Published:  08:03 AM, 20 November 2023

Joaquin Phoenix on playing small 'petulant tyrant' Napoleon

Joaquin Phoenix on playing small 'petulant tyrant' Napoleon

Joaquin Phoenix said he was surprised to discover a version of Napoleon who was more like a soppy "teenager in love" than an all-conquering commander as he researched his epic new role.

Ridley Scott's ‘Napoleon’, which hits cinemas worldwide next week, features massive-scale battles across Europe.
But it is also a portrait of Napoleon's complex relationship with his wife Josephine, played by Vanessa Kirby, which has been preserved in the general's often tragically pleading letters.

"He was very socially awkward. I think of him as a romantic with a mathematician's brain," Phoenix told AFP in Paris.
"He wanted to be heartfelt but in his letters... he seems like a teenager in love, almost plagiarising poetry.

"There's something almost endearing about it -- if he wasn't also responsible for the deaths of millions of people," Phoenix added.
"I imagined that he was cold and calculated as a great military strategist. What I was surprised by was the sense of humour and how child-like he was."
Phoenix, 49, said he had waited more than 20 years to work with Scott again after their huge success with "Gladiator" in which he played another emperor, Commodus.

But the director didn't call until "he had a story about a petit, petulant tyrant, and he said 'I've got just the guy!'" Phoenix joked.
The ‘Joker’ star refused to be drawn into any cheap comparisons between the war-mongering emperor he plays and the conflicts currently ravaging the world."If I was in the midst of a conflict, the last thing I'd want is to hear from some actor sitting in the Bristol Hotel," he told AFP.

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