Napoleon is a 2023 epic historical drama film directed and produced by Ridley Scott and written by David Scarpa. It is based on the true story of Napoleon Bonaparte, primarily depicting the French leader’s rise to power as well as his relationship with Empress Joséphine. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby as Napoleon and Joséphine, respectively, alongside Tahar Rahim in a supporting role. Phoenix is also one of the producers of the film.
Napoleon is scheduled to be released in the United States and the United Kingdom on November 22, 2023, by Sony Pictures Releasing, before streaming on Apple TV+ at a later date.
The film depicts Napoleon’s rise to power through the lens of his addictive and volatile relationship with Empress Joséphine.
- Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French.
- Vanessa Kirby as Empress Joséphine, empress consort and wife of Napoleon.
- Tahar Rahim as Paul Barras, Directory politician during the French Revolution.
- Ben Miles as Caulaincourt, diplomat and close advisor to Napoleon.
- Ludivine Sagnier as Thérésa Cabarrus (Madame Tallien), a socialite and noblewoman.
- Matthew Needham as Lucien Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon.
- Youssef Kerkour as Marshal Davout, one of Napoleon’s finest commanders.
- Phil Cornwell as Sanson ‘The Bourreau’, executioner who guillotined the king of France.
- Édouard Philipponnat as Tsar of Russia Alexander I.
- Ian McNeice as TBD.
- Paul Rhys as Talleyrand, leading diplomat of France.
- Catherine Walker as Marie-Antoinette, archduchess of Austria, and later queen of France.
- Gavin Spokes as Moulin, Directory politician.
- John Hollingworth as Marshal Ney, lauded “the bravest of the brave” by Napoleon.
- Mark Bonnar as Jean-Andoche Junot, general of Napoleon and commander of the French invasion of Portugal in 1807.
- Anna Mawn as the Archduchess Marie-Louise, Napoleon’s second wife.
- Davide Tucci as Lazare Hoche, general and Napoleonic War hero.
- Sam Crane as Jacques-Louis David, preeminent Neoclassical French painter.
- Scott Handy as Marshal Berthier, chief of staff to Napoleon from his first Italian campaign in 1796 until his first abdication in 1814, and twice Minister of War of France.
- Philip Marsden as an Imperial Guard [Guard]
On October 14, 2020, the same day his film The Last Duel wrapped filming, Ridley Scott announced Kitbag as his next project for 20th Century Studios, which he would direct and produce from a screenplay written by Scott’s All the Money in the World collaborator David Scarpa. The film’s title was derived from the saying, “There is a general’s staff hidden in every soldier’s kitbag.” Joaquin Phoenix was reportedly attached to star as the French general and emperor Napoléon, reuniting him with the director after Gladiator in 2000. In January 2021, Apple Studios announced its commitment to finance and produce the film, with shooting scheduled to take place in the United Kingdom in 2022. “Napoleon is a man I’ve always been fascinated by”, Scott said in a statement. “He came out of nowhere to rule everything — but all the while he was waging a romantic war with his adulterous wife Joséphine. 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.”
The Last Duel actress Jodie Comer was reportedly Scott’s first choice to play Empress Joséphine. She entered negotiations to star in March 2021, confirmed her casting in September, and said “I just jumped at the chance to work with Ridley and his team again and the idea of working with Joaquin, who’s someone who I hugely admire… I’m so excited to delve into that world.” In November, she said her role was “going to be another huge challenge, but what I love about period dramas is that kind of transformation. Even now, doing some costume and hair tests for Kitbag, it’s just so exciting because it becomes so much easier to step out of yourself and into somebody else.” The same month, Youssef Kerkour was confirmed to star. On January 4, 2022, Comer revealed her departure from the film due to scheduling changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Vanessa Kirby was announced as her replacement later that day. On January 18, 2022, producer Kevin J. Walsh said the film had been retitled Napoleon. In February, Tahar Rahim was added to the cast, in the role of Paul Barras. The historian Lorris Chevalier who worked on The Last Duel became the historical advisor.
Production began in February 2022. The film will feature six major battle sequences, unlike Waterloo (1970), another film featuring Napoleon, that focused on a single battle. Napoleon was shot under the working title Marengo, a reference to the Battle of Marengo (1800). Filming took place in Lincoln, England in March 2022. The crew reportedly spent a week to prepare Lincoln Cathedral, which stood in for Notre-Dame de Paris. Shooting took place in the cathedral on March 17 and March 18, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Filming also took place at other English locations: Stowe Avenue and House, Buckinghamshire; Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire; West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire; Petworth House in Sussex; Boughton House in Kettering; and Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. It was also shot in Malta for three weeks, starting in May 2022. Fort Ricasoli in Kalkara was transformed into the site of 1793’s siege of Toulon, where Napoleon had his first victory.
For the film’s theatrical release, Apple Studios has partnered with Sony Pictures under Columbia Pictures to help exhibit the film worldwide.
It is scheduled to be released in cinemas first in the United States and the United Kingdom on November 22, 2023 by Sony Pictures Releasing and Apple Studios, before releasing on Apple TV+ at a later date.
In August 2023, Scott revealed that he has an “fantastic” 4 and a half hour director’s cut of Napoleon and hopes that he will release it from Apple after their theatrical screening.
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