Posted on Monday, January 10th, 2011 by Russ Fischer
One of the more legendary unrealized films is Stanley Kubrick‘s planned film about Napoleon. The director did an amazing amount of research, eventually claiming to have read five hundred books on the subject. He wrote a script (read it here) and planned to shoot the film on location in France and Romania, with additional work in studio space in the UK. The project became his focus after 2001, but it was never made due to a variety of factors that included low box office for competing films and the high cost of production. All we have are a collection of documents, photos and designs related to the film. Fortunately, there are a great many of those. Read one in which Mr. Kubrick lays out plans for shooting, after the break.
Letters of Note presents both a draft of the Napoleon production outline, and a letter sent to the director by Audrey Hepburn politely declining his offer of the role of Josephine. Neither document is entirely new to the web, and you can see both in the tome Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made, by Alison Castle.
But if you’re new to the story of the proposed film, this unfinished document is wonderful, in part because the director states “It’s impossible to tell you what I’m going to do except to say that I expect to make the best movie ever made.”
Instead of making Napoleon, the director shot A Clockwork Orange, and soon after incorporated some of the research he’d done for Napoleon into Barry Lyndon. (That’s a production photo from that film at the head of this post.) Stanley Kubrick continued to talk about the Napoleon film into the ’80s, but as his production pace slowed, the film never came to fruition.