Brian Cox Rips Into Joaquin Phoenix's 'Truly Terrible' Performance in 'Napoleon'

The 'Succession' star added that he would have given a much better performance in the role.

Two men at events; one in a suede jacket and glasses, the other in a suit with a distinctive beard style
Phillip Faraone / Stringer and David Benito via Getty Images
Two men at events; one in a suede jacket and glasses, the other in a suit with a distinctive beard style

Ridley Scott's Napoleon caught some criticism when it hit theaters over its overabundance of historical inaccuracies, but Succession star Brian Cox thinks the real issue with the movie was Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role.

During a talk as part of a panel at London's HistFest on Tuesday, April 16, Cox ripped into the acclaimed actor's performance of Napoleon Bonaparte. "Terrible. It’s terrible. A truly terrible performance by Joaquin Phoenix," said Cox, per The Evening Standard. "It really is appalling. I don’t know what he was thinking. I think it’s totally his fault and I don’t think Ridley Scott helps him. I would have played it a lot better than Joaquin Phoenix, I tell you that. You can say it’s good drama. No—it’s lies."

The Scottish actor, 77, continued to dig into Phoenix, who won his first Oscar in 2020 for Joker. "I think he’s well-named. Joaquin… whackeen... whacky," he added. "It’s a sort of whacky performance." During the chat, the topic of historical accuracy in these sorts of movies came up, to which Cox said he agreed that Braveheart was "a lot of nonsense," even if Mel Gibson was "wonderful" in the lead role. "But it's a load of lies," he said. "He never impregnated the French princess." Cox co-starred with Gibson in the movie as Argyle Wallace.

While Napoleon was praised for its battle sequences and many of its performances when it hit theaters, where it grossed a modest $221 million before landing on Apple TV+, it failed to receive any nominations for acting or directing at the 96th Academy Awards. It did, however, garner nominations for Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Visual Effects.

During the chat, Cox also took a moment to share his thoughts on method acting, something he criticized his Succession co-star Jeremy Strong for last year. "That's all bollocks," said Cox, who is a classically trained Shakespearean actor. "It’s a kind of nonsense. We’re transmitters. That’s what we are as actors. We transmit energy."

The famously outspoken actor briefly touched on U.S. politics, too, suggesting that his relationship with America "will be coming to a very short sharp end quite soon" because of the current political landscape. "It’s very hard to govern America and you certainly don’t need idiots like Trump doing that," he said. "I do think that Biden is a good man but he’s too old." He added that he "probably will" leave the U.S. if Trump wins the upcoming election.

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