Luke Winkie in Slate Magazine:
Let’s get this out of the way up front: Napoleon Bonaparte was not short. Most contemporary sources put him at about 5-foot-6, typical of the average 19th-century Frenchman. He earned that apocryphal diminutive reputation from an English newspaper cartoonist named James Gillray at the dawn of the Napoleonic Wars. Gillray portrayed the emperor as a stormy, teensy-tiny toddler—flipping tables, stomping his feet—a likeness that swiftly became canonized across the world.
All of this is to say that the dimensions of Joaquin Phoenix (5-foot-8) fit neatly into a historically authentic Bonapartian silhouette, which is surely why Ridley Scott tapped him to play the leading man in the forthcoming epic Napoleon. What is less clear is whether or not Napoleon possessed the striking movie-star good looks—and almost uncanny facial symmetry—of someone like Phoenix. Scott certainly seems intent on making us think so. The first trailer for the film was released on Monday, giving us an initial taste of Joaquin in full Grande Armée regalia. I watched it over and over again, stuck on the same burning question. “Wait a minute, am I supposed to think that Napoleon was hot?”