Miniseries turns King Henry VIII from fattie to hottie

April 01, 2007

DUBLIN, Ireland -- Henry VIII is coming back to the throne. And this time, he's bloody gorgeous.

Showtime's epic 10-part miniseries The Tudors holds court beginning tonight at 10 with Jonathan Rhys Meyers cast as the unlikely lead.

And much like Henry VIII, the show's producers can't disguise their ambitions - to produce a show that finally gets Showtime an HBO-style hit, popular both with the Emmy nobility and peasants alike.

They've invested an unprecedented $38 million and have spent millions more promoting it.

"We are hoping to be back here filming for another two, three, maybe four years, because the material we have to work with is so rich and there's so much story to tell. But we must command an audience, so we have tried to make the story as modern and fabulously good-looking as we can," said executive producer Morgan O'Sullivan at the end of the 22-week shoot in Ireland.

Within the first half-hour, Henry manages - between winning a joust and pursuing war with France - to father his first bastard son and have his way with another of his wife's busty handmaidens.

"These people had an awful lot of sex, more sex than we have today," said Rhys Meyers, puffing on a Marlboro in his trailer as a downpour pummeled its tin roof.

"Once the sun goes down there's very little to do in the Tudor kingdom. There's no TVs, no iPods, no nightclubs, no motor cars, no bowling alleys," he said.

Rhys Meyers, who's starred in Bend It Like Beckham and Match Point, has become a face of Hugo Boss and Versace with his catwalk-model cheeks, lips and rail-thin physique.

In other words, he's nothing like the pale, square-headed fattie in the famed Hans Holbein portraits.

"We begin the story when Henry and I were the same age, 29, when history tells us he was athletic and good-looking. ... I may end up with a load of prosthetics slapped on me and a big red wig and such, but for now, I just have to show off a lot of range for 10 hours."

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