Ridley Scott has got his new movie in the bag, with Apple Studios acquiring Kitbag, a Napoleon Bonaparte epic set to star Joaquin Phoenix as the French emperor and military leader.
Deadline reports that Apple has committed to finance and produce Kitbag, which is set to begin production in early 2022. The film, which takes its title from the saying, “There is a general’s staff hidden in every soldier’s kitbag,” will star Phoenix hot off his Oscar win for his turn in 2019’s Joker. Scott will direct the film, as well as produce alongside Kevin Walsh for Scott Free.
We’ve known about this Scott and Phoenix reteam (after collaborating in the Oscar-winning historical epic Gladiator) since October, but this news is what gets the film off the ground. The film now has a screenplay by David Scarpa, and a financier to make this Napoleon war epic happen — a dream that Scott can follow through after other great filmmakers, like the late Stanley Kubrick, famously failed to get made.
“Napoleon is a man I’ve always been fascinated by,” Scott told Deadline. “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.”
The film is “an original and personal look at Napoleon’s origins and his swift, ruthless climb to emperor, viewed through the prism of his addictive and often volatile relationship with his wife and one true love, Josephine,” per Deadline. The film will also portray Napoleon’s most famous battle, as well as his “relentless ambition and astounding strategic mind.”
And despite the polarizing reception to Joker, there’s no question that Phoenix is one of the finest working actors today, impressing Scott with his ability to portray a ruthless leader in 2000’s Gladiator, in which he played cruel Roman leader Commodus.
“No actor could ever embody Napoleon like Joaquin,” Scott said. “He created one of movie history’s most complex Emperors in Gladiator, and we’ll create another with his Napoleon. It’s a brilliant script written by David Scarpa, and today there’s no better partner than Apple to bring a story like this to a global audience.”
Kitbag (which still retains its unfortunate title) is the latest big feature film commitment for Apple, which has been steadily acquiring major awards contenders for its streamer Apple TV+. It made a splash by acquiring the former theatrical release Greyhound, starring Tom Hanks, and has since released other critical darlings like Sofia Coppola’s On The Rocks, the documentary Boys State, and the animated Wolfwalkers. It’s also got Martin Scorsese’s pricey David Grann adaptation Killers of the Flower Moon on the way.
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