fabrics.
Four principle make-up artists and eight crowd make-up artists worked on
the production.
To create the heads for the execution scenes, the actors underwent full head
moulding using alginate, from which a silicon head was cast. The silicon head
was then painted with dead skin tones. Eyes and teeth were inserted and hair,
eyebrows and lashes were individually 'punched' into the silicon. The whole
process took three weeks for each head.
Over 10 gallons of fake blood was used in total on the production.
Ray Winstone's transformation from young, athletic Henry to old, obese
Henry took two hours, with the two ages often filmed on the same day. 'Face
plumpers' were inserted into his mouth to fatten his cheeks and his hairline
was pulled back to give the impression of a larger face.
Helena Bonham Carter (Anne Boleyn) wore a full wig -- no part of her own
hair was used in filming. Emily Blunt (Katherine Howard) also had long blonde
extensions which took 10 hours to attach.
Ray Winstone's hair and beard were dyed ginger every 2 weeks.
The Great Hall, Queen's bedchambers and castle corridors were all filmed at M
Stage in Pinewood Studios, the same stage where sets for the award-winning
The Hours had been dismantled just months before. The team behind the sets --
25 painters, plasterers, riggers and carpenters -- were also responsible for
those on The Hours, Bridget Jones's Diary, Dirty Pretty Things and productions of
Goodbye Mr Chips and Gormenghast.
Although the castle rooms look as though they are made of damp, ancient stone,
the stone is actually plasterboard. The heavy doors are decorated in metal coloured
polystyrene and the huge columns that appear to hold up the ceiling of the Great
Hall are actually light-weight hollow pillars on wheels to accommodate different
angles. Mist was pumped in for every take to give the castle a damp atmosphere.
Visitors to the L & M Block of Pinewood Studios during the duration of Henry VIII's
filming could see the likes of Lady Penelope and Lara Croft sharing a toilet with
Anne Boleyn! Thunderbirds with Ben Kingsley, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life with
Angelina Jolie and the television drama series MI-5 were all filming in the same block.
In the back lot of Pinewood studios, a Chinese street was 'shot to pieces' by
Lara Croft and remade into the execution site for Anne Boleyn's beheading
only weeks later.
An Interview with the Screenwriter
Cast Comments
Frivolous Bits
Story Synopsis


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