Stanley Kubrick's unrealized projects

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Film director Stanley Kubrick worked on numerous film projects that were never completed.

The Burning Secret and Natural Child[edit]

In 1956, after the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M.G.M.) studio turned down a request from Kubrick and his producer partner James B. Harris to film Paths of Glory, MGM then invited Kubrick to review the studio's other properties. Harris and Kubrick discovered Stefan Zweig's novel The Burning Secret, in which a young baron attempts to seduce a young Jewish woman by first befriending her twelve-year-old son, who eventually realizes the actual motives of the baron. Kubrick was enthusiastic about the novel and hired novelist Calder Willingham to write a screenplay; however, Production Code restrictions hindered the realization of the project.[1] Kubrick had previously expressed interest in adapting a Willingham novel Natural Child, but was also prevented by the Production Code on that occasion.[2]


After the success of 2001, Kubrick planned a large-scale biographical film about Napoleon Bonaparte.[3] He "tried to see every film that was ever made on the subject," including Abel Gance's Napoléon and the Soviet film series War and Peace, neither of which he liked.[4] He also conducted research, read books about the French emperor, and wrote a preliminary screenplay which has since become available on the internet. With the help of assistants, he meticulously created a card catalog of the places and deeds of Napoleon's inner circle during its operative years. Kubrick scouted locations, planning to film large portions of the film on location in France, in addition to the use of United Kingdom studios. The director was also going to film the battle scenes in Romania and had enlisted the support of the Romanian army; senior army officers had committed 40,000 soldiers and 10,000 cavalrymen to Kubrick's film for the paper costume battle scenes.

In a conversation with the British Film Institute, Kubrick's brother-in-law Jan Harlan stated the film was set to enter production with David Hemmings as the title figure Napoleon (later, that role went to Jack Nicholson) and Audrey Hepburn as Kubrick's preference for the character Josephine. In notes that Kubrick wrote to his financial backers, preserved in the book The Kubrick Archives, Kubrick expresses uncertainty in regard to the progress of the Napoleon film and the final product; however, he also states that he expected to create "the best movie ever made."[5]

Napoleon was eventually canceled due to the prohibitive cost of location filming, the Western release of Sergei Bondarchuk's epic film version of Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace (1968), and the commercial failure of Bondarchuk's Napoleon-themed film Waterloo (1970). A significant portion of Kubrick's historical research would influence Barry Lyndon (1975), the storyline of which ends in 1789, approximately fifteen years prior to the commencement of the Napoleonic Wars.

In March 2013 Steven Spielberg announced his intention to create, in conjunction with Kubrick's family, a television miniseries based on Kubrick's screenplay.[6] In May 2016, HBO announced that they will produce a miniseries based on Kubrick's screenplay with Cary Fukunaga as director.[7]

Aryan Papers[edit]

In 1976, Kubrick sought out a film idea that concerned the Holocaust and tried to persuade Isaac Bashevis Singer to contribute an original screenplay. Kubrick requested a "dramatic structure that compressed the complex and vast information into the story of an individual who represented the essence of this man-made hell." However, Singer declined, explaining to Kubrick, "I don't know the first thing about the Holocaust."[8][9]

In the early 1990s, Kubrick nearly entered the production stage of a film adaptation of Louis Begley's Wartime Lies, the story of a boy and his aunt as they are in-hiding from the Nazi regime during the Holocaust—the first-draft screenplay, entitled Aryan Papers, was penned by Kubrick himself. Full Metal Jacket co-screenwriter Michael Herr reports that Kubrick had considered casting Julia Roberts or Uma Thurman as the aunt; eventually, Johanna ter Steege was cast as the aunt and Joseph Mazzello as the young boy. Kubrick traveled to the Czech city of Brno, as it was envisaged as a possible filming location for the scenes of Warsaw during wartime, and cinematographer Elemér Ragályi was selected by Kubrick to be the director of photography.[10]

Kubrick's work on Aryan Papers eventually ceased in 1995, as the director was influenced by the 1993 release of Spielberg's Holocaust-themed film Schindler's List. According to Kubrick's wife Christiane an additional factor in Kubrick's decision was the increasingly depressing nature of the subject as experienced by the director. Kubrick eventually concluded that an accurate Holocaust film was beyond the capacity of cinema and returned his attention to the A.I. Artificial Intelligence film project.[11]

Shadow on the Sun[edit]

In the early 1960s, Kubrick, a keen listener of BBC Radio, heard the radio serial drama Shadow on the Sun; written by Gavin Blakeney, Shadow on the Sun is a work of science fiction in which a virus is introduced to earth through a meteorite landing.[12][13] At a time when Kubrick was looking for a new project, the director became reacquainted with Shadow on the Sun. Kubrick purchased screen rights from Blakeney in 1988 for £1,500.[14] Thereon, Kubrick read and annotated a script before moving onto A.I. Artificial Intelligence.[13] The tone of the unrealized project, as described by Anthony Frewin in The Kubrick Archives, is a cross between War of the Worlds and Mars Attacks!.[15]

Lunatic at Large[edit]

