Stanley Kubrick’s Lost Script ‘Burning Secret’ Set for Auction, Draws ‘Lolita’ and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ Comparisons

News broke over the summer that a script Kubrick co-wrote with Calder Willingham in 1956 had been discovered, but the film's subject matter is controversial.
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Stanley Kubrick's Long Lost 'Burning Secret' Script Is Being Auctioned
Stanley Kubrick's Long Lost 'Burning Secret' Script Is Being Auctioned
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Burning Secret,” the long lost Stanley Kubrick script that was discovered over the summer, is being auctioned off later this month at Bonhams New York, Deadline reports. The original manuscript is expected to sell in the $20,000 region, so now the question remains whether or not anyone in the film industry will jump at the chance to buy the script and turn it into a feature film.

As reported earlier this year, “Burning Secret” is an adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novella of the same name. Kubrick co-wrote the script with Calder Willingham in 1956, shortly before making “Paths of Glory.” The script was discovered by Bangor University film professor Nathan Abrams, and while many would assume studios would jump at the chance to make the film (Netflix just released Orson Welles’ long-delayed “The Other Side of the Wind”), the film’s subject matter is controversial.

Abrams has described “Burning Secret” as “the inverse of ‘Lolita,'” the Vladimir Nabokov novel that was adapted into Kubrick’s 1962 movie of the same name. “In ‘Burning Secret,’ the main character befriends the son to get to the mother,” Abrams said. “In ‘Lolita,’ he marries the mother to get to the daughter. I think that with the 1956 production code, that would be a tricky one to get by. But he managed with ‘Lolita’ in 1962 — only just.”

Kubrick’s “Burning Secret” adaptation is set in America (Zweig’s novella takes place in Austria), and centers around an insurance salesman who befriends a 10-year-old at a spa resort. The salesman’s intention is to use the child so that he can get closer to the child’s mother in order to seduce her.

“The child acts as an unwitting go-between for his mother and her would-be lover,” Abrams said of the script earlier this year, “making for a disturbing story with sexuality and child abuse churning beneath its surface.”

According to Deadline, the original script was set up with MGM, but the studio does not know at this time whether or not it has any ownership over the property. MGM told Deadline it is “reviewing the matter internally.” The script is currently owned by Oscar-nominated composer Gerald Fried. The Kubrick Trust and Kubrick’s family don’t hold any rights.

Gerald Fried’s son, Joshua, serves as his film archive manager and told Deadline he has been contacted by “a small number of film professionals, including Jan Harlan, Kubrick’s producer on movies including ‘The Shining,’ ‘Barry Lyndon,’ and ‘Full Metal Jacket.'” Joshua said the film could work as a movie today.

“There are some parts which could seem a little dated but the denouement is very strong,” he said. “It solidifies the transformation of the child and solidifies his relationship to all the adults. Before that he is bewildered by their behavior. A lot of meaning is packed into that one moment. The project also has some strong resonance with ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ in terms of its themes of sexual mystery.”

The script is set to be auctioned on November 20.

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