March 21, 2022 2.00 pm

Ridley Scott’s Napoleon: How Lincoln Cathedral transformed into Notre Dame, roamed by Joaquin Phoenix

An exciting time for the city

The excitement of a Hollywood blockbuster was evident in Lincoln last week, as filming took place for director Ridley Scott’s latest movie, a biopic of Napoleon Bonaparte, starring Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix.

Ridley Scott’s latest film, which highlights the rise to power of Napoleon Bonaparte in the late 18th and early 19th century, appears to be using two working titles at the moment, switching between Napoleon, after the title character, and Marengo, a battle fought in June 1800 in Piedmont, Italy.

A casting agency issued an appeal in November 2021 for paid extras in Lincoln to appear in a new “period feature film” of Ridley Scott’s – the famous director who is best known for Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator.

It will be directed by Ridley Scott (left) and stars actors including Joaquin Phoenix (right). | Photo: IMDB

Starring in this film would be Joaquin Phoenix, with the Oscar-winning actor playing the main role of Napoleon, and Killing Eve star Jodie Comer was set to play the role of Empress Josephine, Napoleon’s first wife.

Comer was then replaced on the cast by fellow Brit Vanessa Kirby, a rising star who is most famous for playing Princess Margaret in the first two series of Netflix’s royal drama The Crown.

Lincoln Cathedral. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Notre Dame.

Playing a key role in the film will be Lincoln Cathedral, elected to depict the iconic French cathedral Notre Dame, which is a seemingly perfect fit given the structural similarities and cultural importance of both buildings.

The transition from Lincoln Cathedral to Notre Dame was not an overnight process, as crews arrived on Wednesday, March 9 for a week-long set up of the area to ensure it was ready to portray a Napoleonic era.

Film crews could be seen transporting the sculptures on Tuesday. | Photo: Ronnie Byrne for The Lincolnite

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Sculptures were brought into the cathedral, lorries were delivering items for the set, and extras were dressed in their best 18th century garments for the film shooting; it was a sight to behold in Lincoln.

Filming began in the city on Thursday, March 17, lasting two days. In that time, nearby homes and businesses were treated with the best seat in the house as Phoenix and Scott were both spotted outside the cathedral on Friday.

The job now that filming is complete is to clear the set and get nearby car parks and traffic restrictions lifted. For instance, Westgate car park and parking bays along Eastgate will be closed until March 24, which is when everything is set to be removed.

As well as this, Ravendale Sports Ground will also be out of action until around Tuesday, March 29, as it was used as a base camp for the film crew, and aluminium pads will need to be removed from the field.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Napoleon will be released on Apple TV+ in 2023, meaning you’ll have to wait until next year to see how Lincoln Cathedral looks on the Hollywood-standard cameras.

| Photo: Ronnie Byrne for The Lincolnite