Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby are aiming for the Oscars for their performances as Napoleon and Josephine in Ridley Scott's epic biography of the famous emperor. Phoenix has accompanied Scott on the European promotional tour and, like the director, he finds time to talk to the Spanish press about the film and, above all, the character.
Because after studying him to bring him to life, Phoenix is now an expert on Bonaparte, whom he defines as “an empty man, who sought material things, who had great ambitions and could not be satisfied with what he had: Napoleon lacked within himself what he wanted. it is needed in life,” he says.
And he adds that, although “he claimed to be fighting for the people, he was a type of man who only wanted to satisfy his personal desires.” These are harsh words and it may seem that Phoenix does not appreciate a character who can bring him a lot of joy, but the actor has also been able to find positive aspects in Napoleon, such as his love for Josephine.
“We have tried to capture the deep love, the connection that existed between the couple, who had things in common. “They both came from small islands, Napoleon from Corsica and Josephine from Martinique, and they were also survivors in some way, especially her, who was imprisoned during the French Revolution.”
Phoenix also believes that the couple fell in love because they complemented each other: “Napoleon saw qualities in Josefina that he did not have, such as knowing how to handle herself in society, and the truth is that he also thought that she had money. Josefina recognized in her husband an infinite ambition that made her fall in love.
“They loved each other madly,” says the actor. And perhaps that is why his divorce is one of the most extraordinary examples of love in history. Josephine could not conceive more children – she had two from a previous marriage – and Napoleon needed a descendant to strengthen his newly created dynasty.
“The speeches from their divorce are beautiful, from two people who loved each other, who were crazy about each other, but who were forced to separate and who, despite the divorce, corresponded until death.”
Phoenix began to prepare for the role by talking and talking with the screenwriter, David Scarpa, “mainly about the relationship with Josefina and the battles, but I quickly realized that I needed more and I turned to other sources, although they were not always completely successful. tools. “I spent a whole week reading a book about the battle of Marengo and then, when we shot the scene, my participation consisted of going out on the horse from one place to another.”
Giving life to Napoleon is not a task that he prepares for in any way, and Phoenix admits that he thought about it: “It took me a year and a half to say yes to Ridley Scott, but the truth is that I wanted to work with him again,” says the actor, who was already under the director's orders in Gladiator, where he played the role of the evil emperor Commodus.
Phoenix agrees with Scott that Napoleon “is not intended to be a history lesson,” and adds that “an attempt has been made to condense” the life of the French emperor into just two and a half hours. All in all, he is convinced that viewers who do not know the life of Napoleon, “will love the film” and jokes that “for experts or those who know a lot of history, perhaps it will be worse.”
And since the preview is at the Prado and Phoenix has already seen Goya's paintings, his last reflection is to regret the absence of the War of Independence in Scott's Napoleon: “I know that the Spanish did it very well, but nothing That was in the script,” he concludes.