Vanessa Kirby to Replace Jodie Comer in Historical Drama 'Kitbag'

Jodie Comer in "The Last Duel" and Vanessa Kirby in "The Crown" (Photo: 20th Century Studios/Netflix)
Jodie Comer in "The Last Duel" and Vanessa Kirby in "The Crown" (Photo: 20th Century Studios/Netflix)

Fresh off his French medieval epic The Last Duel, directly Ridley Scott will turn his gaze to the Napoleonic era with Kitbagbut he won't be taking his most recent leading lady with him. 

Duel star Jodie Comer was initially attached to play Josephine Bonaparte in the upcoming drama, which is said to be an original and personal look at Napoleon's origins and his swift climb to ultimate power told through the lens of his volatile relationship with his wife. But now, thanks to COVID-related scheduling issues, Comer has had to bow out of the project. (And it sounds as though she's rather sad about it, according to the initial story in The Hollywood Reporter.)

“Unfortunately, due to COVID and changes of schedule, I don’t think I can make Kitbag work right now due to a scheduling conflict,” the actress told THR’s Scott Feinberg on his Awards Chatter podcast. She wasn’t thrilled about the development, calling it “rubbish.”

Production on Kitbagwhich would have seen Comer star opposite Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix as Josephine's husband, the infamous Emperor of France, will begin in Europe early this year. But the actress is slated to go into rehearsals for her first West End stage production - the one-woman play Prima Facie - in March, which will premiere in April and run through mid-June. Given the likely scope of Scott's epic, it seems almost impossible that Comer would have been able to shoot her role in time. (At least we'll still get to see her when the final season of Killing Eve premieres in February.)

Enter another actress well known for playing royalty - Vanessa Kirby, who will reportedly take over Comer's role as Empress of France. Kirby is probably most recognizable for her royal as the original Princess Margaret on Netflix's The Crown, but she received an Oscar nomination for buzzy drama Pieces of a Woman and has had major roles in blockbusters like Fast & the Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw and the latest Mission Impossible film. 

The real Josephine was six years older than Napoleon when the two married in 1796. (Phoenix is 14 years Kirby's senior, which is both eye-roll inducing and a slight bit of progress, as he is 19 years older than Comer!) The two divorced in 1810 as a result of Josephine's inability to produce an heir. But Napoleon remained in love with her despite their split and reportedly locked himself in a room for two full days at the news of her death just four years later.

“Napoleon is a man I’ve always been fascinated by,” Scott told Deadline last year. “He came out of nowhere to rule everything — but all the while he was waging a romantic war with his adulterous wife Joséphine. He conquered the world to try to win her love, and when he couldn’t, he conquered it to destroy her, and destroyed himself in the process.”

There's no release date scheduled forKitbag just yet, though it is expected to arrive on Apple TV+ at some time in 2023.