Vanessa Kirby, the star of Napoleon, shares her thoughts on Ridley Scott’s big biography movie

Vanessa Kirby, the star of Napoleon: The actress describes Josephine as ‘one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever had to figure out.’ DUBAI: If you like to solve the mystery of a movie, Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” is turning out to be a bit of a head-scratcher. Usually, biopics are pretty straightforward to understand. You pick famous historical figures, get great actors to say powerful things, and if they do it loudly enough, they win awards.

Vannesa Kirby as Josephine and Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon in ‘Napoleon.’ (Supplied)

But Napoleon doesn’t follow these rules. That’s why it’s one of the most interesting movies this year.

Vanessa Kirby, the main actress, shares her thoughts after spending a lot of time getting ready for her role as Josephine, Napoleon’s wife. She realized that her usual way of preparing, which worked well for her roles in “The Crown” and “Pieces of a Woman,” wasn’t cutting it.

Vanessa Kirby, the star of Napoleon

“This role turned out to be one of the toughest for me. I kept wondering why. In every story about Josephine from different people, I found out each one showed her in a completely different way,” Kirby tells Arab News.

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Director Ridley Scott (L) and Joaquin Phoenix on set. (Supplied)

“It hit me that she must have been many things and could change depending on the situation. She had a quiet power, an inner strength, instead of being expressive outwardly. That made me think she must have had a lot hidden inside,” she continues.

In many ways, even the relationship between Josephine and Napoleon seemed a bit odd. He was this super powerful general, and she was a widow six years older with her own kids, already committed when they met. But Kirby thinks she figured it out: he was still a bit foreign to French society, and she was also an outsider who knew how to handle a world he found confusing.

“It made me realize they must have seen each other as outsiders—both different and with a unique way of thinking. She must have been as unusual as him in some way. Playing a character like that is really fun for an actor,” says Kirby.

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A still from ‘Napoleon.’ (Supplied)

For both Kirby and Joaquin Phoenix, the Oscar-winning actor playing her on-screen husband, being “unusual” might be the best way to understand their characters, especially their unpredictable nature.

“We couldn’t stick to one specific personality trait,” Kirby explains.

In one of the most memorable scenes, Napoleon comes home after rumors about Josephine’s actions spread everywhere. He scolds her for embarrassing him publicly, throwing her things out in the rain. At first, Kirby’s Josephine is at his mercy, but then she completely changes. In a moment, she says he is nothing without her and tells him to say it, which he happily does.

“That scene was really important for us, and it was so much fun to play. It was exciting to show the shifting power dynamics in one night—playing a character who goes from begging and devastated to taking control and owning him again. It was wonderful,” says Kirby.

Kirby and Phoenix in ‘Napoleon.’ (Supplied)

“The editor recently told me we did one take that lasted nine minutes. I couldn’t believe it, but apparently, Joaquin and I just kept going. We tried everything. I remember shouting in that scene at Joaquin, telling him to ‘Say it!’ as loud as I could—though that part didn’t end up in the movie. We got really into it, and it was so satisfying, even though it was painful,” she continues.

As challenging as it was, this experience might be the most exciting part of her growing career. Her star keeps rising with each role, especially in the “Mission: Impossible” series with Tom Cruise. She’s in both this year’s “Dead Reckoning” and its upcoming sequel, filmed in Abu Dhabi.

Most importantly, it’s not just about figuring out these characters through research; it’s about getting to know herself better. As Kirby grows as a person, her roles grow too.

“It’s the life experiences in between that shape the work you do,” says Kirby.

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I'm Nitish, and I'm the writer fueling the content at I've always been passionate about staying in the know when it comes to daily news and events, and now I get to share that enthusiasm with you.

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