On November 1, 2006, Kubrick's son-in-law Philip Hobbs announced that he would be shepherding a film treatment of Lunatic at Large. Kubrick had commissioned the project for treatment from noir pulp novelist Jim Thompson in the 1950s, but it had been lost until Hobbs uncovered a manuscript following Kubrick's death.[16] As of August 2011, this project is in development for future release, with the involvement of actors Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell, and U.K. screenwriter Stephen R. Clarke.[17]

Unreleased screenplays[edit]

A number of screenplays that were written by Kubrick, who was either hired on a commission basis or was writing for his own projects, remain unreleased. One such screenplay is The German Lieutenant (co-written with Richard Adams), in which a group of German soldiers embark upon a mission during the final days of World War II;[18] During the time period when The German Lieutenant was planned as Kubrick's next production, the director explained his interest in making another war film:

... one of the attractions of a war or crime story is that it provides an almost unique opportunity to contrast an individual of our contemporary society with a solid framework of accepted value, which the audience becomes fully aware of, and which can be used as a counterpoint to a human, individual, emotional situation. Further, war acts as a kind of hothouse for forced, quick breeding of attitudes and feelings. Attitudes crystallize and come out into the open.[19]

Other examples of unreleased Kubrick screenplays are I Stole 16 Million Dollars, a fictionalized account of early 20th century Baptist minister turned safecracker Herbert Emmerson Wilson (the film was to be produced by Kirk Douglas' company "Bryna", despite Douglas' belief that the script was poorly written, and Cary Grant was approached for the lead role);[20] and a first draft of a script about the Mosby Rangers, a Confederate guerrilla force that was active during the American Civil War.[21]

Kubrick was also interested in adapting to the screen Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, but it was cancelled due for the explicit incestuous relationship between the two main characters.[citation needed]

Other projects[edit]

Kubrick was fascinated by the career of Nazi filmmaker Veit Harlan, his wife's uncle, and contemplated creating a film of the social circle that surrounded Joseph Goebbels. Although Kubrick worked on this project for several years, the director was unable to progress beyond a rough story outline.[22]

Umberto Eco, in response to an offer from Kubrick regarding a film adaptation of Eco's 1988 novel Foucault's Pendulum, declined due to his dissatisfaction with the film adaptation of his earlier novel The Name of the Rose. Additionally, Eco sought the role of screenwriter but Kubrick was unwilling to cooperate. Following Kubrick's death, Eco stated that he regretted his initial decision.[23]

Prior to the commencement of work for 2001, Terry Southern suggested the production of a high-budget pornographic film called Blue Movie to Kubrick; Southern proposed the film as an attempt to reinvent the genre. Kubrick decided against Southern's suggestion in the belief that he did not have the appropriate temperament for pornographic cinema; also, Kubrick did not think that he could sufficiently reinvent the genre to truly elevate it. At the same time, Southern had begun writing a novel, also entitled Blue Movie (published in 1970), in which a highly regarded art film director named "Boris Adrian" attempts to create such a film—the book is dedicated to Kubrick.[24]

Following J. R. R. Tolkien's sale of the film rights for The Lord of the Rings to United Artists in 1969, the rock band The Beatles considered a corresponding film project and approached Kubrick as a potential director; however, Kubrick turned down the offer, explaining to John Lennon that he thought the novel could not be adapted into a film due to its immensity.[25][26] The eventual director of the film adaptation Peter Jackson further explained that a major hindrance to the project's progression was Tolkien's opposition to the involvement of the Beatles.[27]

Kubrick also considered adapting Patrick Süskind's novel Perfume, which he had enjoyed; however, the idea was never acted upon.[28] The novel was later adapted for the screen by Tom Tykwer, as Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.[29]

Kubrick, searching for a project after Full Metal Jacket, considered adapting Robert Marshall's novel All the King's Men, a dramatic account of a British intelligence service operation during World War II.[30][31]

While working with Ian Watson on the story for A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Kubrick asked Watson for a pre-print copy of his Warhammer 40,000 tie-in novel Inquisitor. Watson quotes Kubrick as saying, "Who knows, Ian? Maybe this is my next movie?"[32]

Following a 2010 announcement about the development of the Lunatic at Large project, plans for the prospective production of two other unrealized Kubrick projects were also announced.[17] As of August 2012, Downslope and God Fearing Man were in development by Philip Hobbs and producer Steve Lanning, in partnership with independent company Entertainment One (eOne). A press release described Downslope as an "epic Civil War drama", while God Fearing Man is the "true story of Canadian minister Herbert Emerson Wilson."[33]

In a March 2013, Anthony Frewin, Kubrick's assistant for many years, wrote in an article in The Atlantic: "He [Kubrick] was limitlessly interested in anything to do with Nazis and desperately wanted to make a film on the subject." The article included information on another Kubrick World War II film that was never realized, based on the life story of Dietrich Schulz-Koehn, a Nazi officer who used the pen name "Dr. Jazz" to write reviews of German music scenes during the Nazi era. Kubrick had been given a copy of the Mike Zwerin book Swing Under the Nazis (the front cover of which featured a photograph of Schulz-Koehn) after he had finished production on Full Metal Jacket. However, a screenplay was never completed and Kubrick's film adaptation plan was never initiated (the unfinished Aryan Papers was a factor in the abandonment of the project).[34]

