The English filmmaker replays Waterloo in promo.
Ridley Scott was in Paris last week to present his biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby. And if Napoleon was acclaimed by the public on the Champs-Elysées, he also suffered some negative criticism, for example from GQof Point or Figaro who called him “Barbie and Ken under the Empire”.
All the French media have not scratched Napoleon, However. At the house of Firstfor example, we recognize many qualities in this unflattering portrait of the Emperor: “it’s a film that perhaps lacks an angle but certainly not cinema”, to summarize our opinion. But it is true that compared to the rave reception it received across the Channel, our reviews are more lukewarm.
Napoleon: Ridley Scott dynamites the life of the Emperor (review)
This reception shift pushed the BBC News to ask the director toAlien, Blade Runner And Gladiator how he reacted to negative criticism. By quoting him a handful of killer quotes made in France. Known for his outspokenness, he once again shows his honesty.
After having advised a historian, who had noted errors in his film, to “buy a life”he drives the point home by saying to those who did not appreciate his work: “You were there, were you? Oh, no. So how would you know how it really happened?” In passing, he attacks the people of France. “The French don’t love themselves, says the 85-year-old British director. But you know what ? The audience I showed my film to in Paris loved it.”
The rest of the interview is in the same tone. Asked about the fact that he has never received an Oscar despite his prestigious filmography, Scott responds straight away: “I do not care at all.” Then, tickled by his reaction to the historian, who created a buzz even before the release of Napoleonhe retorts: “You really want me to talk about this again? You’ll have to beep, you know.”
Regarding his vision of Napoleon, he finally responds without irony: “He is such a fascinating figure. He was revered, hated, adored… and more famous than any leader or politician in history. Who wouldn’t want to delve into his life?”
He also talks about his decision to release this 2h38 version in the cinema, and to plan a director’s cut of 4 hours in streaming, soon on Apple TV+: “It’s to avoid headaches. When you arrive at the cinema, at first you say to yourself: ‘Oh my God !’but in the end, you are more like: ‘Jesus, I can’t last another hour, it’s too long.'” Whereas by discovering the other version in their living room, everyone is free to take a break, to watch the film at their own pace. “But I can’t tell you more about this director’s cut at the moment!” he cuts.
Reuniting with Joaquin Phoenix, more than 20 years later Gladiator, Ridley Scott knows that he will not avoid the comparison. He assumes the connection between these two works, and adds that he even sought to echo this popular success via his staging. For example during the Battle of Austerlitz opposing the Russian army to that of Napoleon on a frozen lake. “We shot this on an air base near London, he explains. I chose a camera angle that is the opposite of the tree scene in Gladiator. I managed to recreate them digitally so that we can clearly see the extent. Thank you for the compliments (about this scene) : I have been blessed with a good eye, it is my most valuable tool.”
Joaquin Phoenix, also interviewed by the BBC confirms: “He arrives with drawings, photos, so that the scene is clear for everyone. He always manages to get through it, no matter the size of the sequence, and can decide to modify a scene spontaneously if necessary.” Crucial know-how when you have to manage a huge team: the actor also evokes this famous battle with 500 extras, horses and cannons. “I was especially excited at the idea of finding him after Gladiator, he adds. At the time, the studio didn’t want me, but Ridley fought for me to stay, he even gave them an ultimatum. In the end, it was an extraordinary experience.”
Vanessa Kirby confirms for her part that thanks to her extensive filming experience, Ridley Scott validates her scenes very quickly: “It really goes at lightning speed, you can pretty much pack five big scenes in one day. You have to be able to keep up with that pace.”
The filmmaker then concludes with pride in having completed Napoleon in just 61 days. “If you know anything about cinema, then you know that a shoot like this should have had double the price.” A speed made possible by the use of multiple cameras (eleven on this particular film), which allows the actors “to get out of their lines and improvise”he explains before adding: “Thanks to this, you don’t need to do tons of repetitions.”
Before ending the interview, Scott does not escape a question about Gladiator 2 : “Why go back to Gladiator ? And why not ? Are you serious ?” He also says he has also finished writing and casting another film, but that he cannot “nothing specific to say at the moment”
Ridley Scott turns 86 at the end of the month, and he doesn’t seem to have any plans to slow down at all. “As soon as I leave London, I’m going back to Malta to shoot (Gladiator 2)then when we have this completed, I will already know what project to work on.”
Here is the trailer for Napoleonwhich will be released in cinemas on Wednesday:
Did Napoleon fire a cannon at the pyramids of Egypt like in the trailer?