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

Phoenix previously worked on 'Gladiator' with director Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott has revealed Joaquin Phoenix “didn’t know what to do” two weeks before filming was set to begin on Napoleon.

The new film, which will be released in UK cinemas on November 22, sees Phoenix play the lead role of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Speaking about the Joker actor ahead of filming, Scott told Empire: “He’ll come in, and you’re fucking two weeks’ out, and he’ll say, ‘I don’t know what to do’. I’ll say, ‘What?!’ ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Oh God. I said, ‘Come in, sit down.’ We sat for 10 days, all day, talking scene by scene. In a sense, we rehearsed. Absolutely detail by detail.”


Phoenix, who previously worked with Scott more than 20 years ago on the set of the classic 2000 film Gladiator, said he was delighted to reunite with Scott again.

“The truth is, there was just a very nostalgic idea of working with Ridley again,” Phoenix added. “I had such an incredible experience working with Ridley on Gladiator, and I was so young. It was my first big production. I really yearned for that experience again, or something similar.”

Ridley Scott CREDIT: Michael Ostuni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

He continued: “He’s approached me about other things in the past, but nothing that felt like it would be as demanding for both of us. And so I really liked the idea of jumping into something with Ridley that was going to be that.”

Napoleon began production in February 2022, and wrapped filming within the same year.

In a previous interview with Empire, Scott discussed how casting Phoenix also led him to rewrite the script for the film midway through production.


“Joaquin is about as far from conventional as you can get,” the director said at the time. “Not deliberately, but out of intuition. That’s what makes him tick. If something bothers him, he’ll let you know. He made [Napoleon] special by constantly questioning.”

He continued: “With Joaquin, we can rewrite the goddamn film because he’s uncomfortable. And that kind of happened with Napoleon. 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.”

A trailer for the film dropped earlier this month.

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