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Actors, producers, directors … Napoleon continues to inspire cinema



He is one of the most represented historical figures on screen. While France commemorates the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death, the emperor has appeared more than 700 times in cinema and nearly 300 times on television, played in turn by Marlon Brando, Raymond Pellegrin and Rod Steiger. And even 200 years after his death, the vein is not yet about to run out.

If he is not the best known of the long list of actors who played Napoleon, the Corsican actor Eric Fraticelli was perhaps the one who came closest to him in terms of origins. In any case, it is for this reason that a Russian director contacted him for a production released in 2012. “He had among his stars for the film a Polish actor, known in Russia. The director told him: ‘I am looking for a Napoleon who is really Corsican and who has his size and the same age'”, tells franceinfo Eric Fraticelli. And I have the particularity of having the same height and of being also born in 69, even if it is not the same century “.

In the early 2000s, Napoleon was played by two French stars, Christian Clavier in a TV movie in several episodes and Philippe Torreton in Mr. N directed by Antoine de Caunes.

Each time with the seriousness and interiority that we attribute to the character, and to which Eric Fraticelli has not escaped either. “I think he was someone who would have liked to take life lightly but he felt taken with a responsibility, he explains. For him, he had a role to play in the world. And suddenly I made a guy who was constantly worried, focused, thinking … And that helped me, suddenly, to build my character “.

The Corsican actor saw that Napoleon remained a superstar in eastern Europe, with trips organized on the set in Poland. Eric Fraticelli even met Vladimir Putin, whom he briefly offended by calling him “Tsar”.

200 years after his death, Napoleon is still in the news of the cinema. Frenchman Abel Gance’s 1927 masterpiece is being restored by the Cinémathèque with Netflix as patron, and Ridley Scott is preparing a 2023 film about the Emperor’s youth with actor Joaquin Phoenix.

The incarnations of Napoleon on the screen: report by Matteu Maestracci

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