Veteran filmmaker Ridley Scott likens working with Oscar-winner Joaquin Phoenix to “a toboggan ride”.
The “Gladiator” director and star reunited after more than two decades to make the upcoming Napoleon Bonaparte biopic “Napoleon”, which premiered in London on Thursday.
“It was exactly the same,” Scott said of working with Phoenix, jokingly adding “I like stress,” when asked what he liked about his leading man.
The film portrays Napoleon, a historical figure both revered and criticised in France, as a ruthless military tactician whose softer, vulnerable side was uncovered by his wife Josephine, played by British actress Vanessa Kirby.
In addition to collaborating with Phoenix, Scott said he also wanted to return to a theme he first explored in his feature film debut in 1977.
“In ‘The Duellists’ I end on Napoleon Bonaparte. That’s the reason why. I enjoy that part of France and the whole ambience of that culture. So, I wanted to go back to it completely with ‘Napoleon’,” he said on the red carpet.
The director, 85, whose long career includes hit films such as “Thelma & Louise”, “Alien” and “The Martian”, said his production team was dedicated to making the historical epic look accurate.
“Every aspect of what you see from armoury to horses to saddles to hats, to the wardrobe, it’s all researched. I sit there like an octopus glomming all this stuff coming at me because they’ve researched everyone.”
“I’m like a child, I look at picture books. I go ‘I like that’. So, I don’t do anything.”
Filmed during the pandemic, Scott and his frequent collaborator for cinematography, Dariusz Wolski, orchestrated elaborate battle scenes, that recounted Napoleon’s conquests in Austerlitz and Moscow, and his famous defeat in Waterloo.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic I’ve made ‘The Last Duel’, ‘Gucci’, ‘Napoleon Bonaparte’, and I’m halfway through ‘Gladiator (2)’. We don’t stop. We ran that protecting it like an army. I had no COVID problems at all,” Scott said.
“Napoleon” is out in cinemas on Nov. 23.