Ridley Scott and Joaquin Phoenix appear determined to meet their Waterloo… or at least film it with the pair mounting a new historical war epic about French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The news was broken by Deadline, which filed the story on the last day of filming of production for Scott’s current historical epic, The Last Duel.
The name of Scott’s Napoleon movie is Kitbag, apparently taken from the saying, “There is a general’s staff hidden in every soldier’s kitbag.” And the movie is coming together quickly for Scott, who’s already working with screenwriter David Scarpa, the writer of Scott’s previous kidnapping drama, All the Money in the World, on the film. The goal is to explore Napoleon’s swift rise from soldier to general, to Emperor of France. Indeed, the self-titled imperial saw an end to the chaos brought on by the French Revolution, and then brought chaos to the rest of the Europe by instigating years of war that devastated the continent like a preview of the 20th century.
According to the logline, the film will be told through the “prism of his addictive and often volatile relationship with his wife and one true love, Josephine.” Still, this being a Scott epic, you can rest assured there will be some major battles. Indeed, Kitbag marks a reunion of sorts between Phoenix and Scott, who last collaborated on the Oscar winning Gladiator. That movie earned Phoenix his first Oscar nomination as the villainous Roman Emperor Commodus. Since then he at last won a little gold man for Joker, but clearly wants to play more than just one dictator in a Scott film.
Kitbag is not Scott’s next immediate film. First he must finish his medieval epic The Last Duel, which offers an account of the famous 14th century duel between French knights Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris. The friendship ends after Carrouges accuses Le Gris of raping his wife. The film, which is co-written by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener, and it stars Damon as Carrouges, Adam Driver as Le Gris, and Jodie Foster as Marguerite de Carrouges. It also features Affleck as King Charles VI.
After that, Scott is immediately mounting his next film, Gucci, which will star Lady Gaga as the murderous Patrizia Reggiani, as well as Driver, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Jared Leto.
A major Hollywood epic about Napoleon’s life has been a bit of a white whale over the decades. Stanley Kubrick considered it one of his great unmade movies. In the 1970s he came very close to mounting a movie about the French emperor which would’ve likely starred Jack Nicholson as Napoleon, but it fell apart. Perhaps like Wellington, Scott will finally have his his day with the French tactician.