December 10, 2023

Ridley Scott has been typically dismissive of critics taking issue with his forthcoming movie Napoleon, particularly French ones.

While his big-screen epic, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the embattled French emperor with Vanessa Kirby as his wife Josephine, has earned the veteran director plaudits in the UK, French critics have been less gushing, with Le Figaro saying the film could have been called “Barbie and Ken under the Empire,” French GQ calling the film “deeply clumsy, unnatural and unintentionally clumsy” and Le Point magazine quoting biographer Patrice Gueniffey calling the film “very anti-French and pro-British.”

Asked by the BBC to respond, Scott replied with customary swagger:

“The French don’t even like themselves. The audience that I showed it to in Paris, they loved it.”

The film’s world premiere took place in the French capital this week.

Scott added he would say to historians questioning the accuracy of his storytelling:

“Were you there? Oh you weren’t there. Then how do you know?”

The film, with the story spread over six different but equally huge battle scenes, was shot in an impressive 61 days, and comes in at 2 hours 38 minutes, Scott told the BBC he wanted to keep the running time below 3 hours:

“When you start to go ‘oh my God’ and then you say ‘Christ, we can’t eat for another hour,’ it’s too long.”

Scott, a veteran of big screen hits from Alien to Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, said he couldn’t resist telling the story of Napoloeon: “He’s so fascinating. Revered, hated, loved… more famous than any man or leader or politician in history. How could you not want to go there?”

And his star Joaquin Phoenix, who first worked for Scott 23 years ago in Gladiator, shared that he was excited to team up again with a director he still felt gratitude towards:

“The studio did not want me for Gladiator. In fact, Ridley was given an ultimatum and he fought for me and it was just this extraordinary experience.”

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