Following 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick planned a historical epic based on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. Before writing the screenplay, the lauded director embarked on an in-depth research mission, working with dozens of assistants and an Oxford professor over two years to amass a vast trove of material, including 15,000 location-scouting photographs and 17,000 slides of Napoleonic imagery.
The film was to be a character study and awesome battle saga featuring thousands of extras, and Kubrick apparently became near-obsessive in building his research bank, but these grand plans were doomed. Film studios including MGM and United Artists decided against making the film because “historical epics were out of fashion”.
Now, Taschen is bringing together much of the original material in a book, titled Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon. The Greatest Movie Never Made. Based on a 2009 limited edition series of ten books, this publication compiles all ten into one and retraces Kubrick’s steps. From correspondence about the film to costume studies, photographs, research material, treatments, script drafts and the final draft in its entirety, it shines a light on the intricate, lengthy process behind a film nobody saw and simultaneously works as a detailed biography on Napoleon himself. It also features essays examining the screenplay in historical and dramatic contexts; a transcript of an interview between Kubrick and Oxford professor Felix Markham; and an essay by Jean Tulard on Napoleon in cinema.
The book is out now, published by Taschen, and launches officially on 15 March with an event Claridge’s from 6.30 – 8.30pm, where the author Alison Castle and executive producer on the film Jan Harlan will talk about their experiences with the mysterious project.
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