Ridley Scott Blasts French Critics over Negative ‘Napoleon’ Reviews


Ridley Scott is firing back at Napoleon critics.

The director’s latest film Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby, tells the story of infamous French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his rise to power and eventual fall before his death in 1821.

Napoleon had its world premiere in Paris on Nov. 14, and some French critics were unkind to the historical drama.

Historian Patrice Gueniffey wrote in Le Point magazine that he viewed the film as “very anti-French” and claimed there were “many historical errors.”

Scott, 85, responded, telling BBC News, “The French don’t even like themselves. The audience that I showed it to in Paris, they loved it.”

BBC News recapped other negative reviews out of France, including GQ France calling it “deeply clumsy, unnatural and unintentionally funny,” and Le Figaro deeming the film “Barbie and Ken under the Empire.”

Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby and Ridley Scott at the U.K. premiere of “Napoleon” in London on Nov. 16, 2023.

Karwai Tang/WireImage

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Napoleon was written by David Scarpa. Director Scott also told the outlet about critics saying the movie is historically inaccurate: “Were you there? Oh, you weren’t there. Then how do you know?”

(In regards to a viral TikTok that fact-checked Napoleon‘s scenes, Scott told The New Yorker earlier this month, “Get a life.”)

The British director, who lives in France, is behind films like House of Gucci, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Kingdom of Heaven. He told Total Film about his stance on historical accuracy in his big-screen spectacles.

“I’ve done a lot of historical films. I find I’m reading a report of someone else’s report 100 years after the event. So I wonder, ‘How much do they romance and elaborate? How accurate is it?’ ” he said.

“It always amuses me when a critic says to me, ‘This didn’t happen in Jerusalem.’ I say, ‘Were you there? That’s the f—ing answer.’ ”

Ridley Scott and Joaquin Phoenix on “Napoleon” set.

Aidan Monaghan/Apple TV+

He echoed a similar sentiment in a recent interview with The Sunday Times.

“Like all history, it’s been reported. Napoleon dies then, 10 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],” said Scott.

“When I have issues with historians,” he continued, “I ask: ‘Excuse me, mate, were you there? No? Well, shut the f— up then.’ ”

Napoleon is in theaters Wednesday.

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