Napoleon: On the red carpet with Ridley Scott, Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby
Ridley Scott. Joaquin Phoenix. Napoleon. One only needs to read that collection of names to know something epic this way comes. And the historical drama, set to hit cinemas this week, does not disappoint.
Despite the iconic nature of the name Napoleon Bonaparte, his global domination by an endless thirst for battle and, indeed, that silhouette of the bicorne hat so readily imprinted on the minds of people the world over, few filmmakers have truly been able to translate to screen who this man really was. Stanley Kubrick famously had plans percolating that never materialised. But if there was one director up to the task, it would be Scott. And with this unashamedly indulgent, just-shy-of-three-hour movie, he’s gone all-in.
Reunited with Phoenix after their cinematic masterpiece Gladiator some decades ago, no holds are barred in this sprawling depiction of the scale of the French emperor’s military conquests, the fragility of his ego and co-dependent obsession with his put-upon wife Joséphine. In fact, in more than one moment, one can see remnants of Commodus in Phoenix’s Napoleon, with villainy seen to be sprouting from deep insecurity, and a veneer of bravery often concealing an innate cowardice. No expense or detail is spared in immersing the audience in the blood-soaked battlefields or the fickle nature of political intrigue. Although it’s the battles which most readily astound on the big screen, it’s in the smaller moments the film really shines, with flickers of humour at Napoleon’s expense providing some respite from the endless death, while the bizarre relationship he held with Joséphine unexpectedly showing something resembling real love, if a toxic brand.
Upon the red, white and blue carpet, we exchanged insights with the cast of the movie at the London premiere. Kirby discussed the challenge of portraying an enigmatic character, the intensity of the plot, and the enjoyment of deciphering the complex story amidst the backdrop of extreme historical times.
Paul Rhys told us about playing the duplicitous Talleyrand, how being a history buff helped in his preparation and the experience of being on set with Scott and Phoenix.
Edouard Philipponnat explained how he thought of his young and ambitious Russian leader, Alexandre, the fun he had taking on the role, and pulling off some of the intense scenes with Phoenix.
Ben Miles stopped to talk about playing Caulaincourt, Napoleon’s advisor, and how Scott didn’t hold back with his approach to tackling the unwieldy material.
Matthew Needham chatted about playing Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, being able to work closely with Phoenix and why Scott is such a master filmmaker.
Also, on the carpet, Scott gave his insights into pulling off the historical epic on screen.
Finally, Kirby added more about her character’s intriguing life, the intimate and strange love story in the film, and her wish to delve deeper into the Joséphine’s narrative.
Scottish actor Mark Bonnar shared his thoughts on playing Jean-Andoche Junot.
Composer Martin Phipps spoke about working on the soundtrack for the movie.
Catch more action from the red carpet below.
Videos: Filippo L’Astorina
Napoleon is released nationwide on 22nd November 2023. Read our review here.
Watch the trailer for Napoleon here: