Brian Cox: Joaquin Phoenix Was ‘Truly Terrible’ in ‘Napoleon’ and ‘I Would Have Played It a Lot Better’

Brian Cox has never been one to withhold his true feelings, and at London’s HistFest the “Succession” star unloaded on a variety of topics Sunday night including politics, theater critics and Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon.”

“It’s terrible,” Cox said of the Oscar-nominated historical drama, per The Standard. “A truly terrible performance by Joaquin Phoenix. It really is appalling. I don’t know what he was thinking. I think it’s totally his fault and I don’t think Ridley Scott helps him. 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.”

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Cox then mused about Phoenix’s name: “I think he’s well named. Joaquin … wackeen … wacky. It’s a sort of wacky performance.”

Variety has reached out to representatives for both Cox and Phoenix.

Speaking more broadly, Cox bemoaned the sacrifice of historical accuracy for the sake of blockbuster filmmaking, a tension that Scott addressed often on the “Napoleon” press tour. (The director told historical fact checkers to “get a life” in an interview with The New Yorker.)

“’Braveheart’ is a load of nonsense,” Cox said, shifting his aim to Mel Gibson’s 1995 historical epic, in which Cox himself starred. “Mel Gibson was wonderful but it’s a load of lies. He never impregnated the French princess. It is a bollocks [sic] that film.”

Cox was a featured speaker at HistFest — a two-day event celebrating the intersection of arts, academics and history — in part to promote his lead performance in the West End production of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”

When asked to respond to theater critics comparing his theater role to “Succession’s” Logan Roy, he said “It’s stupid! Why make that comparison? It’s so obvious. Most critics are stupid. They really are. Theater criticism has gone right down the tubes. You think of those wonderful critics of the past, there’s nobody to match them now. Because they don’t do their homework.”

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Cox tirade without him going off on method acting — a topic he regularly breached when asked about his “Succession” co-star Jeremy Strong’s intense process.

“Oh no that’s all bollocks. It’s a kind of nonsense. We’re transmitters. That’s what we are as actors. We transmit energy,” Cox said, stressing that doing research for a role is far more important than inhabiting characters off camera. “You have to do your homework. That’s the delight of it, the information you get because you’re reading everything about Churchill and you’re building up a picture of who this person was.”

Cox also touched on politics, hinting that his time living in America may come to an end because of restrictive abortion laws and the possibility of Donald Trump being re-elected as president.

“It’s very hard to govern America and you certainly don’t need idiots like Trump doing that,” Cox said. “I do think that Biden is a good man but he’s too old.”

When asked if he would leave the U.S. if Trump returns to office, Cox said, “I probably will.”

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