Ridley Scott: Napoleon Rewritten to Make Joaquin Phoenix Comfortable

When working with Joaquin Phoenix, prepare yourself for rewrites. Ridley Scott revealed to Empire magazine that casting Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte for his upcoming historical epic “Napoleon” resulted in the script being entirely rewritten to make the actor more comfortable. Phoenix, reuniting with Scott after “Gladiator, stars in “Napoleon” opposite Vanessa Kirby and Tahar Rahim.

“Joaquin is about as far from conventional as you can get,” Scott said. “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.”

“With Joaquin, we can rewrite the goddamn film because he’s uncomfortable. And that kind of happened with ‘Napoleon,’” the director continued. “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 “Napoleon” script was penned by David Scarpa, who also wrote the screenplay for the Scott-directed “All the Money in the World.” The story focuses on the French emperor through the lens of his relationship to his first wife, Empress Joséphine. While Scott’s “The Last Duel” star Jodie Comer was originally tapped to play Joséphine, scheduling conflicts forced a casting swap and “Pieces of a Woman” Oscar nominee Kirby stepped into the role.

“Napoleon is a man I’ve always been fascinated by,” Scott said when Apple boarded the film last year. “He came out of nowhere to rule everything — but all the while he was waging a romantic war with his adulterous wife Josephine. He conquered the world to try to win her love, and when he couldn’t, he conquered it to destroy her, and destroyed himself in the process.”

Apple is expected to release “Napoleon” in 2023.

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