It has been coined “the greatest movie never made”– Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon, which is ironic, considering the director himself stated during preparation in the 1960’s that it would be “the greatest movie ever made”. It was going to be one of the most ambitious projects ever put to celluloid, as the rigorous taskmaster researched for years, reading a supposed 40 books, and scouting hundreds of locations. He had everything set except a budget and a cast, and even the massive extras he would need for the would-be fantastic battle scenes were going to be supplied by the Romanian Army, a total of nearly 50,000 men, including infantry and cavalry. It was going to be one of the most accurate and stunning movies…ever. Then what happened? How did one of the world’s greatest directors, fresh off his Academy Award-winning triumph 2001: A Space Odyssey not get such a project made? Well, in 1970, in the midst of Kubrick’s preparation, Sergei Bondarchuk’s epic film Waterloo bombed horrifically at the box office. While it included some of the greatest battle scenes ever filmed, the acting was wooden and hammy, and studios feared that American audiences could not handle another cinematic adventure involving military commanders and events that had nothing to do with America. And so the project was shelved for years…and years…and years, until finally all hope was lost; the director died before his dream would ever be realized.
There is so much awe surrounding this project, that the script and all his research material has been collected and published into a book called Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made. There were even some limited editions selling for thousands of dollars a year ago when I first stumbled upon it. People have long been taken aback by such work, and even more disappointed that no director ever wanted to step up and ask the Kubrick estate for permission to film the project. It’s a no-brainer really, considering all the work except actual filming and production is finished already. However, according to a report from Deadline: Hollywood, the dream many have been waiting forty years for may be coming to a reality. In fact, it’s not even a rumor, but a real piece of news. Steven Spielberg is currently working on turning Kubrick’s screenplay into a television mini-series. There is no word on whether or not he will direct it as well, and I would think not considering how busy it is, and how much work still needs to be done. The article does leave some interesting tidbits though, suggesting that whoever does make the film will not be allowed to veer off course, meaning what we will see will be as close to Kubrick’s vision as is humanly possible.
This could end up being one of the greatest historical dramas ever made, if done correctly. Knowing Kubrick, it is likely to be an outstanding example of cinematic scope, complete with sweeping battle scenes, stunning sets and wardrobes, and an intense dialogue filled with politics and military tactics. To the history buff, there probably could not be a more exciting project to ever come to fruition. Given the fact that the screenplay is 186 pages, and they are choosing to adhere pretty strictly to it, I’m not sure how long it will end up being. With plenty of battle scenes and additional photography, I would put it at around four hours, meaning it could be a four-part series. That is just speculation on my part, though. Either way, this is very exciting news and we will be following its development very closely.