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Everything Ridley Scott and Apple have said about the extended Napoleon cut


Napoleon, Ridley Scott’s 157-minute epic on (who else) Napoleon Bonaparte, is now finally streaming on Apple TV Plus. The two-and-a-half-hour film captures Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon, and his rise as a Great Man, a great general, and a great little fucking weirdo. In particular, the movie is concerned with how his graceless climb led him to claim France (and beyond) for himself, while also constantly being bodied by his wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais (Vanessa Kirby, aka the new Sue Storm). He is never chill, but he is always, as Polygon’s Joshua Rivera put it in his review, “history’s most accomplished cuck.”

Even at two hours and 38 minutes, Napoleon has to strip out a lot of Napoleon to tell its story. Luckily, before the release, Scott promised there is a longer cut, the directorial vision he prefers. So when will that version be viewable on Apple? Well, that’s tricky.

Scott first announced a “fantastic” four-and-a-half-hour cut in September, stating that the longer cut featured even more of Joséphine. In October, Scott went further, telling Total Film Magazine that the four-and-a-half-hour cut was currently in production, with “I’m working on it. It was four [hours] 10 [minutes] this morning,” Scott told the magazine at the time. “And so what will happen is, we’ll screen [the theatrical cut] first with Sony, and then it has its run, and then the perfect thing is that [the director’s cut] goes to streaming, and we have four hours 10 minutes.”

Apple, in response, said nothing, and did not reply to Polygon’s request for comment.

By November, Scott seemed to be explaining to Sky News that there was no longer an extended cut at all, citing the “bum ache factor” of people getting weary in their seats. “I think that’s what the director’s cut is – the two and a half hour – that’s the truth of it,” he said. “Because I learned early on, basically from all the films I’ve done, but also from early days as a commercial maker. Am I communicating and how tight can I be to communicate and say everything I want?”

Napoleon’s coronation, in which the newly-crowned Emperor of France stands in his regalia and places a crown on his wife Josephine in the film Napoleon

Image: Apple TV Plus

In December, co-writer David Scarpa told IndieWire the version in theaters was “better” and “a pretty concise version” without the stuff that got left on the cutting room floor. “I have seen what’s in the longer version. It works better, like most movies, in a tighter form. It gained a lot through the editing,” Scarpa said. “Forget what’s on the cutting room floor, there’s also what is not there from earlier drafts, a ton of stuff never wound up going before the camera. There were other battles and those I’m glad [got caught] because we would have bogged down.”

Meanwhile, Apple has continued to say nothing on whether the movie would be coming to the platform at all.

If it seems like it’s confusing if the director’s cut exists, is being released, or is even championed by Scott anymore, that’s because it is. But also: If there’s anybody who’s going to pull a worthwhile director’s cut out of nowhere, it’s Scott. While there may be more high-profile campaigns for a specific director’s cut, Scott has frequently (even quietly) rereleased his films with an alternate version to the theatrical cut, notably including Kingdom of Heaven, The Counselor, and, of course, Blade Runner (which actually has quite a few “final” cuts from Scott). All of these expand the run times and also alter the scope of the movies. He is also no stranger to “director’s cuts” that he largely disavows, like Alien or Black Hawk Down.

Even with its already lengthy run time, Napoleon felt like only part of the story to me, like there were conversations just out of earshot, whole scenes cut away to distill the story down to what it is. That’s what makes me so curious about the mythical four-hour cut, and all the Joséphine pleasures it might hold. Two hours and 38 minutes is a lot of movie, but Ridley “Final Cut” Scott knows what to do with an extra hour and a half — if he wants to, anyway.

Napoleon is now streaming on Apple TV Plus.


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