Read Stanley Kubrick's Script (and Notes) for the Napoleon Bonaparte Epic He Never Got to Make

Read Stanley Kubrick's Script (and Notes) for the Napoleon Bonaparte Epic He Never Got to Make

Feb 12, 2013


Multiple Stanley Kubrick projects never saw completion before the filmmaker's death in 1999. A script for one of those films, Kubrick's epic biopic about Napoleon Bonaparte, is available on our favorite film Tumblr Cinephilia & Beyond. The extensive notes Kubrick made about the canceled project lead readers through the filmmaker's three-year long obsession with a movie that never was.
Kubrick, being a meticulous and single-minded fellow, read hundreds of books on Napoleon and created an entire card catalog, in which he mapped out the goings-on of the French military leader's inner circle. He wanted to create a film for the ages, something that could surpass the success of his then recently completed sci-fi masterpiece 2001. David Hemmings, who played the photographer in Blow Up, was Kubrick's first pick for Napoleon, and Audrey Hepburn seemed like the perfect Josephine. Kubrick wanted to film large parts of the historical tale on location in France, with the battle scenes set in Romania. The Romanian army even promised him thousands upon thousands of soldiers and cavalrymen at his disposal. Unfortunately, his large-scale vision was shelved due to massive location fees, and the successes and failures of similar films released at that time — including War and Peace and Waterloo. Kubrick's research wasn't for naught. He used some of the information to help inform his 1975 film Barry Lyndon. The project was often discussed up until his death, but sadly nothing ever came of it. 
In 2011, we heard that documentary Kubrick/Napoleon — backed by the Kubrick estate — would reveal a behind-the-scenes look at Kubrick's exhaustive efforts. CGI storyboards would have brought the annotated script to life. You can download the screenplay from Cinephilia for a closer look. Creative Differences is the same company behind multiple Werner Herzog documentaries, including his exploration of death row Into the Abyss and Cave of Forgotten Dreams. At that time, additional financing was being sourced, but key interviews with the Kubrick family had been completed. The company was aiming for a 2012 release. Creative Differences was unreachable for comment.


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