Ridley Scott and Joaquin Phoenix are no strangers to working on historical epics, but in their next collaboration for the upcoming film Napoleon, Phoenix’s performance was so good that Scott rewrote a lot of the film.

Speaking to Empire Magazine for its 50 Greatest Actors issue, Scott praised Phoenix — who also starred in Scott’s legendary film Gladiator — and also revealed that his questions and suggestions on set had Scott picking apart Napoleon.

“Joaquin is about as far from conventional as you can get. Not deliberately, but out of intuition. That’s what makes him tick. If something bothers him, he’ll let you know. He made Napoleon special by constantly questioning,” Scott said. “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.”

Scott went on to clarify that it wasn’t a bad thing that the pair worked on retooling the film, saying that they “dug in and found the character,” and said Phoenix is probably “the most special, thoughtful actor I’ve ever worked with.”

Directed by Scott, Napoleon is described as “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. The film will capture Napoleon’s famous battles, his relentless ambition, and astounding strategic mind as an extraordinary military leader and war visionary.”

David Scarpa (All the Money in the World) is penning the script for the 20th Century Studios project that is being produced by Scott and Kevin Walsh for Scott Free. Production on the film took place in early 2022.

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