Close observers of Ridley Scott’s career know that his director’s cuts are often more notable than his theatrical releases. From initially misunderstood masterpieces including “Blade Runner” and “Kingdom of Heaven” to more offbeat fare like “The Counselor,” many of Scott’s films aren’t properly appreciated until he’s permitted to showcase his unfiltered vision without studio interference.
His latest work, “Napoleon,” is one of the British director’s most anticipated films in recent memory. Many fans and critics see the historical epic’s massive scale and casting of Joaquin Phoenix as natural parallels to “Gladiator,” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2001. The film is expected to be a major player in this fall’s Oscar race — but in true Scott fashion, he is already thinking ahead to the director’s cut.
In a new interview with Empire, Scott teased that he has a “fantastic” cut of the film that runs 270 minutes and focuses more on Vanessa Kirby’s performance as Napoleon’s wife Josephine. Scott expressed hope that Apple will eventually screen his lengthy cut of the film — though the version that hits theaters in November will still be a behemoth.
The director’s cut reportedly devotes considerable time to Josephine’s life in the years before she met Napoleon. Kirby spoke about the rigorous psychological labor that she and Phoenix put into crafting their nuanced portrayals of the two legendary French monarchs.
“Joaquin studies the psyche, and the psyche of Napoleon is so strange,” Kirby said. “The film feels like that. It’s kind of peculiar, and there’s an intensity in that. Napoleon wasn’t stoic and wonderful like Russell Crowe was in ‘Gladiator.’ He was a dictator, a war criminal, really. It couldn’t be rousing, because that man killed hundreds and hundreds of thousands of men, in my opinion needlessly. And for what? To get an empire, for what? In the end, it all disintegrated anyway. That psyche run wild is dangerous as hell, and very strange. And this is a portrait of that.”
“Napoleon” is current scheduled to open in theaters on Wednesday, November 22 before streaming on Apple TV+ at an unspecified later date.