Bringing history to life for Ridley Scott’s epic drama
For nearly five decades, Ridley Scott has created iconic cinematic moments across almost every genre. In Napoleon, Scott returns to the epic historical drama for a hotly anticipate biopic of the infamous miliary commander and Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. Joaquin Phoenix takes the lead role, portraying Napoleon’s swift rise to power from military commander to Emperor. It’s a reunion for Phoenix and Scott, who famously worked together on the Academy Award-winning Gladiator in 2000.
Randa Haddad, Outpost VFX Producer, said: “Our team was awarded a body of work on the show focusing on three distinct sequences: Napoleon’s ventures into Egypt as part of his Mediterranean campaign, where his army faces off with the Mamelukes; an attack on the French army in a Russian landscape; and a visit to the Château de Malmaison, the primary residence of Napoleon’s wife and confidante, Josephine.”
Each sequence would vary in scope and present the team with unique challenges. In the battle against the Mamelukes in Egypt, work would involve building the crowd of both forces, enhancing backgrounds with CG pyramids and the desert environment, and adding atmospherics during the confrontation between the two camps. Haddad continues:
“The highlight of that sequence for us was bringing to life Jean-Léon Gérôme’s famous painting of Napoleon before the Sphinx. The environment work on that specific shot was quite challenging as we wanted to do justice to the original work of art that became so iconic.”
The Moscow sequence would involve more crowd work, increasing the number of soldiers in each shot. The team would also add explosions and debris as the French force comes under attack during their perilous journey through the plains of Russia. The sequence would require Outpost’s multiple sites to work together seamlessly as they tackled the complex body of work.
For the Château de Malmaison, the team would focus on enhancing the château itself. Haddad adds: “We would work on a matte painting replacement of the château’s roof with a design that closely resembles the real-life residence, as well as other enhancements in the details of the building and its surroundings.”
Whether using Gérôme’s iconic landscape painting, or referencing the real-life Château de Malmaison, Outpost’s attention to detail would help build upon the authenticity, and feel, of the film’s historical setting.
Haddad continues: “This was an exciting project for us to take on. We had a great time working side by side with clients such as VFX Supervisor Charley Henley, VFX Producer Sarah Tulloch and their team to help bring Ridley’s vision to life.”