In between Eyes Wide Shut and A.I., Kubrick was interested in making a film, for children and young adults, based on H. Rider Haggard's viking epic novel, Eric Brighteyes.[35]

In 2016, long-time assistant of Kubrick's, Emilio D'Alessandro addressed that prior to his death, Kubrick was considering making a movie of Pinocchio. D'Alessandro said that Kubrick sent him to buy Italian books about Pinocchio. "He wanted to make it in his own because so many Pinocchios have been made. He wanted to do something really big… He said; 'It would [be] very nice if I could make children laugh and feel happy making this Pinocchio.'" (Kubrick eventually used the project based on Brian Aldiss short story as his "Pinocchio film.") D'Alessandro also stated that Kubrick's life-long fascination in World War II led to an interest in The Battle of Monte Cassino. D'Alessandro said, "Stanley said that would be an interesting film to make. He asked me to get hold of things … like newspaper cuttings and find out the distance from the airport, train stations. He had a friend who actually bombarded Monte Cassino during the war … It is horrible to remember those days. Everything was completely destroyed.”[36][37]


  1. ^ Cocks 2004, p. 151.
  2. ^ Cocks 2004, p. 149.
  3. ^ Darryl Mason (5 October 2000). "The greatest movie Stanley Kubrick never made". Salon. Salon Media Group, Inc. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Gelmis, Joseph (1970). The Film Director as Superstar. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. p. 298. 
  5. ^ Castle 2009.
  6. ^ "Spielberg to develop Kubrick's Napoleon for TV". BBC News. Retrieved 2013-03-03. 
  7. ^ Romano, Nick. "Is Stanley Kubrick's Legendary 'Napoleon' Headed to HBO with Cary Fukunaga Directing?". Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  8. ^ Cocks et al 2006, p. 196.
  9. ^ Cocks 2004.
  10. ^ Gyárfás Dóra (25 April 2012). "Scarlett Johansson feltűnően butuska kislány volt". [origo] filmklub (in Hungarian). Minden jog fenntartva. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  11. ^ Cocks, Geoffrey (2 March 2006). "(Review of) The wolf at the door: Stanley Kubrick, history & the Holocaust (review)". Screening the past. Archived from the original on January 17, 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  12. ^ Madeline Church (3 April 2004). "Dear weekend Over to you". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Jon Ronson (27 March 2004). "Citizen Kubrick". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  14. ^ Madeline Church (3 April 2004). "Dear weekend Over to you". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  15. ^ Castle, Alison, ed., pp. 517
  16. ^ "New "Kubrick Film" To Be Made". IMDb., Inc. 31 October 2006. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Kevin Jagernauth (22 August 2011). "Financing Nears On 'Lunatic At Large'; 2 More Unmade Kubrick Projects Continue Toward Production". indiewire. A SnagFilms Co. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  18. ^ Frederick J. Chiaventone; Jean-François Allaire. "The Untitled Deadpool Column". TNMC. TNMC. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  19. ^ Stanley Kubrick (2001). Stanley Kubrick: Interviews. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 6–. ISBN 978-1-57806-297-3. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  20. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (March 4, 2013). "The Lost & Unmade Projects Of Stanley Kubrick". The Playlist. IndieWire. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  21. ^ Ciment 1982. Online at: Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange: An interview with Michel Ciment
  22. ^ Joan Dupont (15 September 2001). "Kubrick Speaks, Through Family's Documentary". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  23. ^ Ben Naparstek (15 December 2007). "The Armani of literature". The Age. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  24. ^ Baxter 1997, pp. 194-195.
  25. ^ Drout 2006, p. 15.
  26. ^ See also interview in "Show" magazine vol. 1, Number 1 1970
  27. ^ "Beatles plan for Rings film". CNN. 2004-01-20. 
  28. ^ Baxter 1997, pp. 332, 360.
  29. ^ "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer". BBC Two. BBC. 2013. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  30. ^ Patrick Webster (2010). Love and Death in Kubrick: A Critical Study of the Films from Lolita Through Eyes Wide Shut. McFarland. pp. 245–. ISBN 978-0-7864-6191-2. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  31. ^ Robert Marshall (7 November 2012). All the King’s Men. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4482-1056-5. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  32. ^ "Plumbing Stanley Kubrick". 2000. Retrieved 26 September 2014. 
  33. ^ Matt Goldberg (29 August 2012). "eOne to Develop TV Projects DOWNSLOPE and GOD FEARING MAN Based on Screenplays by Stanley Kubrick". IndieClick Film Network. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  34. ^ James Hughes (25 March 2013). "Stanley Kubrick's Unmade Film About Jazz in the Third Reich". The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  35. ^ The Stanley Kubrick Archive Oral History Project: Finding and Developing the Story
  36. ^ Murthi, Vikram. "Stanley Kubrick Was Preparing To Remake "Pinocchio" Before His Death". IndieWire. Retrieved 28 March 2017. 
  37. ^ Alberge, Dalya. "Stanley Kubrick was planning children's film before his death". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2017.