Steven Spielberg announced at Cannes Film Festival in March that he would be producing Stanley Kubrick’s un-filmed masterpiece, Napoleon, for HBO. Kubrick, in a letter to Hollywood Studios in 1971, stated that it would be “The best movie ever made”.
Kubrick did extensive research on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte and set his ideal cast, with Audrey Hepburn and Oskar Werner in the leading roles. However, he passed away, having never seen his dream realized after the studio pulled funding, seeing it as too much of a risk. Now it may just come to the small screen, with Spielberg and Baz Luhrmann at the helm, two directors who would be the least likely to honor the script as Kubrick had intended it.
Stanley Kubrick’s body of work included movies like Full Metal Jacket and A Clockwork Orange. His adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining was laden with even more sinister undertones, and an ending changed from the book to be even more bleak, no subconscious hero’s death for Jack, just eternity, where the anger and the party never ends.
His films are a stark contrast to the gleaming, retro-contemporary, larger than life works of Baz Luhrmann, of Romeo + Juliet, and The Great Gatsby fame, and Spielberg, who seems to believe that every movie has to have a happy ending, including Kubrick’s movie A.I. Artificial intelligence, which in his original script was far more seedy and sexual in tone, but Spielberg saw fit to tone it down for mass consumption.
There is also a distinct point in which the majority believed it had been originally intended to end. But a happier ending seemed to be tacked on, and the much more impactful dystopian ending was exchanged for an overly sentimental conclusion, involving a loving future robot race, making little discernible sense. Summing up, the last mash up of the two directors garnered mixed reviews at best, so to imagine a successful adaptation of Kubrick’s cherished biopic, with the glitz of Baz luhrmann added is nearly unimaginable.
If stunning visuals are the goal, there are far better suited directors to the task, such as Julie Taymor, who was behind Frida, Across the Universe, and the brutal production of Titus, which starred Anthony Hopkins in the title role. Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, and television writer Bryan Fuller (Hannibal), are a few more that are no strangers to dramatic visuals, that could fall in line with Kubrick’s more somber style. Contemplating what is to come, it is hard to determine whether Stanley Kubrick would be jumping for joy at the thought that a Baz Luhrmann Napoleon movie based on his script will finally be made, or if he would be rolling in his grave.