Joaquin Phoenix slapped Vanessa Kirby without warning on Napoleon It went dark

Napoleon trailer

Joaquin Phoenix reunites with his Gladiator director Sir Ridley Scott in their upcoming biopic of Napoleon Bonaparte later this year.

The Oscar-winning actor stars opposite Vanessa Kirby as the French Emperor and his Empress, Joséphine.

No doubt set for Academy Awards nominations, the historical epic is due to hit cinemas this November before heading to Apple TV+ at a later date.

Renowned for his method acting, the titular star was joined by his leading lady in improvising responses to each other in character.

This was especially the case when the historical couple go through a divorce, with Kirby admitting: “We always wanted to surprise each other.”

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Stepping away from the boundaries of a well-rehearsed biopic scene, Phoenix and Kirby allowed each other to be intensely physical without prior warning, to capture real reactions and work with whatever felt right in the moment.

Kirby added: “It’s the greatest thing when you have a creative partner and you say, ‘Right, everything’s safe. I’m with you. And we’re gonna go to the dark places together.”

The Napoleon star shared with Empire: “She said, ‘Look, whatever you feel, you can do.’ I said, ‘Same thing with you.’ She said, ‘You can slap me, you can grab me, you can pull me, you can kiss me, whatever it is.”

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Phoenix added: “So we had this agreement that we were going to surprise each other and try and create moments that weren’t there, because both of us wanted to avoid the cliché of the period drama. And by that I mean moments that are well-orchestrated and designed.”

“We never really got to the bottom of it. I don’t know if you can call it love. I don’t know what it was. But we encouraged each other, demanded of each other, to challenge ourselves to shock each other in moments. And that’s what came out of that, that moment.”

Napoleon is released in UK cinemas on November 22, 2023.

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