Improvisation in movie scripts is not anything new, and for that actors sometimes do things that were not in the script to make things more authentic.
The most recent case includes Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ where actor Joaquin Phoenix in an unscripted moment slapped fellow actress Vanessa Kirby adding a moment of shock and surprise for everyone on set. As reported by 'People' magazine, while speaking to 'Empire' magazine, the actors agreed that this element of surprise will extend to physical interactions.
Phoenix, who plays Napoleon Bonaparte in the historical fiction drama, actually slapped Kirby, who plays his wife Josephine de Beauharnais, in the unscripted moment while using ‘real words’ from the divorce.
"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 actress shared. With that approach, "We encouraged each other, demanded of each other, to challenge ourselves to shock each other in moments," Phoenix said. "And that’s what came out of that, that moment."
For Kirby, the scene was an example of how she and Phoenix could truly trust each other, to the extent that they could "go to the dark places together" as they portrayed the doomed couple. "It’s the greatest thing when you have a creative partner and you say, ‘Right, everything’s safe. I’m with you,'" she said.
Underneath the battles and politics documenting Napoleon’s rise to power, the movie also details the military commander and French ruler’s personal life and his turbulent relationship with his wife Josephine de Beauharnais, exploring the personal dynamics between the two.
With this unorthodox approach, the two actors attempted to genuinely recreate some kind of portrait of Napoleon and Joséphine’s chaotic relationship, in all its volatility, pain, and passion. “We never really got to the bottom of it,” says Phoenix. “I don’t know if you can call it love. I don’t know what it was. But 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", he added.
‘Napoleon’ will hit theatres on November 22, 2023.