Spielberg Planning To Adapt Kubrick's Unmade Napoleon Movie Into A TV Miniseries

From Kubrick's archives of Napoleon R&D.

From Kubrick’s archives of Napoleon R&D.

Stanley Kubrick reportedly once said that AI was a project better suited to Steven Spielberg. Sadly, that fit actually came to be tested after Kubrick passed away without shooting the film and Spielberg later adapted Kubrick’s notes and scripts into a new movie of his own.

Similarly, Kubrick never realised his desire to make a picture about Napoleon. He spent a very long time working on the project, amassed an incredible amount of research materials and even completed multiple drafts of the screenplay – and much of this material has since been published for the public to peruse.

And history is repeating itself, with Spielberg now coming on board to see the Napoleon plans through to fruition. Speaking to the show Le JT on Canal Plus, Spielberg said he’s working on bringing the project to TV. As a producer? Director?

Well, as per The Playlist‘s transcript, Spielberg’s full commentary on the prospect runs to just two sentences:

I’ve been developing Stanley Kubrick’s screenplay, for a miniseries not for a motion picture, about the life of Napoleon. Kubrick wrote the script in 1961, a long time ago.

Not a lot to go on. And he’s a few years out on that date too, but whatever.

This isn’t the only unfinished Kubrick project headed to TV. EOne have announced plans to realise the incomplete screenplays Downslope and God Fearing Man as TV programmes. Here’s an excerpt from their press release of last August:

Written by Stanley Kubrick and based on a true story by Civil War historian Shelby Foote, Downslope is an epic Civil War drama following the activities of Confederate Army Colonel John S. Mosby and his plot to settle the score after Custer captures and hangs several of his men.

Based on a screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and adapted for television by Brit screenwriter Stephen R. Clarke, God Fearing Man tells the true story of Canadian minister Herbert Emerson Wilson who became one of the best safe-crackers and most successful bank robbers in America in the early 20 th century.

That’s an awful lot of quasi-Kubrick headed to the small screen in the next few years, should all go to plan.

I’m of the mind that Spielberg didn’t do AI any, or at least many favours. At the same time, Kubrick obviously had some trouble satisfying himself with the Napoleon project. I can’t say I’m feeling too confident about this new TV project.

Still, I was rather taken with Lincoln, more so than any other Spielberg film, at the very least since ET. What chance he could get Tony Kushner in to take a look at the Napoleon script? He’s definitely shown some facility with taking a story on this scale and making it connect at a character level as well as thematic and narrative – and that’s not so easy.

I don’t really expect Kubrick would really like the idea of this project being consigned to the small screen. I’m sure that if he were still with us, Kubrick would love the quality of the best TV work we’re seeing today, but not the little, corner-of-the-room presentation. Kubrick was a lover of cinema.

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