Joaquin Phoenix confesses he “didn’t know what to do” before ‘Napoleon’ shoot

A Two-Decade Reunion on a Historical Epic

In a recent interview with Empire magazine, legendary director Ridley Scott recounted a surprising revelation from Joaquin Phoenix, a mere two weeks before the filming of the highly anticipated epic, “Napoleon.” This movie marks a momentous reunion for Scott and the Academy Award winner, Phoenix, their first since the acclaimed film “Gladiator” over two decades ago. In “Napoleon,” Phoenix assumes the colossal role of the French Emperor, with Vanessa Kirby as his wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais.

Pre-Shooting Panic and Scene by Scene Prep

Scott described an intense moment where Phoenix, with two weeks to go, expressed his feelings of uncertainty, saying, “I don’t know what to do.” The director’s response was to engage in a ten-day, all-day conversation, breaking down the film scene by scene. Scott recalls, “We sat for 10 days, all day, talking scene by scene. In a sense, we rehearsed. Absolutely detail by detail.”

Phoenix: “The Best Player of Damaged Goods”

Scott lauds Phoenix as “the best player of damaged goods,” an apt characterization that made him an impeccable fit for the role of Napoleon. Phoenix admitted it was not a difficult decision to reunite with Scott, reminiscing about his time working on “Gladiator.” He stated, “I had such an incredible experience working with Ridley on ‘Gladiator,’ and I was so young. It was my first big production.”

Script Rewrite: A Pursuit for Comfort and Authenticity

Ridley Scott disclosed a major decision to Empire: they had completely rewritten the “Napoleon” script to accommodate Phoenix’s unique interpretation of the role. Authored by David Scarpa, who also wrote “All the Money in the World” for Scott, the script underwent significant revisions. Scott’s admiration for Phoenix’s intuitive and unconventional approach shines through, stating, “Joaquin is about as far from conventional as you can get. Not deliberately, but out of intuition.”

The Phoenix Effect: Making “Napoleon” Special

Phoenix’s candidness and relentless quest for authenticity was a significant influence in shaping “Napoleon.” Scott explained, “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.”

Apple and Sony have announced that they will be releasing “Napoleon” in theaters on November 22.

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