Napoleon movie: Everything you need to know about Ridley Scott biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix & Vanessa Kirby

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Barbenheimer is over - enter Napoleon, a historical tale of war, ambition and doomed romance directed by the legendary Ridley Scott.

The Barbie movie and Oppenheimer landed in UK cinemas on Friday (July 21) and with “Barbenheimer” mania finally dying down, cinema fans will no doubt be looking forward to 2023’s next big thing on the big screen. Enter Ridley’s Scott’s Napoleon - an epic tale of war, boundless ambition and doomed romance depicting the life of the French leader.

The Apple Studios biopic has big shoes to fill as it will see Joaquin Phoenix and director Scott reunite to conquer another historical military epic after Gladiator, which has been dubbed by many critics as one of the greatest films of all time after its release more than 20 years ago.

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The trailer for the film dropped on July 10 and promises moody, action-packed battle scenes and opulent costumes and settings. Here’s everything you need to know about Napoleon including cast list and when the film will land in UK cinemas.

What is the Napoleon about?

Napoleon is based on the true story of Napoleon Bonaparte and primarily centres around the French leader’s rise to power as well as his tempestuous relationship with Empress Joséphine. The film will feature six major battle sequences, unlike 1970’s Waterloo which focused on a single battle.

Ridley Scott said in a statement that he had “always been fascinated” by Napoleon. “He came out of nowhere to rule everything,” said the director, “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.”

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Scott originally announced the film under the codename “kitbag”, derived from the saying “there is a general’s staff in every soldier’s kitbag”.

It is understood that Killing Eve actress Jodie Comer, who starred in Scott’s 2021 historical action drama The Last Duel, was his first choice to play Empress Joséphine, However, the star was forced to drop out due to scheduling changes brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Who plays Napoleon in the film?

Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix stars as Napoleon Bonaparte, the French Emperor. The role marks Phoenix’s first collaboration with Ridley Scott after he starred as power-hungry villain Commodus in 2000’s Gladiator.

Playing Empress Joséphine is Vanessa Kirby. The London-born actress rose to international prominence with her portrayal of Princess Margaret in the Netflix drama series The Crown.

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Additional cast members include Tahar Rahim as Paul Barras, Ben Miles as Napoleon’s close advisor Caulaincourt and Matthew Needham as Lucien Bonaparte.

Napoleon will star Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix in the the title role.Napoleon will star Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix in the the title role.
Napoleon will star Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix in the the title role. | Getty Images

Where was Napoleon filmed?

Filming took place in Lincoln, England in March 2022, with Lincoln Cathedral standing in for the Notre-Dame de Paris. Shooting reportedly took place in the cathedral on March 17 and March 18 of that year.

Filming also took place at Stowe Avenue and House in Buckinghamshire, Blehnheim Palace in Oxfordshire, West Wycombe Park, Petworth House in Sussex and Boughton House in Kettering.

Scenes were also shot in Malta where Fort Ricasoli in Kalkara was transformed into the site of 1793’s siege of Toulon - the site where Napoleon had his first victory.

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How long is the film?

Stock up on snacks as Napoleon has a runtime of 157 minutes and 43 seconds - or 2 hours, 37 minutes, and 43 seconds. It makes the film Scott’s second-longest, tied with House of Gucci. American Gangster is the director’s longest film with a runtime of 2 hours and 56 minutes.

When will Napoleon land in UK cinemas?

Napoleon 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. It will be released on Apple TV+ at a later date.

Circa 1810: Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821) as First Consul (1799 - 1821).Circa 1810: Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821) as First Consul (1799 - 1821).
Circa 1810: Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821) as First Consul (1799 - 1821). | Getty (archive)

Who was Napoleon?

Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military commander and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led successful campaigns during the Revolutionary Wars. He was the de facto leader of the French Republic as First Consul from 1799 to 1804, then of the French Empire as Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814 and again in 1815.

Napoleon remains a highly celebrated and controversial leader to this day as he initiated many liberal reforms- he is also considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. Between three and six million civilians and soldiers died in the Napoleonic Wars.

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