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Vanessa Kirby Unveils Her Journey into Josephine’s World in Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’

Discover Vanessa Kirby's transformative experience playing Josephine in Ridley Scott's 'Napoleon'

In the run-up to the release of Ridley Scott’s monumental film “Napoleon,” Vanessa Kirby shares her extensive preparation to portray Josephine, the great love of Napoleon Bonaparte, played by Joaquin Phoenix, an Academy Award® winner. Kirby’s transformation into Josephine was a meticulous process fueled by research and deep reflection. 

Embarking on a Historical Journey

Vanessa Kirby’s approach to embodying Josephine was nothing short of exhaustive. “I was actually quite astonished that I knew so little,” she says. “So it was a pleasure: I locked myself away and just read every book I could, about her and about him [Napoleon, played by Academy Award® winner Joaquin Phoenix]. Kirby’s dedication saw her traversing to Parisian landmarks steeped in the couple’s history. Her pilgrimage included visits to the Napoleon Museum, Malmaison, and even Josephine’s final resting place. “We also went to Paris, to the Napoleon Museum, to Malmaison. I even went to Josephine’s tomb. It was a deep immersion in that history and that period, and it was such a privilege to learn about her” Kirby recounts.

Watch Kirby talk more about Josephine in this featurette: 

The Complexities of Portraying Josephine

The role was a complex tapestry of emotions for Kirby. A privilege, but not easy – playing the role was “painful and uncomfortable,” she says, because “it is the story of so many women. I had so much compassion for her, because she wasn’t allowed to have a voice even though she had an incredibly strong, potent energy.”

Kirby says that energy might have been what attracted Napoleon to Josephine, and also later doomed their relationship. “She was an outsider, just like he was,” says Kirby, noting that Josephine was brought up on Martinique, far from the aristocracy that she would later marry into. Kirby notes that because of her upbringing, “she doesn’t have a place in aristocratic society,” but at the same time, she very nearly followed her aristocratic husband to the guillotine during the Reign of Terror. “Joaquin and I always felt like it was something where they just understood each other. She was not a person anyone wanted to marry – she was a widow with two children and six years older than he was. But she captivated him. There was something that they had in common – they identify, and they feel recognized, and they understand each other as outliers.”


Ridley Scott on Kirby’s Craft

Ridley Scott praises Kirby’s ability to channel her extensive preparation into a powerful portrayal. Calling Josephine “a survivor,” Kirby says that she and director Scott dug deep into how she was able to get by. “Ridley and I had long conversations about the difference between sexuality and sensuality,” she says. “I think perhaps her natural sensuality came from her upbringing in the tropics – the warmth, the music, the culture, the environment. Her early years are more about the senses than the intellect. But when she marries Napoleon, she has to adapt, to change completely, in order to survive. She has to become a better wife, the wife he wants.”

“Vanessa can take all the information that she has accrued and convey it through even the tiniest of movements and expressions,” says Scott. “She and Joaquin had a very natural and intuitive sense of timing.”

Awaiting the Epic Saga

“Napoleon” is Ridley Scott’s latest directorial venture, promising to be a visual and dramatic spectacle. The film is a journey through Napoleon Bonaparte’s tumultuous rise and fall, depicted through his intense and tumultuous romance with Josephine.

With Scott’s visionary direction, David Scarpa’s dynamic screenplay, and backed by a stellar production team, the film is set to immerse audiences in a narrative rich with passion, political intrigue, and groundbreaking battle scenes.

Napoleon,” starring Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby, opens exclusively in cinemas on November 29. The film is brought to the Philippines by Columbia Pictures, the local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Engage with the film using the hashtag #Napoleon and prepare to step into a chapter of history reimagined by some of the most talented names in cinema.

Photo & Video Courtesy: “Columbia Pictures”

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Drama, History, War
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