Ridley Scott is not having it with viewers dinging his latest opus, Napoleon. Earlier this month, the Alien director addressed those fixating on the historical inaccuracies of his film during an interview with the New Yorker by saying, “Get a life.” Now, he’s submitted an equally dismissive response to his French critics, who’ve slammed the movie for its “very anti-French and very pro-British” perspective.
“The French don’t even like themselves,” Scott told the BBC. “The audience that I showed it to in Paris, they loved it.”
According to the BBC, publications including the French newspaper Le Figaro and French GQ mocked the film, including, in the former’s case, by taunting that it could be called “Barbie and Ken under the Empire.”
Scott and his film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as the titular French military leader and emperor, have run afoul of French historians before. In August, when Scott said his film compares Napoleon to despots like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, the emperor’s defenders decried what they believed to be a limited, Anglo-Saxon perspective.
Speaking with The Times back then, Pierre Branda—academic director of the research nonprofit Fondation Napoléon—said the the comparison was jarring: “While Hitler and Stalin built nothing and only wrought destruction, Napoleon built things that are still in place today.”
Branda further added that the United Kingdom’s former prime minister Winston Churchill urged against the comparison between Hitler and Napoleon. “He would tell his staff, ‘I forbid you from saying that,’” Branda said.
Cultural perspective aside, TV historian Dan Snow—whom Scott told to “get a life” via the New Yorker—previously pointed out that certain details in the film’s trailer appeared to be inaccurate. (For instance: Napoleon was not present for Marie Antoinette’s execution, and she had “very cropped hair” at the time.)
Scott, however, doesn’t seem interested in hearing anyone’s opinions about his research. Speaking with the BBC, the director challenged any would-be critics who might speak against it: “Were you there? Oh, you weren’t there. Then how do you know?”
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