EXCLUSIVE: Sam Riley (Maleficent) and Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan) will portray noble-born brothers Thomas and Edward Seymour in the historical thriller Firebrand, joining already announced Alicia Vikander and Jude Law who are portraying Katharine Parr and Henry VIII in the first English-language film from Brazilian director Karim Ainouz (The Invisible Life of Eurydice Gusmao).
The movie, shooting up in the Derbyshire region of the UK’s Peak District, is based on Elizabeth Fremantle’s bestselling historical novel Queen’s Gambit.
Film follows the marriage of Katherine (the filmmakers have chosen to spell Katherine with a K; some historians use a C) to Henry, his sixth and final wife, and how she fell foul of her husband’s courtiers — namely his key adviser Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester, a role taken by Simon Russell Beale.
Gardener’s duties included uncovering high-profile heretics. He set his sights on Protestant martyr Anne Askew, a part being played by Erin Doherty (Princess Anne in The Crown).
Gardiner ordered Askew to be taken to the Tower of London, hoping she would betray the queen.
Danger lurked for Katherine in every corner of Henry’s court. However, Katherine, a noted scholar and author, surrounded herself with a loyal entourage who watched out for her.
The queen knew, as Fremantle observed, how to out-fox powerful adversaries and survive plots on her life.
Katherine’s ladies of the bedchamber will be played by Ruby Bentall (Poldark) as Cat, Bryony Hannah (Call The Midwife) as Ellen, and Maia Jemmett as Dot.
Jemmett is a granddaughter of Peter Brook, often hailed as one of the greatest directors in theatre history, and his late wife the actress Natasha Parry. Jemmett’s parents are the thespian Irina Brook and director Dan Jemmett.
Queen Katherine formed a close bond with her step-daughters, Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth. Patsy Ferran (Jamestown), who won a best actress Olivier Award for her role as Alma in Summer and Smoke, plays Mary. Junia Rees portrays Elizabeth.
Thomas and Edward Seymour are said to have loathed each other. Their sister Jane Seymour was Henry VIII’s third wife. Thomas Seymour and Katherine Parr were sweethearts before Parr caught Henry’s eye. After the monarch’s death, Thomas and Katherine were reunited.
Firebrand producer Gabrielle Tana (Philomena) described Firebrand as “a portrait of a marriage, and of survival.”
Key creatives on the film include Oscar-winning hair and makeup designer Jenny Shircore and Oscar-winning costume designer Michael O’Connor. Helen Scott, a BAFTA winner for her work on Small Axe, is production designer.
Helene Louvart, a regular collaborator of Ainouz’s, is director of photography. The casting director is Nina Gold (The Power of the Dog).