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Write On: 'Napoleon' Writer David Scarpa

December 12, 2023
2 min read time

“We can’t make Lawrence of Arabia anymore – not that that’s not a good movie, but it’s kind of a thing of the past,” says screenwriter David Scarpa about writing the script for Napoleon.

Scarpa says both he and director Ridley Scott wanted to bring a freshness to the historical figure from our history books by, “Showing the more irreverent, dark, more psychologically motivated side of [Napoleon].”

In our conversation, we dig into writing the battle scenes at Toulon and Austerlitz and how to know when to stick to history and when to embellish scenes for dramatic effect.

We also talk about the complicated relationship between Napoleon and Josephine, played by Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby, respectively, in the film, and how the power dynamics shift through the movie.

And if you’re wondering why Josephine has short, spiky hair at the beginning of the film – Scarpa gives an explanation based on the shocking fashion trends of the time period that will make your blood run cold.     

David also gives his expert advice on tackling historical figures and finding the scintillating details that may have been lost to history.  “[Take] those little moments that tell a part of the story that you wouldn’t have otherwise known and then expand on those. Find things that are so small, they’re relatable on a human level,” says Scarpa.



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