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Joaquin Phoenix to Star as Napoleon in Epic ‘Gladiator’ Reunion with Ridley Scott

Stanley Kubrick famously tried and failed to get a Napoleon movie off the ground. Now Ridley Scott will give it another shot.

Joaquin Phoenix arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Joaquin Phoenix

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Joaquin Phoenix is re-teaming with his “Gladiator” director Ridley Scott for “Kitbag,” an epic historical drama about the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. Phoenix will star as the French Revolution commander who goes on to become the French emperor. Deadline first reported the news. The movie’s title comes from the saying: “There is a general’s staff hidden in every soldier’s kitbag.”

Per Deadline: “‘Kitbag’ is 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 intention of the film is to capture Napoleon’s famous battles, relentless ambition, and astounding strategic mind as an extraordinary military leader and war visionary.”

“Kitbag” joins Mike Mills’ “C’mon C’mon” on Phoenix’s slate of films following his Oscar-winning turn in “Joker.” The “Kitbag” script is being written by Scott’s “All the Money in the World” collaborator David Scarpa. The film will be produced by Scott and Kevin Walsh for Scott Free. 20th Century Studios is behind the project.

News of “Kitbag” arrives as Scott finishes production on “The Last Duel,” starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver, and Jodi Comer. Adapted from the book by Eric Jager, the film stars Affleck as King Charles VI, Damon as Knight Jean de Carrouges, and Driver as squire Jacques LeGris. The knight and his squire are forced to duel in order to settle a claim of sexual assault made by the knight’s wife, played by Comer. The film is set in 1386 and is also backed by 20th Century Studios.

With “The Last Duel” moving into post-production, Scott will next head into filming his Gucci murder drama this March in Italy. “Kitbag” is being planned for production after the Gucci film, which stars Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, the ex-wife of Maurizio Gucci, who was the grandson of the founder of fashion empire Gucci. The movie recounts Reggiani’s trial and conviction of arranging Maurizio’s assassination in 1995. Robert De Niro, Jared Leto, Al Pacino, Adam Driver, and Jack Huston are also on tap to star.

Scott and Phoenix’s Napoleon movie is aiming to succeed where Stanley Kubrick’s infamous Napoleon production failed. The “Eyes Wide Shut” director famously failed to get a mega-expensive Napoleon epic off the ground after the release of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” HBO has announced plans to turn Kubrick’s Napoleon script into a project with Cary Fukunaga attached to direct.

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