Living, as many do, in Los Angeles, and loving, as many do, the films of Stanley Kubrick, I managed to attend last year’s acclaimed Kubrick exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art more than once. The first time there, I marveled at all the artifacts they’d collected from the production of my favorite Kubrick films, the ones I’ve seen seven, eight, nine times: Dr. Strangelove, Barry Lyndon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, etc. But the second time, I focused on the rooms dedicated to the Kubrick films I’d never seen — the ones, in fact, that nobody has ever seen.
Several of his unfinished projects got far enough into pre-production to leave behind a considerable amount of intriguing research materials, script notes, shooting schedules, design sketches, and screen tests. The story of each project’s origin and demise reveals qualities of not just Kubrick’s much-examined working methods, but of his personality. “He was a man of such varied interests that he was always busy,” says former Warner Brothers executive John Calley in the short documentary above, Lost Kubrick. And if Kubrick had an interest, he instinctively threw himself into the making of a motion picture to do with it.
“Napoleon was one of the abiding interests of Stanley’s life,” says Anthony Frewin, Kubrick’s assistant on 2001, “along with extraterrestrial intelligence, the Holocaust, concentration camps, Julius Caesar, English place name etymology, and three thousand other things.” We’ve featured Kubrick’s Napoleon before, but Lost Kubrick also includes an examination of The Aryan Papers, his abandoned Holcaust project from the 1990s. I do wonder how it would have compared to Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg’s completed Holocaust project from the 1990s, which itself had an influence on Kubrick’s dropping The Aryan Papers. But Jurassic Park, Spielberg’s dinosaur project from that same time, convinced Kubrick that special effects technology had come far enough for him to move forward on A.I., which he would later hand over to Spielberg himself. The younger director seems to have fallen into the role of executor of Kubrick’s many ideas; just last year, he even announced plans to turn Kubrick’s Napoleon script into a television series. Personally, it makes me wonder less what Spielberg will do with the story of Napoleon than what Kubrick could have accomplished in this age of the television-series auteur.
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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.