Ridley Scott and Joaquin Phoenix last worked together on Gladiator over twenty years ago, but the pair have teamed up once again for Napoleon, a historical war epic starring Phoenix in the title role. Ridley Scott told Empire that the project was “one of my most challenging but also one of my best experiences, with any actor.” In order to get Napoleon right, Scott said that the script was almost entirely rewritten to fit Phoenix’s performance.
“Joaquin is about as far from conventional as you can get. Not deliberately, but out of intuition,” Ridley Scott explained. “That’s what makes him tick. If something bothers him, he’ll let you know. He made [Napoleon] special by constantly questioning. With Joaquin, we can rewrite the goddamn film because he’s uncomfortable. And that kind of happened with Napoleon. We unpicked the film to help him focus on who Bonaparte was. I had to respect that, because what was being said was incredibly constructive. It made it all grow bigger and better.” The director added, “With Napoleon, I think we dug in and found the character, or as close to what he may have been. Joaquin is probably the most special, thoughtful actor I’ve ever worked with.” In addition to Joaquin Phoenix, Napoleon will also star Vanessa Kirby as Empress Josephine and Tahar Rahim as Paul Barras.
Napoleon, which was once titled Kitbag, will be an “original and personal look at Napoleon’s origins and his swift, ruthless climb to emperor, viewed through the prism of his addictive and often volatile relationship with his wife and one true love, Josephine. While the intention of the film is to capture Napoleon’s famous battles, ambition and strategic mind, the love story he had with Josephine is just as important to the origins and way the great military leader was.” Although the film will feature multiple giant battle sequences, Ridley Scott has said that he was more interested in the dynamic between Napoleon and Josephine. “You’ve got to serve battles, and action, and sex with great restraint,” Scott said. “Otherwise, it all gets boring. What is it about Napoleon that makes him fascinating? Very simply this: a man who was one of the most powerful men in history, yet is so reliant on a woman.“
Napoleon doesn’t have an official release date yet, but is expected to be released on Apple TV+ next year.