Following 2001: A Space Odyssey, the great Stanley Kubrick tried and failed for years to make Napoleon, a film about the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. He wrote a screenplay, scouted locations, wanted Jack Nicholson to be his star, and even reportedly amassed approximately 50,000 men from the Romanian Army to participate in battle scenes. It eventually became one of those “famous films that never was,” but in recent years Steven Spielberg announced his intention to work with Kubrick’s family and adapt the film into a TV miniseries for HBO based on the screenplay. The filmmaker eyed The Great Gatsby helmer Baz Luhrmann to direct, but that too never came to be.
Now, it seems there’s still hope for the film nobody got to see.
On Friday, May 13th, De Montfort University in Leicester, England, played host to Stanley Kubrick: A Retrospective. Jan Harlan, Kubrick’s brother-in-law and an executive producer on a number of his films, attended the event. Afterwards, Filippo Ulivieri, author of Stanley Kubrick and Me, posted an update on his Tumblr that stated Harlan revealed Napoleon will finally come to a screen as a 6-hour HBO miniseries helmed by True Detective and Beasts of No Nation director Cary Fukunaga. The post also named David Leland on script duties.
Kubrick’s longtime assistant Tony Frewin spoke with Vice about the intended Napoleon film, saying:
[Kubrick] was always very interested in Julius Caesar, particularly the invasion of Britain, but this ability to be a man of action – an intellectual, a strategist, with political objectives – and how you balanced all this and did what was right. I guess Napoleon grew out of that.
Alison Castle released a textbook title Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made, which features the original script treatment and essays examining it.
HBO did not immediately respond to Collider’s request for comment, and footage and documentation from the retrospective is hard to come by. So, take this talk of a miniseries with a grain of salt for the moment. But if it’s true … it’s potentially the kind of hit project that HBO desperately needs, and a miniseries might be the perfect way to tell this epic saga. Fukunaga seems like a dream director as well, but does that make it feel all the more like it’s too good to be true? Let us know what you think of the potential project in the comments.