Back in October, Collider told you about a Ridley Scott movie titled Kitbag that would star reigning Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix as French icon Napoleon Bonaparte, and now Apple Studios has come aboard to finance and produce the period project, which is expected to go before cameras early next year in the UK.
Both elements are noteworthy in that Kitbag was originally in development at 20th Century Studios, where Ridley‘s company Scott Free has a first-look deal. The studio let go of the ambitious project before the end of the year, which allowed Apple to swoop in and acquire global rights by making a significant production commitment. Scott Free has a first-look deal with Apple for television, so the two companies were already in business together.
Of course, Scott still plans to shoot the star-studded drama Gucci in March, and he’ll likely have to spend this fall campaigning on behalf of his actual next movie, The Last Duel, which is slated for release in October and presumed to be a major awards contender given its high-profile cast — Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck.
How Scott still has the energy at 83 years old to make these kinds of big movies is beyond me, but it’s great to see that he isn’t slowing down at all. Those he’s never won an Oscar, he is undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s premiere filmmakers, and I imagine that between these three films, he may very well earn his first directing nomination since 2001’s Black Hawk Down.
As for Kitbag, David Scarpa (All the Money in the World) is writing the script, and Scott will produce alongside Kevin Walsh. The film aims to take a personal look at Napoleon’s origins and examine the diminutive emperor’s ruthless rise to power, as viewed through the prism of his volatile relationship with his wife, Josephine. Naturally, there will also be plenty of action, as it was in the heat of battle that Napoleon’s gifted mind as a military strategist shined brightest.
“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.”
According to Deadline, Scott has wanted to make a Napoleon movie for years, but he needed to wait for the right actor. It turned out that his own Gladiator star Phoenix fit the bill better than anyone.
“No actor could ever embody Napoleon like Joaquin,” said Scott. “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.”
Though Kitbag is unlikely to cost as much as Martin Scorsese‘s Killers of the Flower Moon starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which carries a $180 million price tag for Apple, the deal is said to be on a similar scale as that of Antoine Fuqua‘s action-thriller Emancipation, which stars Will Smith as a runaway slave.
When you look at Killers of the Flower Moon, Emancipation and Kitbag, it’s clear that Apple is pursuing prestige projects starring some truly talented movie stars rather than big-budget action movies like Netflix‘s The Gray Man or IP-driven films such as Lightyear on Disney+. The streamer is also poised to make a splash this awards season with movies like Wolfwalkers, Boys State, On the Rocks and the forthcoming Cherry from the Russo brothers.