HOLLYWOOD IS RUNNING out of celebrities to immortalise in biopics — they’ve already covered Elvis Presley (soon to be followed by his wife, Priscilla Presley), Freddie Mercury, and Elton John; and having recently turned to Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, they’re fresh out of Bobs — so now they’re turning to the dusty tomes of history to pluck their new protagonists.
To be precise: Napoleon Bonaparte, the revolutionary military general and emperor of France from 1804 to 1814 (and briefly in 1815, too), is the new star at the centre of director Ridley Scott’s universe. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as the titular emperor and Vanessa Kirby as his cunning empress, the recently released trailer gives us a good idea of what’s in store. In true biopic fashion, Scott has opted for a mononymous title (Napoleon, which is of course dramatically daubed over the film’s posters in a blood red hue), and has taken more than a little artistic license to make the story of arduous wars and stuffy hats one that looks equal parts gripping, sexy, and awe-inducing.
Ahead, discover everything you need to know about Ridley Scott’s Napoleon — including when and where it’ll be hitting screens.
There will be a near 4.5 Hour Napoleon cut
Ridley Scott recently told Empire that there is a “fantastic” extended cut of Napoleon which he would love to release. The kicker? This extended version of the historic epic has a run time of 270 minutes… that’s almost four and a half hours, people!
Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the titular character, said that no matter how you view this film, it “is an astonishing story” and the 48-year-old is hopeful that the extended cut of the film “captured some of the most interesting moments.”
It’s not the first time that Scott has released an all-mighty extended version—in 2005, the director released the 144 minute historical warfare epic, Kingdom of Heaven, but later released a director’s cut of 194 minutes.
What is Napoleon about?
They’re not calling it an epic for nothin’ — the Apple Original Film follows the relentlessly ambitious Napoleon Bonaparte on his rise to power.
According to the film’s official logline, courtesy of Apple: “[Napoleon] is an original and personal look at Napoleon’s origins and his swift, ruthless climb to emperor, viewed through the prism of his addictive and often volatile relationship with his wife and one true love, Josephine, played by Vanessa Kirby. The film captures Napoleon’s famous battles, relentless ambition and astounding strategic mind as an extraordinary military leader and war visionary.”
Watching the trailer, you get a further sense of just how ambitious director Ridley Scott’s vision is for the film. In just under two and a half minutes, we’ve got beheadings, rebellions, revolutions, warships, explosions, the Pyramids of Giza, a coup, a coronation, sex, barbed insults, and more mind-boggingly enormous battle scenes than you can shake a sabre at. Whew. It makes sense then that the film is slated to have a run time of 2 hours and 38 minutes — there’s a lot to cover.
Who is playing Napoleon?
Joaquin Phoenix is the actor who will be donning the bicorne as Napoleon (that’s the funny little hat, for the uncultured among us). Phoenix is best known for his award-winning work as a similarly unhinged (though in this case, fictional) protagonist in Tod Phillip’s Joker, as well as his far more gentle but similarly sulky role in Spike Jonze’s Her.
Joining him on the big screen is Vanessa Kirby — known for her role as Princess Margaret in the first two seasons of The Crown — who plays Empress Joséphine, the Emperor’s lover and scheming strategist. If the trailer is anything to go off, the pair have a tumultuous, passionate, and altogether very intense relationship. “You think you’re great,” she tells him towards the end of the trailer, once the honeymoon phase (and audacious sex under ornate tables) is clearly over. “You’re just a tiny little brute.” Ouch.
The film is directed by Ridley Scott, the celebrated director behind Alien and Blade Runner. It’s not the first time he’s taken on a historical epic — he did that with House of Gucci, starring Lady Gaga, and with The Last Duel, starring Jodie Comer, Adam Driver, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, both of which were released in 2021. It’s also not the first time Scott has worked with Phoenix — the actor appeared in Scott’s 2000 film Gladiator, where he played the main antagonist Commodus.
Will Napoleon be in theatres?
Ridley Scott’s Napoleon is set for a worldwide theatrical release on November 22, 2023. It will later release on Apple TV+, though a date hasn’t been set for that just yet.