Ridley Scott Claps Back at French ‘Napoleon’ Critics: ‘The French Don’t Even Like Themselves'

The 85-year-old director had time for the French media that panned his latest film, along with other critics.

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Ridley Scott isn’t bothered.

His latest film, Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the emblematic French emperor, has been getting hit with several mixed-to-negative reviews coming out of France.

According to the BBC, French outlets such as Le Figaro said the film could have been renamed “Barbie and Ken Under the Empire.” The French edition of GQ weighed in, saying there was something “deeply clumsy, unnatural and unintentionally funny” about seeing French soldiers shouting “Vive la France” in 1793 with American accents. Napoleon biographer Patrice Gueniffey told Le Point magazine that Napoleon is a “very anti-French and very pro-British” reimagining of history.

In conversation with the BBC, the 85-year-old English director brushed off the critiques, saying, “The French don’t even like themselves. The audience that I showed it to in Paris, they loved it.”

This isn’t the first time Scott has addressed the backlash to the film. In an interview with The New Yorker, Scott told historian Dan Snow to “get a life” in response to a five-minute TikTok dissection of the film’s trailer over its historical inaccuracies

Scott had more smoke for critics in a conversation with Total Film, saying, "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?' It always amuses me when a critic says to me, 'This didn’t happen in Jerusalem.' I say, 'Were you there? That’s the fucking answer.'"

Although Joaquin Phoenix didn’t address Snow’s debunking TikTok video, he weighed in on the matter in a separate interview with Empire magazine, saying, “If you want to really understand Napoleon, then you should probably do your own studying and reading. Because if you see this film, it’s this experience told through Ridley’s eyes.”

Napoleon, starring Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby as his wife Josephine de Beauharnais, premiered in Paris, France on Nov. 14 and hits U.S. theaters on Nov. 22.

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