First trailer for Ridley Scott’s historical epic Napoleon features ‘baffling’ Radiohead cover

Fans also questioned why Joaquin Phoenix’s French emperor appears to speak in an American accent

Isobel Lewis
Wednesday 12 July 2023 15:24 BST
Napoleon trailer

Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Napoleon Bonaparte has finally been teased in the trailer for Ridley Scott’s biopic – and it’s accompanied by a rather unexpected needle drop.

The Joker actor, 48, will star in Napoleon as the French military leader, who lived from 1769 to 1821 and led his country to victory during the Revolutionary Wars.

Directed by Gladiator filmmaker Scott from a screenplay by All the Money in the World writer David Scarpa, Napoleon follows the military leader’s rise to emperor, while also detailing his passionate and volatile relationship with wife Josephine (Vanessa Kirby).

On Monday (10 July), the first trailer arrived online. It begins with the French revolution, with Napoleon being asked to step in and bring the people under control, before meeting Josephine.

However, rather than adopting French accents, both Phoenix and Kirby appear to speak in their respective American and British accents.

The trailer is underscored by a slowed-down cover of Radiohead’s 2000 song “The National Anthem”, with shots of bloody violence, passionate sex and regal coronations shown throughout. The cover is performed by Riaya featuring Kinnship.

Napoleon will be released in the US over Thanksgiving weekend 2023, and arrive on Apple TV+ at a later date.

The trailer has prompted strong reactions on social media. While many praised the appearance of Scott’s film, others questioned the decision to have the leads speak in their own accents.

Questioning the use of the Radiohead cover in the trailer, one viewer commented: “The Napoleon movie definitely looks cool but the Radiohead cover is a baffling music choice.”

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“Bro Radiohead playing over Joaquin Phoenix using an American accent to play Napoleon is insane,” another commented.

“It should be a criminal offence to give Radiohead songs the slowed down indie trailer cover treatment,” another wrote. “This one is especially awful and is a really puzzling choice for a film about Napoleon.”

“This looks pretty good but man the ‘Radiohead vocal cover that’s autotuned beyond recognition but don’t worry it’s sung by a baritone and we changed the melody just for fun’ thing is so distracting. I do not need my Radiohead and my Napoleon mixing thank you very much,” one tweet read.

“Joaquin Phoenix looking exactly like himself, doing no accent, a decade plus older than the character he’s portraying. Pure Marlon Brando stuff here. Incredible,” one Twitter user wrote.

“Joaquin not even attempting an accent... good for him. Bare minimum effort king,” another joked.

While Napoleon marks Scott and screenwriter Scarpa’s first time working on a film together, the pair will also collaborate on Gladiator 2.

Filming is currently underway on the follow up to Scott’s Best Picture winner Gladiator, which was released in 2000 and starred Phoenix and Russell Crowe. Paul Mescal will lead Gladiator 2 as Lucius, the nephew of Phoenix’s Commodus.

Napoleon is released in cinemas on 22 November.

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