With Lincoln and this year’s Oscar ceremony firmly behind him, Steven Spielberg has set his sights on his next historical undertaking, which looks to be a biopic about Napoleon Bonaparte, based off a screenplay penned by the late Stanley Kubrick.
Spielberg told the French TV network Canal+ that he’s developing Kubrick’s abandoned script with the assistance of the deceased cinema legend’s family. Interestingly, the project is being shaped into a televised miniseries rather than a feature-length film.
Kubrick originally wrote a treatment for a Napoleon biography back in 1961, and — staying true to his detail-oriented, perfectionist nature — reportedly spent years researching his subject in preparation for shooting. Unfortunately, his film wasn’t meant to be; despite delving deep into pre-production in 1969, MGM shut the movie down over budgetary concerns. The silver lining, of course, is that Kubrick went on to make A Clockwork Orange, but it’s difficult not to imagine what Kubrick’s vision of Napoleon’s time as the emperor of France might have looked like.
It stands to reason that Spielberg’s sense of both the man and the era (1804-1815) will differ greatly from Kubrick’s, but his sense of professionalism and immaculate craftsmanship should keep Kubrick’s family quite happy. Providing additional reassurance is the fact that Spielberg has worked, albeit loosely, with Kubrick before; they allegedly engaged in lengthy discussions with one another back in the late ’90s over A.I. Artificial Intelligence before the latter passed away in March of 1999. To this day, Spielberg remains the only person to successfully have taken on one of Kubrick’s many unfinished works, which should speak to his chances for success with Napoleon (depending on how much like/hate A.I.). The cherry on top, of course, is Lincoln, which is an accomplished biopic and may be the best example in Spielberg’s body of work of his ability with establishing period settings.
This isn’t the first time in recent memory someone has toyed with the idea of resurrecting one of Kubrick’s old, forgotten scripts. Last fall, Entertainment One announced their intention to make his Civil War piece, Downslope, and a yarn about Canadian minister-turned-bank-robber Herbert Emerson Wilson, titled God Fearing Men, into a TV movie and a TV show, respectively. And three years ago, there was a strong rumor swirling around that Ang Lee would take the director’s chair for The Aryan Papers, Kubrick’s incomplete Holocaust movie. Of course, none of those endeavors actually came to fruition, but if anybody has the clout and the all-around will to cross the finish line with a scrapped Kubrick movie, it’s the Beard himself. In the meantime, Spielberg is busying himself with an adaptation of Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse.
Presently Napoleon is in the earliest stages of gestation, but Screen Rant will keep you apprised of his efforts on the miniseries we hear more about them.