After directing massive films like “Gladiator” and “Kingdom of Heaven,” Ridley Scott knows a thing or two about historical epics. But even by his standards, “Napoleon” was a massive undertaking. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Scott spoke about the meticulous attention to detail that his team of department heads and consultants applied to the upcoming biopic that stars Joaquin Phoenix as the eponymous French general-turned-emperor.
“I can read all the books in the world on him, but instead, because the film is such a large event, I rely on my very good team,” Scott said. “My team does marvelous military costumes like I’ve never seen before. The costumes are mind-blowing, and then I have a military expert for cause-and-effect battle sequences. That’s all coordinated. I plan it, in a funny kind of way, a little bit like a battle.”
Scott emphasized the importance of collaboration between departments, explaining that films on the scale of “Napoleon” only work if everyone communicates about the various challenges they face.
“When you do a film like this, you have to have all your department heads edge around the table regularly,” he said. “We have meetings once a week, and we go page by page. Page one, I have a problem. What’s the problem? And then on to page two. We fly through it like that because everybody’s in the picture and the left hand always knows what the right hand is doing.”
Scott likened directing “Napoleon” to assembling an extremely complicated model with a large team of collaborators. But despite the difficulties that inevitably arise, he said that the challenge is still part of the fun for him.
“These kinds of films are like climbing a mountain,” he said. “At the ground level, the peak looks a long way off. But as you climb up the hill with your partners in this ridiculously challenging LEGO kit of information you’re trying to put together, sometimes pieces don’t fit and you’re already at 20,000 feet. It’s a continual day-by-day process, but that’s why I do it. I love it.”
“Napoleon” is set to open in theaters on November 22 before streaming on Apple TV+ at an unspecified later date.