Joaquin Phoenix Targets Another Oscar® in ‘Napoleon’

When Scott Ridley saw Joaquin Phoenix’s Academy Award®-winning performance in Joker, the director was reminded of their collaboration on Gladiator, and he knew that Phoenix would be perfect for the titular role in his new film Napoleon: “I saw him and it all came flooding back – how we worked on Gladiator, and what journey he went on with that character, and I thought, ‘God damn, there’s Napoleon.’”

Phoenix admits that he did not know much about the iconic French emperor before joining the project, and was surprised at some facets of the character that he discovered. “I found him to be a much more complex person than I initially imagined, especially the dynamic between him and Josephine,” says the actor who plays Napoleon. “I found him mysterious, and that mystery is something that is always interesting to explore.”

Watch director Scott and actress Vanessa Kirby talk about the “Unique Genius of Joaquin Phoenix” in this vignette:

Phoenix’s understanding of Scott’s processes made it easier for him to become the character, says producer Mark Huffam. “Ridley and Joaquin like to challenge each other on a regular basis, but it’s always done with a smile,” says Huffam. “Joaquin had his concerns about taking on the role, and I think anybody would about this character. But thanks to conversations with Ridley, he got comfortable with it quite quickly and he is fantastic.”

For Scott, reuniting with Phoenix for the first time since Gladiator was an immense pleasure. “He’s the only actor where we talk for weeks beforehand, just chatting and arguing in an office over aspects of the character. At the end, we are on the same page,” says the director. “He’s good for me, because he keeps me honest, and I’m good for him, because I keep him in line. Physically, he’s perfect for the role – some of his facial features are strikingly similar to Napoleon’s.”

Phoenix says that because Scott’s preparation is so meticulous, it allows his actors freedom to explore the role on set. “What I like is not having it all figured out in my head beforehand – I like to have several possibilities to play with on the day,” explains Phoenix. “Ridley not only allows that process, he encourages it – he wants you to move as freely as the character would.”

In the Scott Ridley-directed Napoleon, Academy Award®-winning Phoenix plays the iconic French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, opposite Vanessa Kirby, who plays the emperor’s one true love, Josephine. Napoleon opens exclusively in cinemas November 29.

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