Brian Cox blasts Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘terrible’ performance in ‘Napoleon’

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Brian Cox didn’t hold back during a recent live talk when he criticized Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in the historical drama Napoleon, calling it “truly terrible.”

Speaking candidly, Cox, 77, expressed his disbelief at the portrayal by Phoenix, 49, suggesting he could have delivered a much superior performance himself. “It’s terrible. A truly terrible performance by Joaquin Phoenix. It really is appalling. I don’t know what he was thinking,” he stated at London’s HistFest on Sunday, April 14, as reported by The Standard.

The Succession actor didn’t just lay the blame on Phoenix; he also criticized director Ridley Scott for his role in shaping the performance. “I would have played it a lot better than Joaquin Phoenix, I tell you that. You can say it’s good drama. No — it’s lies,” Cox remarked, adding a pun on Phoenix’s name: “I think he’s well named. Joaquin… whackeen… whacky. It’s a sort of whacky performance.”

Brian Cox
Cast member Brian Cox attends the press night after party for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” at The Londoner Hotel on April 2, 2024 in London, England. Cox recently criticized Joaquin Phoenix’s role in ‘Napoleon,’…

Alan Chapman/Dave Benett/Getty Images

The film, which was released in November 2023 by Apple Original Films, features Phoenix as the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and charts his rise to power alongside his relationship with Joséphine Bonaparte, portrayed by Vanessa Kirby. The film achieved significant box office success, grossing over $200 million worldwide and earning multiple Oscar nominations, it’s unclear why Cox slammed the Joker actor.

Joaquin Phoenix and Ridley Scott
Joaquin Phoenix and Ridley Scott during the premiere of the film ‘Napoleon’ at the Prado Museum, on November 20, 2023, in Madrid, Spain. Phoenix and Scott were both recently criticized by Brian Cox for their…

Jose Oliva/Europa Press via Getty Images)

Cox also voiced his frustration with theater critics, particularly those comparing his role in Succession to his stage performance in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. “It’s stupid! Why make that comparison? It’s so obvious. Most critics are stupid. They really are,” he lamented, denouncing the current state of theater criticism.

This isn’t the first time Cox has publicly criticized his peers. In his 2021 memoir, Putting the Rabbit in the Hat, the actor described Johnny Depp as “so overblown” and “overrated.” The actor later admitted on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2022 that he “was being a bit harsh,” adding, “You know what it’s like — you go for the easy joke. And I went for the easy joke.”

Cox has also criticized his Succession co-star, Jeremy Strong, for his method acting. In an interview with Town & Country in February 2023, the actor said, “He’s a very good actor. And the rest of the ensemble is all OK with this. But knowing a character and what the character does is only part of the skill set.”

Cox expressed frustration with Strong’s continual in-character behavior, describing it as “f–king annoying.” He further cautioned, “Don’t get me going on it.”