Napoleon (2023) is a spectacle-filled action epic that details the chequered rise and fall of the iconic Napoleon Bonaparte, played by Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix and revolves around his stormy relationship with his Empress Josephine, played by Vanessa Kirby.
The locations of Napoleon
The renowned director Ridley Scott and his team sought to find authentic locations rather than rely on constructed sets and CGI to set the scene that could double for the palaces and stately homes that were the backdrop to Napoleon’s life. Production designer Arthur Max found many of these in the UK:
‘There is enough Neo-classical architecture in England to make it possible, probably because a lot of the design that comes out of France and England is based on Italian classic Palladian architecture’
“Located in Northamptonshire, one of the more magnificent locations was just a three-hour drive from London. Coined the “English Versailles,” Boughton House served as Napoleon’s chateau, which Max notes “was built in the 18th century by a Francophile – an Englishman who loved French architecture looks just like a French chateau in a beautiful estate, with hundreds of acres, sheep and horses grazing and beautiful old oak trees everywhere.” Initially a Tudor building, the owner turned it into a stunning French manor.”
Filming Napoleon at Boughton House
Boughton was created to show William III the latest and greatest of French style and its retained heritage is why the production team fell in love with Boughton. With much of the House and its contents replicating the grandeur of the French aristocrats before the revolution, Boughton was able to provide the authentic look and feel for several key moments in the film.
After several weeks of painstaking preparation, filming took place over three long days and nights in March 2022, with both Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby, supporting cast and several hundred crew. It ranks alongside Les Misérables (2012) as the biggest production ever to take place at Boughton.
Parts of Boughton were transformed into several key locations:
- Chateau De Bonaparte,
- a Military Barracks and
- Napolean’s apartments on the Rue De Mail.
Setting the Scene
A huge amount of production design was required to capture the exact look that the Director and his team wanted – although the House is mostly 17th/18th century, anything modern had to be disguised, covered up or moved. The team at Boughton worked closely with them at every stage – not just to ensure they got what they wanted but also to protect the world-renowned Buccleuch collection that make it such a unique location.
Every scene was carefully pre-planned with storyboards, but Ridley Scott and his cinematographer Dariusz Wolski would decide where to position the cameras when they were on location, which meant every corner of each room had to be ready to be on camera.
It took days to dress the house, including moving paintings and furniture for the three intensive days of filming. It was a fascinating experience, hard work but fulfilling for the team at Boughton, as Charles Lister, Property Manager, describes:
“The cast and crew were incredible – professional, dedicated and very respectful of the house especially considering the long days and the temperature and this was matched by the home team. All the challenges of such a huge production were overcome and it was a great experience to be part of.”
Visit the Filming Locations at Boughton
If you would like to visit the spaces above that were used as Napoleon filming locations, we welcome you to enjoy the Great Hall Experience/Tour. This tour, which can be free flow or a guided tour, depending on the date of visit, takes in the rooms used by Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby and the cast and crew.