"I can read all the books in the world on him, but instead, because the film is such a large event, I rely on my very good team," Scott tells EW. "My team does marvelous military costumes like I've never seen before. The costumes are mind-blowing, and then I have a military expert for cause-and-effect battle sequences. That's all coordinated. I plan it, in a funny kind of way, a little bit like a battle."
Just as a military commander like Napoleon Bonaparte might coordinate a battle plan beforehand with his general staff, Scott needed to meet regularly with the heads of various departments in order to plan massive sequences… like, say, Napoleon's invasion of Russia, which you can glimpse in EW exclusive photos below.
Courtesy of Sony PIctures / Apple Original Films Joaquin Phoenix in 'Napoleon.'
Aidan Monaghan Joaquin Phoenix in 'Napoleon.'
"When you do a film like this, you have to have all your department heads edge around the table regularly," Scott says. "We have meetings once a week, and we go page by page. Page one, I have a problem. What's the problem? And then on to page two. We fly through it like that because everybody's in the picture and the left hand always knows what the right hand is doing."
The new film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte and Vanessa Kirby as wife Josephine. Scott wanted to make their romance the center of the movie, but still chronicle the highlights of Napoleon's extensive military career. Over the course of a single decade, the commander led a revolutionary French army against the other great powers of Europe, and succeeded for years — even bringing the Holy Roman Empire to an end after breaking their army at Austerlitz.
For all Napoleon's brilliance on the battlefield, he severely miscalculated his invasion of Russia. In these photos, you can see his arrival in Moscow — which was deserted when he arrived. Soon, it was burning.
Courtesy of Sony Pictures/Apple Original Films Joaquin Phoenix in 'Napoleon.'
Courtesy of Sony Pictures/Apple Original Films Moscow burns in 'Napoleon.'
"I don't think he was, in any shape or form, naive," Scott says. "He would have known very much what a Russian winter could do — and yet he went in a little late and stayed a little too long. And while he was in Moscow, he found the city was deserted. He wanted confrontation to see who could do what to who, but it was not what he expected. There wasn't much facing off on the battlefield, like there was at Waterloo. The Russians employed a very efficient group called the Cossacks who did a lot of hit-and-run continual harassment."
"What happened with the burning of Moscow," Scott continues, "was he became even more impressed by what the Russians would do to obviate a loss. In a way, they neutralized his victory."
After tearing across Europe for years, Napoleon's career finally came to an end on the remote island of Saint Helena, where he died at the relatively young age of 51. Scott, though, never wants his filmmaking struggle to end.
"These kinds of films are like climbing a mountain," Scott says. "At the ground level, the peak looks a long way off. But as you climb up the hill with your partners in this ridiculously challenging LEGO kit of information you're trying to put together, sometimes pieces don't fit and you're already at 20,000 feet. It's a continual day-by-day process, but that's why I do it. I love it."
Napoleon is set to hit theaters on Nov. 22.
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