Ridley Scott takes over the Prado with ‘Napoleon’: “A blockbuster is like leading an army”

At Spain's Prado Museum, director Ridley Scott presented his film about Napoleon Bonaparte, analyzing the challenges of managing a colossal production while drawing parallels between filmmaking and leading an organized army.

Ridley Scott arriving at the presentation of the film 'Napoleon'

Photo: 11/20/2023.- British director Ridley Scott upon arrival at the presentation of the film ‘Napoleon’ held this Monday at the Prado Museum, in Madrid. EFE/Juanjo Martín


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Leer en español: Ridley Scott toma el Prado con ‘Napoleón’: “Una superproducción es como dirigir un ejército”

Ridley Scott has taken over the Prado Museum to present his film about Napoleon Bonaparte in Spain, starring Joaquin Phoenix, near the Goya paintings that bear witness to the time in Spain of the former French emperor.

“Filming a blockbuster is like directing an army,” the director of 'Alien', 'Thelma and Louise' or 'Gladiator' told EFE in the Jerónimos cloister, destroyed by Napoleonic troops during the War of Independence.

The film, which opens in theaters on November 24 and can later be seen on Apple TV+, portrays the rise and fall of Napoleon from a double perspective: the battlefield, with spectacular sequences in which eleven cameras were involved. , and his obsessive relationship with his wife Josefina (Vanessa Kirby).

“My unit is made up of 900 people, 100 horses, 50 trucks to transport them, one hundred drivers… and that's just for the horses, then there are the 700 extras; It is a huge unit and you have to lead it in an organized way; The best comparison is an army, if you don't do it like that, you have a problem," they maintain.

Criticisms in France

His interest in the figure of Napoleon comes from afar. His first film, 'The Duelists' (1977), was a period drama set in France during the Napoleonic Wars.

“Napoleon did not appear but his codes and standards were very present,” he points out. “It was a film that talked about class struggle, the confrontation between an aristocratic officer and another ordinary one,” he underlines to highlight the parallelism with his 'Napoleon'.

"If I say that Napoleon was a working-class Corsican, people will jump on me, but the truth is that he had no money, he lived as if he were from a humble class, and the only way to prosper for him was to go to the military academy."

Scott thus alludes to the criticism he has received in France for what some consider a lack of historical rigor – Napoleon's father came from the small Corsican nobility – and the filmmaker defends this as a dramatic license.

American actor Joaquin Phoenix arriving at the presentation of the film 'Napoleon' held this Monday at the Prado Museum, in Madrid. EFE/Juanjo Martín

He has also been criticized for showing him shooting at the pyramids in Egypt or participating in cavalry charges.

What Scott was interested in highlighting was how someone who started “with nothing” found in the army the necessary structure to develop. “He was good with weapons and in battles, he enjoyed it but, above all, his gift was intuition.”

“With experience, intuition sharpens, the danger is that there may come a time when you make a mistake because that voice of intuition can separate you from common sense,” adds the three-time Oscar nominee for best director.

The battles

The time arc of the film, which lasts more than two and a half hours, goes from the last stages of the French Revolution, in which he participated from Corsica – although Scott shows him witnessing the execution of Marie Antoinette -, until his death in exile. on the island of Saint Helena.

The highlight is the battle scenes where Scott shows his mastery, which he attributes largely to the fact that he himself draws all the storyboards shot by shot. “The best thing that has happened to me in my life is going to art school,” says the director of 'Blade Runner', who studied at the Royal College of Art in England. “My book of Napoleon storyboards is that thick,” he shows. “Sometimes I draw a filming location beforehand and then look for it, it's a very efficient way of working.”

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On the other hand, it ignores Napoleon's contributions to the geopolitics of Europe or legislation, such as his pioneering civil code, which is not even mentioned.

A great admirer of Stanley Kubrick, who projected a film about Napoleon that he never made, will instead be Steven Spielberg who will take the script left by the director of 'A Clockwork Orange' to direct a series for HBO.

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