Which is why we’re especially psyched for Napoleon, legendary director Ridley Scott’s upcoming biopic chronicling the rise and fall of the ruthless French emperor. (Catch me on opening day, shouting “he was actually of average height for the time period” from the back of the theater.) With Joaquin Phoenix in the title role and Vanessa Kirby as his wife, Empress Joséphine, the film “captures Bonaparte’s relentless journey to power through the prism of his addictive, volatile relationship with his one true love, Joséphine, showcasing his visionary military and political tactics against some of the most dynamic practical battle sequences ever filmed.”
Can it get any better than that? Yes: As Scott revealed to the British film magazine Empire, which was reported by Variety, he has a “fantastic” 270-minute long director’s cut of his 28th film. The theatrical cut, still a respectable 158 minutes, is out on November 22nd before coming to Apple TV+.
So what’s in the footage? Napoleon during his first exile on Elba, overseeing massive infrastructure projects and plotting his revenge? His triumphant march on Paris—we are so back—and subsequent defeat—it’s so over—at the Battle of Waterloo? Him writing an entire book on Julius Caesar during his second exile on Mount Helena? (I need Napoleon’s productivity hacks. Hustle culture icon!)
No, the extra hour and a half is actually devoted to “more of Joséphine’s life before she meets Napoleon.” That is to say, before she entered a tumultuous, unfaithful relationship with a guy who sent her often-unanswered love letters begging her not to bathe before they met up.
There’s a lot to work with. As Kirby told Empire, “What was so challenging, and kind of elusive, about her, was that every single book, whether it was first-hand accounts, third-hand stories, documents, testimonies, and Napoleon’s letters… every single one was completely different. She was just this massive contradiction. Every time I thought I’d locked down, ‘Okay, this is who she is, and I think I can get hold of this’, something would completely counteract it.””
And if there’s any director to trust with a director’s cut, it’s Scott. His versions of both 2013’s The Counselor and 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven are miles above the original, while his 1992 cut of Blade Runner (not to be confused with 2007’s also great Blade Runner: The Final Cut) is pretty much synonymous with the entire idea of the director’s cut.
I have never understood the “release the Synder cut” people until this moment. Release the 4.5 hour version of Napoleon!!!