Joaquin Phoenix to play Napoleon Bonaparte in a new Apple Studios movie

By Zach Harper

Joaquin Phoenix to play Napoleon Bonaparte in a new Apple Studios movie

Joaquin Phoenix is no stranger to playing complex characters, and he's set to star as Napoleon Bonaparte in an upcoming new movie being made by Apple Studios.

Of course, Joaquin is no stranger to playing imperial leaders, having portrayed ruthless Roman emperor Commodus in 2000's Gladiator. He was nominated for an Oscar for that performance.

The film is titled Kitbag, which is a reference to the saying, "There is a general's staff hidden in every soldier's kitbag." It will see Joaquin reunite with Gladiator director Ridley Scott. The two haven't worked together in more than two decades.

"No actor could ever embody Napoleon like Joaquin," Ridley told Deadline. "He created one of movie history's most complex emperors in Gladiator, and we'll create another with his Napoleon."

Kitbag will examine how Napoleon rose to power in France with the Coup of 18 Brumaire that made him France's First Consul and ended the French Revolution. It will also examine the difficult relationship the man who eventually became France's emperor and King of Italy had with his first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais, who later became Empress Joséphine. They divorced in 1810 and Napoleon married Marie Louise of Austria.

Left: Empress Joséphine is seen in a painting by Francois Pascal Simon Gérard dated to 1808. Right: Jacques-Louis David's 1802 portrait of Napoleon closing the Saint-Bernard Pass on May 20, 1800 is one of the most famous artistic renderings of the military leader, who later became France's emperor. This version is the third, which hangs in the Palace of Versailles today. Images: © Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images and VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images

"Napoleon is a man I've always been fascinated by," Ridley continued to Deadline. "He conquered the world to try to win [Josephine's] love, and when he couldn't, he conquered it to destroy her, and destroyed himself in the process."

If you're wondering if Joaquin is too tall for the role, it's actually a myth that Napoleon was short. He measured in at 5'2", but that was done using France's pre-metric system of Imperial inches. Those are smaller than the inches used under today's Imperial system of measurement. If he were measured now, he would be around 5'5", which was actually average height for French men at the time. That said, he was definitely understood to be shorter than most officers in the military during the time period, which may be more likely to be the origin of the myth.

We can't wait to watch!

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