No director has had a more storied posthumous career than Stanley Kubrick. The director died before the release of his controversial 1999 Eyes Wide Shut, which he had nonetheless completed, and of course Steven Spielberg used Kubrick’s original drafts to script and direct 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which received mixed but mostly positive reviews.
Kubrick also left behind many unfinished and stalled projects, most notably a script that followed Napoleon Bonaparte from cradle to grave. Kubrick’s preparation for the project was prodigious, including sending assistants to Waterloo to bring back soil samples for screen tests and reading countless books on the military genius. He persuaded the Romanian army to lend him 40,000 troops and 10,000 horses for his battle scenes; he hoped for David Hemmings and Audrey Hepburn to play the leads. While it is unlikely that Kubrick’s vision of Napoleon will ever reach the screen, other long-nascent scripts are seeing signs of life.
In 1970, another movie, Waterloo, was released, and Kubrick’s project began to look less and less likely, although he continued to look for some way to make it happen throughout his life. The finished screenplay is available to all online.
Less known are the status of other finished and unfinished Kubrick scripts. Many stalled at the treatment stage, such as Lunatic at Large. In 2006, Kubrick’s son-in-law Philip Hobbs discovered among the director’s voluminous paperwork an early treatment for the film written by the pulp novelist Jim Thompson involving a carnival worker with anger issues who kidnaps a girl he picks up in a bar. Kubrick and Thompson already had a relationship: Thompson had co-written the screenplay for Kubrick’s 1956 noir The Killing, and Kubrick praised Thompson’s novel The Killer Inside Me as one of the most believable looks into a warped criminal’s mind. (Michael Winterbottom brought The Killer Inside Me to the screen in 2010, garnering both critical acclaim and shouts of outrage over its portrayal of violence towards women.)
Now writer Stephen R. Clarke has developed the treatment for Lunatic at Large into a period screenplay that Hobbs has been pushing towards production. British commercial director Chris Palmer was slated to direct while Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson, respectively, were to play the unhinged carney and a young barfly he meets up with along the way.
Steve Lanning, Hobbs’s producing partner, told us by phone from the Spanish office of Philco Film Productions, the company behind Lunatic at Large, that the film is in fact one of three Kubrick projects the studio has in development. The other two are a TV series called God Fearing Man about a famous bank at the beginning of the 20th century and a feature Civil War drama called Downslope about a Confederate cavalry unit called Mosby’s Rangers.
Chris Palmer is “absolutely” attached to the project, says Lanning, who considers Rockwell and Johansson as “preferential” casting choices. He’s expecting good news in the next two weeks or so about achieving full financing (isn’t every indie producer?) for Lunatic at Large, at least. Lanning hopes to begin shooting after the new year contingent on cast availability. Don’t hold your breath, but we’ll keep you posted as Lunatic at Large moves forward.