A Preview of Emperor (2016)


Somehow Lee Tamahori’s Emperor (2016) missed my radar entirely. My boyfriend Adrien Brody is cast as Charles V, which puts this film squarely in my bailiwick of early 16th-century costuming. Pouty actress du jour Sophie Cookson plays the heroine Johanna of Ghent. Also, get a load of the synopsis on IMDB:

Action epic about a young girl who seeks revenge on the holy roman Emperor Charles V for the death of her father. It happens in a world of wealth, debauchery, violent retaliations, sex, manipulation and treason … it’s the 16th century revisited.

deep breath

The costume design is by Italian costumer Francesca Sartori, whose work I’m not familiar with, but a quick search of the Internet shows she’s done quite a few period films and seems pretty competent. And even though we run the risk of misinterpreting a costume when it’s taken out of context, that’s never stopped us before. So let’s take a look at some of the photos circulating out there:

The Good in Emperor:

Adrien Brody Emperor

Who is that extra cut off on the right side of the frame? Someone wearing a good 16th century Flemish costume? Gotta be a reenactor.




Or, as Kendra calls them, “ham pants.”


I think I may need to lay down for a bit.


They clearly went to some lengths to reproduce Charles’ fabulous armor.


I had to resort to Alamy stock photos to find more pics… BUT LOOK AT THAT DRESS.


I’m sure someone reading this knows these people. If so, tell them their costumes are fabulous and I approve.

You can see more shots of the extras here and here. Definitely check them out because the costumes are worth drooling over.


The Questionable in Emperor:

As per usual, the costumes on the leads, particularly the female leads, do not stringently adhere to historical accuracy. There’s only been one shot leaked of Sophie Cookson that I have been able to find online and it’s promising. However…


Looks like 16th-century Ghent is also suffering from a hairpin shortage.


The promo shot is all sorts of problematic, but that’s not a surprise. At least her hair is up.


And here come the contractually obligated leather pants.

I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical about this film based upon the initial photos I found online. But a little digging has gotten me quite a bit more interested in seeing how it turns out, even if it means simply focusing on the background artists in their fabulous Flemish costumes. There’s no release date yet, and as far as I can tell, no trailers have hit the web, so we will just have to wait and see what this film holds in store!


What are your thoughts about EmperorShare them in the comments!


About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

8 Responses

  1. Nick Friend

    From this fast-n-dirty look, the armor seems reasonably in the ballpark to the early 16th century, with caveats. Charles’ engraved and gilded harness would have come with a close-helm or burgonet (at least 2 complete armors of his survive, AFAIK, with helmets). For the layperson, the close-helm is the basis for the classic “knight in shining armor” profile, and encloses the face entirely with a visor in 2 parts that open respectively up and down like jaws. The burgonet is more like a visored, crested hat with ear-flaps and the option of a separate visor. The filmmakers have chosen to put Adrien in a late Gothic Sallet, however, which, while still in use, was about a generation out of date. It’s appropriate for his foot soldiers, who are so equipped in these shots, but seems old-fashioned for the most powerful man in Europe. The aesthetic choice is understandable, though, since it allows for greater exposure for the actor’s face. (Still beats the hell out of Ken Branagh’s decision to go into battle as Henry V bareheaded. :p )

  2. mmcquown

    In that last shot, Brody might be wearing thigh-high leather boots. When standing, mine reach to the bottom of my doublet. Movie looks interesting in any case.

  3. Karen U. Lavoie

    Well, now, seeing as I spent a year as an exchange student in Belgium, and I speak Flemish, incredibly enough, I think I just have to have a 16th c. Flemish ensemble. Regrettably, I know nothing of the period except how to drink the beer. Sigh.

    • Regina Lawson

      No problem, Karen. I know local folks who can fix you right up. (I used to be an Augsburger Behaim-girl, myself.)

  4. mmcquown

    Get the appropriate Herbert Norris book from Amazon, or the Ruth Turner Wilcox equivalent. Norris has one specifically on Tudorbethan.

  5. ThaMofo

    Amusingly enough I was one of the male extras on the locations you posted above. It was a great experience. :)

  6. Kurt Hermans

    As one of the extra’s on this particular shoot in Ghentand being acquainted to quite a few of the ones in the pictures I can confirm that it weren’t reenactors but all costuming was in fact done by Tirelli (http://tirellicostumi.com/it/)

    My character wasgiven leather pants though, should I feel bad now? :(

  7. Janet

    Has this Austrian/Belgian/German historical tv drama been seen by any of you ladies?
    As a Dutch viewer I was able to follow it when it was shown on a German tv channel.
    I loved it. Wounder would you would make of it.
    Just happy to finally see something NOT just set in England/GB.


    Greetings from the Netherlands ⚘⚘⚘