Joaquin Phoenix and Ridley Scott on the Napoleon red carpet, leaning into each other and talking close.

Ridley Scott’s No-F***s-Given ‘Napoleon’ Press Tour Is a Gift to Us All

This is what I'm thankful for.

Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the skilled and petulant French military commander, hits theaters this week. That means that in addition to a visually impressive, compelling, and weirdly hilarious movie, we also get the Thanksgiving gift of a Ridley Scott press tour.

Recommended Videos

Look, is Napoleon without its flaws? No, of course not. Does 85-year-old director Ridley Scott want to discuss them? Absolutely not! Get a life!

Actually, that’s exactly what he said in response to one historian who posted a Neil deGrasse Tyson-esque buzzkill breakdown of all the historical inaccuracies in the trailer.

“When the trailer came out, the TV historian Dan Snow posted a TikTok breakdown of its inaccuracies,” wrote the New Yorker in a recent profile. “(At the Battle of the Pyramids, ‘Napoleon didn’t shoot at the pyramids’; Marie-Antoinette ‘famously had very cropped hair for the execution, and, hey, Napoleon wasn’t there.’) Scott’s response: ‘Get a life.'”

When the BBC asked Scott his thoughts on historians’ criticisms, he responded, “You really want me to answer that?… it will have a bleep in it.” He also said he’d like to ask those historians, “Were you there? Oh you weren’t there. Then how do you know?” (Speaking with the Times, he gave the bleeped version of that sentiment: “When I have issues with historians, I ask: ‘Excuse me, mate, were you there? No? Well, shut the f*** up then.'”)

He took things a step further recently and essentially said the same thing to *gestures at the entirety of France.* From the BBC:

The French critics have been less positive.

Le Figaro said the film could be renamed “Barbie and Ken under the Empire”. French GQ said there was something “deeply clumsy, unnatural and unintentionally funny” in seeing French soldiers in 1793 shouting “Vive La France” with American accents.

And a biographer of Napoleon, Patrice Gueniffey in Le Point magazine, attacked the film as a “very anti-French and very pro-British” rewrite of history.

“The French don’t even like themselves” Scott retorts. “The audience that I showed it to in Paris, they loved it.”

I can’t get enough of Ridley Scott’s DGAF attitude. It’s exactly the kind of energy I want to carry into my life and my work, and it also makes no sense, which I find admirable. Scott justifies his creative liberties by essentially suggesting all history is just made up anyway. Now, I totally agree that history is shaped and reported by generations of people forming their own narratives about people and events and movements. But Ridley’s take on the subject is next-level.

In an interview with the Times titled “Ridley Scott: I didn’t need historians to make my Napoleon epic,” he said, “Like all history, it’s been reported,. […] Napoleon dies then, ten years later, someone writes a book. Then someone takes that book and writes another, and so, 400 years later, there’s a lot of imagination [in history books].”

That is simply not how books work, Ridley Scott! Does he really think all books are copies of previous books, all going back to one single book origin, and that tireless research isn’t part of historians’ jobs? Probably not. More likely, he’s just oversimplifying because he’s busy! He’s Ridley Scott, he’s 85 years old and he has movies to make! Next question!

Scott does also give excellent explanations for the filmmaking reasoning behind some of these possible inaccuracies. “At one point, in a spectacular scene, Napoleon’s cannons fire at the Pyramids,” writes the Times. “’I don’t know if he did that, but it was a fast way of saying he took Egypt,’ Scott says.”

Just a couple of guys

What makes Scott’s gruff, hurried approach to his press tour even more enjoyable is that we get to view it side by side with another cinematic legend, Martin Scorcese, who has also been out there promoting Killers of the Flower Moon.

We don’t want to pit these two against each other but the contrast between the two is undeniably delightful.

I don’t know if Scott was out there spitting this kind of fire during press tours for movies like Gladiator and Alien, but I’m just so grateful that we all now have the internet dropping this gold at our feet.

(featured image: Marc Piasecki/Getty Images)

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.