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Dan Snow breaks down historical inaccuracies in Ridley Scott’s Napoleon trailer: ‘It ain’t a documentary’

Forthcoming biopic stars Joaquin Phoenix as the infamous French military commander

Tom Murray
Thursday 13 July 2023 05:47 BST
Dan Snow Breaks Down The Historical Inaccuracies In The New Napoleon Trailer

Historian Dan Snow has broken down the trailer for Ridley Scott’s forthcoming biopic about Napoleon Bonaparte starring Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role.

The teaser for Napoleon was released on Monday (10 July), giving fans a first glimpse of Phoenix as the French military commander, who lived from 1769 to 1821 and led France to victory during the Revolutionary Wars.

The film, directed by Gladiator filmmaker Scott, follows Napoleon’s rise to emperor while also chronicling his volatile relationship with Josephine, played by The Crown star Vanessa Kirby.

While viewers were impressed by the trailer (and bemused by the soundtrack), Snow, 44, took to TikTok to break down the multifarious historical inaccuracies on display.

“I love historical epics, I love Ridley Scott, I’m going to be watching this movie,” he began by saying. “[But] it ain’t a documentary, we know that much!”

The TV presenter started with the film’s poster, which bears the slogan: “He came from nothing. He conquered everything.”

“He did not come from nothing. His dad was in fact an aristocrat,” Snow corrected. “He did not conquer everything. He conquered quite a lot. It was very impressive, but he did not conquer everything.

“... He didn’t conquer Britain. That’s part of ‘everything’, so...”

The trailer also teases the execution of Marie Antoinette – the last queen of France before the French Revolution. She’s depicted in the film by Irish actor Catherine Walker who is shown wearing long, blonde curls.

“Love this scene – Marie Antoinette didn’t look like that,” Snow said. “She famously had very cropped hair for the execution and hey – Napoleon wasn’t there. He was at the other end of France.”

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Among Snow’s other sticking points was a scene depicting Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt, which was not fought at the base of the pyramids as the trailer suggests, and Napoleon leading a French cavalry charge: “He never did this! But it looks cool.”

Snow is the author of The Battle of Waterloo Experience, which tells the story of Napoleon’s famous defeat to the armies of the Seventh Coalition in 1815.

Fans also had some confusion about elements of the trailer. For one, Phoenix speaks in his American accent while Kirby speaks in her usual English accent.

Many people also commented on the rather unexpected needle drop featured in the clip.

The trailer is underscored by a slowed-down cover of Radiohead’s 2000 track “The National Anthem”.

Napoleon will be released in the US over Thanksgiving weekend 2023. The film will arrive on Apple TV + at a later date that is yet to be announced.

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