More than two decades since Joaquin Phoenix landed his first Oscar nomination, for playing an unhinged Roman emperor, the Academy Award winner is reuniting with his “Gladiator” director Ridley Scott for another epic period piece.
Originally titled “Kitbag,” upcoming historical drama “Napoleon” centers on the infamous ruler’s life and love with his wife Josephine, played by Vanessa Kirby.
The synopsis initially read: “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.
Director Scott collaborated again with “All the Money in the World” scribe David Scarpa on the script, with Scott and Kevin Walsh producing “Napoleon” for Scott Free Productions. Apple Studios is behind the project after first being announced in 2020 with 20th Century.
“Napoleon” began production in February 2022 and wrapped in May of the same year.
Keep scrolling to see all the details on Scott’s “Napoleon” starring Phoenix.
“Napoleon” Earns R Rating
“Napoleon” allegedly earned a R-rating from the MPAA, confirming its production is completed. The film is said to be clocking in at approximately 150 minutes and is being eyed for a Cannes premiere.
Ridley Scott Rewrote “Napoleon” Due to Joaquin Phoenix’s “Intuition”
Ridley Scott pivoted the “Napoleon” script during production after seeing Joaquin Phoenix get into character.
“Joaquin is about as far from conventional as you can get. Not deliberately, but out of intuition,” Scott said. “That’s what makes him tick. If something bothers him, he’ll let you know. He made [‘Napoleon’] special by constantly questioning. Joaquin is probably the most special, thoughtful actor I’ve ever worked with.”
Scott ended up rewriting the whole “goddamn film” to focus on what Napoleon Bonaparte was like in real life.
“With ‘Napoleon, I think we dug in and found the character, or as close to what he may have been,” Scott added. “With Joaquin, we can rewrite the goddamn film because he’s uncomfortable. And that kind of happened with ‘Napoleon,’” he said. “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.”
“Napoleon” Was Shelved by Apple Despite Initial 2022 Release Reports
“Napoleon” was not in the running for the 2023 Oscars season despite previous reports that Apple would release the film at the end of 2022. As of September 2022, “Napoleon” was still in the post-production process. A 2023 release date has yet to be announced.
Vanessa Kirby Compared “Napoleon” to “The Crown”
Vanessa Kirby detailed her “forensic research” on French queen Josephine Bonaparte, likening it to her work on “The Crown.”
“For something like a film about Josephine, it’s reminding me of my process for ‘The Crown,’ where you have to play someone real and there’s this amount of forensic research you have to do, to collate all these different impressions that have been recorded of them, the real person, and bring it into one being for this version of this person onscreen,” Kirby told The Playlist. “That’s requiring something different of me, but the journey is slightly familiar, just because in studying someone real — of whom there wasn’t lots of footage or anything like that, just books — it’s been really amazing to absorb. And music really comes into it for me now. So, [this historical epic] is a very different process I’m embarking right now, right here. I’ve got virtually everything I could find just filling my whole house right now. And I’m loving it.”
Kirby teased that “Napoleon” is really about the relationship between Josephine and the king, adding that director Scott is the “master” of period piece filmmaking.
Don’t Confuse the Film With Steven Spielberg’s Upcoming Series
Despite initial conflicting reports, Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” is a separate entity from Steven Spielberg’s upcoming project of the same name. Spielberg announced he is “mounting a big production” for a seven-part series at HBO based on Stanley Kubrick’s original “Napoleon” script from his shelved project (per Deadline). Kubrick originally planned an extensive production involving more than 40,000 extras, with Jack Nicholson and David Hemmings in talks to star with Aubrey Hepburn as Josephine Bonaparte in the 1970s.
Spielberg has been involved in reworking Kubrick’s concept for the past decade, with director Cary Joji Fukanaga set to helm the series in 2016 using a script by “Proof” scribe David Auburn. Another writer or director have not yet been announced for the new project.
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