April 8, 2009
by Brandon Lee Tenney
Al Pacino is a legend in his own right. He's played countless iconic characters, uttered famous lines in famous scenes of famous films. And he's set to do it again. The actor has long been interested in playing one of the most complex and infamous characters in human history: Napoleon Bonaparte. With Betsy and the Emperor, he's finally going to get his chance, according to THR. The film is to be the screen adaptation of Staton Rabin's children's book "Betsy and the Emperor", about Napoleon's last five years in exile on the island of St. Helena and his interactions with the teenage daughter, Miss Betsy Balcombe, of his jailer.
The script was written by Brian Edgar and the film will be directed by John Curran, of We Don't Live Here Anymore and The Painted Veil. Previously, French director Patrice Chereau (Queen Margot, Intimacy) was on-board at Warner Brothers, with Pacino attached then as well, but Killer Films now has the reigns.
Betsy and the Emperor is, at its core, a character drama. Even though the source material is written for a younger audience, the relationships are complex and its themes of understanding, power, and social roles are deep. No word yet on who will play Betsy, but as she has to go toe-to-toe with one of the most intense screen presences ever, she better be top-caliber. Emma Watson seems like an obvious candidate to me.
And speaking of the young starlet, she just so happens to be attached to what looks to be an entirely separate project with a very similar plot. While scouring IMDb, I found that Watson is already set to play Betsy Balcombe in Napoleon and Betsy, the story of fallen French Emperor Napoleon during his last years on the island of St. Helena when he falls in love with a young English girl. Something fishy is going on here. Either we have a case of Deep Impact/Armageddon on our hands, or these two projects are one in the same. Regardless, I'm still quite excited to see Pacino's take on the diminutive Frenchman. How about you?