The historical atrocity that is the Jonathan Rhys Meyers portrayal of King Henry VIII

May 12  
the time of his death in 1547, the 55-year-old British King Henry VIII stood
6’2”, boasted a 53-inch waistline and weighed more than 400 pounds. According
to various reports, he most likely suffered from Type II diabetes, syphilis,
gout or some variation thereof, and his painful, pustule-riddled leg forced
minions to not only create mechanical devices to hoist the immobile monarch
from his bed, but flee from its horrific odor. I bring you this tidbit of
unsolicited history because of my escalating disgust with the Jonathan Rhys
Meyers ‘interpretation’ of Henry Tudor in Showtime’s ‘The Tudors.’

held my tongue for the past four seasons because, until lately, Rhys Meyers had
been portraying the youthful ‘rock star’ Henry. This younger Henry was a
world-class brawler, hunter, composer (‘Green Sleeves’) tennis player and, most
obviously, womanizer.

though, time has passed. And the historical Henry is now long in the tooth.
From an historical standpoint, Henry VIII is now 49 and being cuckolded by his
fifth wife, 17-year-old Catherine Howard. Yet, in a sleight of hand that would
dazzle even Dorian Gray, Rhys Meyers has not aged one iota. Nor has he gained a
single ounce of fat. In fact, except for an occasional limp, Rhys Meyers looks
like the rock star Henry he portrayed in season one.  Even the damn limp
seems to be a minor annoyance at best, and has a nasty habit of disappearing
from one scene to the next (which reminds me of Marty Feldman’s classic
character ‘Igor’ in ‘Young Frankenstein’, whose hunchbacked lump would move
from one side to the other in successive scenes). As for height and weight, the
inaccuracies are off the blooming scales! According to Rhys Meyers’ web site,
he’s 5’10” and weighs 155 lbs. Knowing how badly actors fudge their vitals, I’m
guessing Rhys Meyers is closer to 5’7” and 140lbs. So, he’s seven inches
shorter and 250 pounds lighter than the character he portrays. Oh, and Henry’s
hair was orange-red. The actor’s is dark brown.

a result of this total charade, I’m officially placing Jonathan Rhys Meyers in
the Repman Hall of Shame for worst casting ever. Other members include: 

– Gary
Cooper as Lou Gehrig in ‘Pride of the Yankees.’ Cooper batter right-handed in
the movie even though Lou was a lefty (and Cooper was a weathered-looking
50-something trying to portray a teenaged Lou at Columbia University. Ugh.).

Goodman as Babe Ruth. Babe was big, but he was never
that big.

Bendix as Babe Ruth. Bendix’s total lack of athleticism was laughingly bad.

Costner as Robin Hood. A Hollywood accent in Sherwood Forest. Not likely, mate.

Cruise in Valkyrie. See above for accent abuse.

actor portraying Abraham Lincoln (if you have a chance, check The History
Channel’s ‘History of Us’ mini-series. You’ll see the Lincoln character
surrounded by men his own height. Never happened. At 6’4”, Lincoln was our
tallest president. And, he lived at a time when the average man was, well Rhys
Meyers-sized. He towered over one and all).

casting can undermine the integrity, image and reputation of a production. In
the case of the Tudors, it has positively ruined what was an otherwise
enjoyable mini-series. One only wonders what the real Henry and his six wives
must think of the Rhys Meyers character. Knowing Henry Tudor, he’d probably
scream, ‘Off with his head!’ 

17 thoughts on “The historical atrocity that is the Jonathan Rhys Meyers portrayal of King Henry VIII

  1. With all due respect, Carolyn, you are 100 percent wrong. Obesity is a global pandemic. I guarantee there are scores, neigh, hundreds of 400-pound actors with British accents readily available to play Hank8. I rarely disagree with readers but, in this case, you’re Ann Boleyn to my Henry. Off with your head.

  2. I agree with Julie. I am a history buff, too, but overlook the fact that MAYBE they could not come up with one actor with a British Accent that weighed 400 pounds and could pull off the incredible acting job the JRM did. Its not all about the way people look. Its about how they ACT.

  3. The worst film accent of all time, in my opinion, is the one I heard last night watching Disgrace. John Malkovich’s attempt at South African is absolutely …yes…disgraceful.

  4. Yes they lost you and some others. But they gained at least as many more and that is the point of The Tudors. They made no bones about it, neither did JRM. They were out to do things differently. To provide a mix of spice and drama and a modern quality that would appeal to people who don’t always go in for about 40 hours worth of historical drama. It was an exciting idea that has panned out, thanks in large part to JRM

  5. Can’t say whether the casting of John and Paul is a good thing or not. Miscasting a historical figure such as Henry VIII though, undermines the integrity of a serious drama such as ‘The Tudors.’ If they’ve lost me, then they’ve lost others. And, that can’t be a good thing.

  6. BTW, Steve… In the upcoming John Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy,” which is slated for release in the U.S. on October 9, the actors playing John and Paul look less like the Fab Duo than JRM does Henry VIII… Not that this is a good thing…

  7. I haven’t seen the Tudors series, but agree with you about the other casting choices except for Gary Cooper. Yes, he was a rightie and that was dumb. But Cooper was only 40 in 1942 when he played Gehrig, who died at 38 the year before, so the disparity wasn’t that great. As for playing a student, it wasn’t as ridiculous as Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand playing seniors at Union College in “The Way We Were” (an otherwise great film).

  8. I am looking forward to it, Julia. But, even this history buff has to admit he has no idea what the historical Rodrigo Borgia looked like. Something tells me he had a little Ed Moed in him, though.

  9. Steve – Get ready for Showtime’s next series on the Borgias! Does anyone know (or care) if Jeremy Irons looks like the historical Rodrigo Borgia? 🙂

  10. Yup. That whole Second City/SNL troupe was cursed, from Belushi and Candy to Farley and Gilda. Very sad.

  11. Beauty is indeed in the of the beholder, Julie. For a real history buff such as this blogger, the casting strains credulity and undermines the historical integrity of the entire production. This body-type mismatch is the equivalent of casting the late Chris Farley in the role of Gandhi.

  12. I absolutely LOVE Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He’s a great actor, and his portrayal of Henry VIII is outstanding. We all know the historical Henry was a disgusting fat slob; but I think Showtime should be applauded for their bold casting of the Irish hottie.
    They know that viewers would rather watch good-looking actors on TV (this show has the best eye-candy for women in years — especially the first few seasons) and can overlook the fact that JRM looks nothing like the real Henry. He captures the essence of the character, and that’s what great acting is all about.

  13. Interesting comment about Wind, Linda. While I’ve always loved Olivia deHaviland, but her sickly sweet Melanie Wilkes still bothers me.

  14. Hear, hear! Totally agree. Henry VIII was a total blob. Gone With the Wind had some of the best casting ever, with the possible exception of the wooden Brit Leslie Howard as Ashley.

  15. Totally agree on the Hanks character. Also think DeNiro has taken so many ill-suited roles that he’s seriously watered down his credentials as one of the great actors of the era. Different, but related, subject.

  16. A few other casting ‘misses’ include Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code and Colin Ferrel as Alexander in the 2004 film by the same name.