It’s all but gospel now that Stanley Kubrick once conceived a perfect movie called AI, but died before he could make it, at which point Steven Spielberg took over and added an ending that was just him raining a warm piss stream on Kubrick’s dead face. Hey, that’s what people say. Well now, Spielberg tells French TV that he’s taken over another Kubrick project, working with Kubrick’s family on Kubrick’s famously ambitious but never executed screenplay about Napoleon, of which Kubrick once said “I expect to make the best movie ever made.” Interestingly, Spielberg plans to do it as a miniseries. Say what you will about AI, if this is half as good as Band of Brothers, I will watch until my eyes bleed.
Kubrick wrote the script in 1961 but ultimately abandoned the Napoleon biopic in the ’70s because of budget and production challenges. The late filmmaker is famed for his obsessive perfectionism, so his estate should find comfort working in the able hands of Spielberg. [THR]
Kubrick’s Napoleon project was so well-known that it even inspired an 1100-page coffee table book called “The Greatest Movie Never Made.” Impressive, considering a script is only about a hundred pages. ThePlaylist offers their cliff’s notes:
Originally proposed as his next project after “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Kubrick pitched the movie as a $5 million production (roughly $100 million in today’s dollars) with extraordinarily ambitious plans that included upwards of 30,000 men as extras for the battle scenes (remember, this was before CGI) as well as utilizing front projection techniques that he had recently used on ‘2001.’
The research was extensive and meticulous, with Kubrick using Felix Markham’s 1966 biography as a launching pad for his in-depth study that eventually grew to include extensive index cards kept on everyone in Napoleon’s life, and cross referenced to an exacting degree.
MGM had initially greenlit the movie, and United Artists were offered the project, but both grew wary after similar epics like “War & Peace” and “Waterloo” struggled financially.
Kubrick once contracted Anthony Burgess, who wrote A Clockwork Orange (the novel) to write a novel which would become the basis for his Napoleon movie. Kubrick rejected Burgess’s work, saying “Despite its considerable accomplishments, it does not, in my view, help solve either of the two major problems: that of considerably editing the events (and possibly restructuring the time sequence) so as to make a good story, without trivializing history or character, nor does it provide much realistic dialogue, unburdened with easily noticeable exposition or historical fact.” Burgess published the book anyway, Napoleon’s Symphony.
Meanwhile, I’m told, Spielberg has found a novel way to approach the material, in that he plans to tell the entire story from the perspective of Napoleon’s horse. I’d actually be most interested in the period of Napoleon’s life when he was exiled on Saint Helena way the hell out in the middle of the South Atlantic. But as long as they cover the day he spent at Raging Waters I’ll be happy.
Dig that soundtrack.