Joaquin Phoenix slapped his Napoleon co-star Vanessa Kirby because they agreed to “surprise each other” during the shoot.
The Oscar-winning actor reunited with his Gladiator director Ridley Scott for the upcoming biographical drama, in which he plays French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte alongside Kirby as his wife Joséphine.
In a joint interview for Empire magazine, the actors revealed that they allowed each other to find spontaneity and unexpected moments during the shoot, leading to Phoenix slapping Kirby during their divorce scene.
“We were using the real words from their divorce in the church. When that happens, you can faithfully go through an archival re-enactment of it and read out the lines and then go home. But we always wanted to surprise each other,” The Crown star explained. “It’s the greatest thing when you have a creative partner and you say, ‘Right, everything’s safe. I’m with you. And we’re gonna go to the dark places together.'”
Phoenix continued, “She said, ‘Look, whatever you feel, you can do.’ I said, ‘Same thing with you.’ She said, ‘You can slap me, you can grab me, you can pull me, you can kiss me, whatever it is.’ So we had this agreement that we were going to surprise each other and try and create moments that weren’t there, because both of us wanted to avoid the cliché of the period drama.
“We encouraged each other, demanded of each other, to challenge ourselves to shock each other in moments. And that’s what came out of that, that moment.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Scott revealed that he knew Phoenix was the right man for the role when he saw him in 2019’s Joker. He also divulged that his leading man approached him two weeks before filming and said he didn’t “know what to do”.
“We sat for ten days, all day, talking scene by scene. In a sense, we rehearsed. Absolutely detail by detail,” Scott remembered.
Napoleon is due to be released in November.
– Cover Media