Joaquin Phoenix Undergoes Stirring Transformation for Historical Figure Biopic

Joaquin Phoenix might be a bit taller than Napoleon Bonaparte, but that didn't faze the actor who is now working on Ridley Scott's Kitbag, a biopic about the 18th Century French emperor. Phoenix is joined by Vanessa Kirby in the new movie, which is already in production. Photos of Phoenix in full French regalia surfaced this week, showing him in full costume.

The production took over Lincoln, England this week, taking advantage of the cities collection of cathedrals. According to The Lincolnite, the production is using Lincoln Cathedral from Wednesday until March 16. Filming in other locations will continue through March 24. Signs were posted to warn locals against parking on the specific streets since Scott probably doesn't want a modern car in a shot alongside a horsedrawn carriage.

The new Napoleon movie has been in development since at least October 2020, when Phoenix joined the project, Deadline reported at the time. This is Phoenix's first film with Scott since Gladiator. David Scarpa, who wrote Scott's All The Money in the World, wrote the film. The title is a reference to the saying, "There is a general's staff hidden in every soldier's kitbag."

Kitbag is not envisioned as a birth-to-death epic, but will instead provide a personal look at his origins and rise to power alongside his wife Josephine. Jodie Comer, who worked with Scott on The Last Duel, was originally cast as Josephine. In January, Comer dropped out and was quickly replaced by Kirby, who is best known for playing Princess Margaret on The Crown and earned an Oscar nod for Pieces of a Woman. Tahar Rahim will play French Revolution politician Paul Barras.

Phoenix won the 2019 Best Actor Oscar for Joker and was also nominated for his performances in Gladiator, Walk the Line, and The Master. In 2021, he starred in Mike Mills' C'mon C'mon. He also shot Midsommar filmmaker Ari Aster's latest movie, Disappointment Blvd., which is set to open sometime this year. 

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As for Scott, Kitbag will follow a busy 2021, which saw the release of both The Last Duel and House of Gucci. He has shown no signs of slowing down, even at 84. Kitbag will be his first film for a streaming platform, as Apple TV+, as Apple Studios is financing the film.

"Napoleon is a man I've always been fascinated by," Scott told Deadline in January 2021. "He came out of nowhere to rule everything – but all the while he was waging a romantic war with his adulterous wife Josephine. He conquered the world to try to win her love, and when he couldn't, he conquered it to destroy her, and destroyed himself in the process."