23 years after “Gladiator,” Joaquin Phoenix is still emperor in Ridley Scott’s eyes. “Napoleon,” the reunion between the “Joker” star and “Alien” director, is getting a wide theatrical rollout this November, with Apple partnering with Sony Pictures Entertainment on what will be a worldwide release.
A production of Apple Studios, “Napoleon” will hit theaters worldwide on November 22; following its theatrical premiere, the film will exclusively stream on Apple TV+ at an unannounced date. Along with the release date announcement, Apple also debuted a first look at the film, which shows Phoenix as Napoleon riding into battle.
Napoleon Bonaparte, for those who slept through history class, was a military leader and the emperor of France, who seized power over the country in 1804 after having previously supported the abolition of the monarchy during the French Revolution. Phoenix plays the iconic but polarizing figure in Scott’s film, which is described as “an original and personal look at Napoleon’s origins” and his rise to power, focusing specifically on his complicated relationship with his wife Josephine, played by Vanessa Kirby. Tahar Rahim also stars as French Revolution leader Paul Barras.
Scott directs the film from a screenplay by David Scarpa, who also penned Scott’s 2017 feature “All the Money in the World.” The project will mark the first collaboration between Scott and Phoenix since the 2000 Best Picture winner “Gladiator,” which starred Phoenix as Roman emperor Commodus; Scott was so eager to work with Phoenix again that he claimed he rewrote the entire film for the star.
News of “Napoleon’s” theatrical rollout comes shortly after Apple set an October 6 limited release for Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Last month, it was reported that the tech company plans to invest $1 billion in theatrical film projects, with other candidates for theatrical release being Matthew Vaughn’s “Argylle” or Joseph Kosinski’s “Formula One.” While Sony will handle “Napoleon’s” rollout, Paramount Pictures will be behind the theatrical release of “Killers of the Flower Moon.” That’s because “Flower Moon” originated at Paramount before it eventually landed at Apple, but even with this new partnership with Sony, Apple does not yet have a permanent or long-term partner on theatrical releases.
Many streamers have also recognized that first giving a feature film a theatrical rollout has helped elevate the film down the road once it hits streaming rather than the film going direct to streaming. Amazon, for one, is heading in this direction with its own reported $1 billion commitment to theatrical releases and the upcoming release of Ben Affleck’s “Air” later this month. But Amazon purchased MGM in order to bolster its theatrical ambitions, and for now Apple will need a theatrical partner who can help their cause. Sony, which does not have a streaming service, is an interesting candidate for that reason.
“Napoleon” comes two years after Scott’s 2021 doubleheader “The Last Duel” and “House of Gucci.” The director is set to revisit “Gladiator” with a two decades later sequel written by Scarpa and led by Paul Mescal as Commodus’ nephew; that epic is slated to release a year after “Napoleon,” in November 2024. As for Phoenix, he stars in Ari Aster’s “Beau Is Afraid,” which releases this month, and he will reprise his Oscar-winning role as the Joker in the sequel “Folie à Deux” next year.
Scott Free Productions produces “Napoleon” in conjunction with Apple Studios. Scott and Phoenix produce the film with Kevin Walsh and Mark Huffam; Michael Pruss and Aidan Elliott executive produce.