The Big Picture
- Ridley Scott has mastered the art of delivering well-crafted historical epics, as seen in films like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven.
- Scott’s upcoming film, Napoleon, required precise coordination and attention to detail across various departments due to its massive scale.
- The film will explore Napoleon Bonaparte’s rise to power and his challenging relationship with his empress, portraying a balance between empire-building and personal life.
The perfection of certain skills offers a person mastery within a chosen field. In the modern age of filmmaking, it can be argued that director Ridley Scott has mastered the art of delivering well crafted epics that resonate years down the line. Given his work on Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, Scott is well versed on what historical epics should look like. Despite this experience, his latest film, Napoleon has proven to be a massive endeavor.
Based on the meteoric rise of Napoleon Bonaparte from general to emperor, the upcoming historical epic is set to star Joaquin Phoenix as the titular French military general and leader. Scott has revealed the level of detailed attention given by his team to bringing the biopic to life. “I can read all the books in the world on him, but instead, because the film is such a large event, I rely on my very good team,” the director revealed to Entertainment Weekly. “My team does marvelous military costumes like I’ve never seen before. The costumes are mind-blowing, and then I have a military expert for cause-and-effect battle sequences. That’s all coordinated. I plan it, in a funny kind of way, a little bit like a battle.”
Scott confirmed that filming required precision coordination between the various departments involved given the scale of the film. Like the real life Napoleon would have held war strategy meetings before an attack, Scott reveals that frequent communication on the way forward was key to success. “When you do a film like this, you have to have all your department heads edge around the table regularly,” he said. “We have meetings once a week, and we go page by page. Page one, I have a problem. What’s the problem? And then on to page two. We fly through it like that because everybody’s in the picture, and the left hand always knows what the right hand is doing.”
Brique by Brique
During Bonaparte’s life, he would have sought a balance between crafting an empire and managing his volatile relationship with his empress, Joséphine portrayed by Vanessa Kirby. This represents a portion of the emperor’s life that would be covered in the film and Scott has revealed that directing the feature proved challenging but fun. “These kinds of films are like climbing a mountain,” he said. “At the ground level, the peak looks a long way off. But as you climb up the hill with your partners in this ridiculously challenging LEGO kit of information you’re trying to put together, sometimes pieces don’t fit and you’re already at 20,000 feet. It’s a continual day-by-day process, but that’s why I do it. I love it.”
Napoleon will be released in theaters November 22, before releasing on Apple TV+ at a later date.