‘I Don’t Know What to Do’: Ridley Scott Reveals ‘Napoleon’ Had Joaquin Phoenix Clueless

With the new trailer for Ridley Scott’s forthcoming historical epic ‘Napoleon sweeping audiences off their feet, it’s really hard to believe that Joaquin Phoenix once grappled with a sense of cluelessness just two weeks before the shooting of the film. Ridley Scott recently told Empire magazine that the Joker actor experienced a surprising bout of uncertainty and self-doubt merely two weeks before the cameras started rolling. “He’ll come in, and you’re fucking two weeks’ out, and he’ll say, ‘I don’t know what to do,'” Scott said about Phoenix. “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.”

The upcoming feature brings together the visionary director and the Oscar-winning actor, who previously collaborated over two decades ago on the iconic film GladiatorNapoleon will also see the reunion of Scott and David Scarpa, following the 2017 film All the Money in the World. Ridley Scott didn’t hold back his praise for Joaquin Phoenix, dubbing him ‘the best player of damaged goods,’ which is precisely why he was the ideal choice to play the titular character in the film.

RELATED: ‘Gladiator 2’ Behind-the-Scenes Set Imagery Hints at an Epic Siege Battle

Napoleon Trailer
Image: Apple

According to Scott, Phoenix’s unconventional approach, which is guided by intuition rather than deliberate action is what sets him apart. “Joaquin is about as far from conventional as you can get,’ Scott explained. “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.” In one of the previous interviews with Empire, Scott opened up about the process of casting Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon, which led to a complete changeover of the script.

The director expressed, “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.” For Joaquin Phoenix, the decision to join another Ridley Scott film wasn’t a tough one. Speaking about it, Phoenix revealed, “The truth is, there was just a very nostalgic idea of working with Ridley again. 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.”

Although the director had approached him with other projects in the past, none felt as mutually demanding and promising as this one. “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,” Phoenix said.

Apple’s ‘Napoleon‘ is set to exclusively hit cinemas on November 23, followed by its release on Apple TV+.

Napoleon Trailer
Image: Apple

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Shubhendu Vatsa
Contributor

Shubhendu Vatsa

Shubhendu Vatsa is an experienced reporter specialising in video game, eSports and technology coverage. A BTech IT graduate, Shubhendu has previously written for entertainment-based publications such as GiveMeSport, Touch, Tap, Play, Attack of the Fanboy, EssentiallySports, Twinfinite and The Load Out.