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The Lost & Unmade Projects Of Stanley Kubrick

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by Kevin Jagernauth
March 4, 2013 11:59 AM
17 Comments
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"Aryan Papers" (aka "Wartime Lies")
Another intensively researched project like “Napoleon,” this one actually very nearly happened, with casting in place and shooting practically imminent before Kubrick pulled the plug. One could write reams about this particular Holocaust tale, but we’ll try keep it simple.

Based on the book by Louis Begley Jr., Kubrick penned a script entitled “Aryan Papers,” set in Poland during the Nazi occupation of WWII, telling the story through the eyes of a ten-year-old who recalls how his Aunt protected him by passing them off as Catholics in order to survive. Development started in the early 1990s (though the subject matter was something Kubrick had long wanted to tackle), and according to “Kubrick: The Definitive Edition,” Joseph Mazzello (“Jurassic Park”) would be playing the young boy. And it seems at least two actresses were committed to lead the movie -- Uma Thurman and Johanna Ter Steege.

According to Thurman, "I was going to make a film with him -- for a long time I was scheduled to make a film with him," she told MTV about "Aryan Papers" in 2008. "I was contracted to do it and things happened and he shelved the film. He never made the film."

"It was devastating because it was an incredible part," she reflected. "It would have been the part of my career, the best part I ever had been offered or had written for me, or anything."

Meanwhile, the lesser known Steege (perhaps most familiar to audiences for her role in George Sluzier’s “The Vanishing”) revealed she was kept on the hook, with promises that cameras would roll. She declined other work all with the expectation that the movie would shoot, with continual confirmation from Kubrick and Harlan. But as Thurman noted, the movie was eventually canceled. "We know that [Kubrick] was a perfectionist. We also know the dangerous thing for a perfectionist is that, at a certain point, he comes to a zero," Steege told The Independent in 2009, while Christiane Kubrick, the filmmaker’s widow, noted that the filmmaker became depressed "because of all the research he did" about the Holocaust.

And indeed, the research had another effect on the movie. “We spent nearly two years, day in day out, researching that. And in that same period Spielberg got the idea for 'Schindler's List,' did the pre-production, made the film, released it, and we were still shuffling index cards,” Kubrick’s assistant Tony Frewin told Vice. Kubrick, who had seen "Platoon" come out around the same time as "Full Metal Jacket," was wary of having his Holocaust picture and Spielberg's come out around the same time, and ultimately shelved it.

"Eyes Wide Shut" co-writer Frederic Raphael has long spun an anecdote about Kubrick, that he had dismissed "Schindler's List" by saying (something to the effect that) it was about "success," while the Holocaust is actually about "six million people who get killed." Whether or not this is actually true is unclear, but one should also note that the Kubrick family have largely dismissed Raphael's memoir about working with Kubrick, "Eyes Wide Open."

Again, "Aryan Papers" didn't get made, but Warner Bros. still has the rights to the book, and in 2005 William Monahan ("The Departed") was hired to write a new draft of the script. Meanwhile, Harlan has tossed out the idea of another filmmaker taking it on. "It would have to be really a good director. In the wrong hands, this would become a very cheap movie. But if Ang Lee wanted to do it, I would jump to the ceiling!" he told The Independent.

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17 Comments

  • KUBRICK | December 24, 2013 8:04 AMReply

    “I Stole 16 Million Dollars” AKA ”God Fearing Man”- both the projects are different. I stole 16 million dollars is based on 1930s bank robber Willie Sutton and God fearing man on Herbert Emerson Wilson.

  • David Kelly | March 28, 2013 12:13 AMReply

    You guys call Brando "Marlon Brandon"??? Come on, man...

  • sliptrod | March 19, 2013 5:47 PMReply

    I love it when directors rush to wear the "I'm not Kubrick" sign. So attractive.

  • Jeff | March 5, 2013 9:09 AMReply

    There's a reason why this is my favorite movie blog. Thanks, Playlist.

  • DeLarge | March 5, 2013 1:37 AMReply

    Unless you get someone extremely talented, like Paul Thomas Anderson attached to a Kubrick unfinished project, they will all turn out average in a best case scenario. It´s too bad Napoleon is getting the Spielberg treatment.

  • sliptrod | March 19, 2013 5:48 PM

    See my comment above.

  • Alphabet | March 4, 2013 6:11 PMReply

    Pg 4 mentions the seemingly nonexistent book "Stanley Kubrick: An Autobiography" (Kubrick didn't write an autobiography).

    Pg 5 gets the full title of "Dr. Strangelove" wrong.

    C'mon guys.

  • James | March 4, 2013 6:23 PM

    Page 2 calls Christiane Kubrick his daughter - she's actually his widow.

  • DG | March 4, 2013 3:47 PMReply

    I read there was a draft of AI at one point in which Jiggolo Joe was the main character, not sure where though. I hope they get someone good to direct Napolean, at least for the Egypt sections. Apparently there was some pretty cool phantasmagoric/creepy shit that went on with Napoleans men and the pyramids

  • kyle | June 27, 2014 6:33 PM

    whaat? thats awesome

  • Fitzcarraldont | March 4, 2013 2:48 PMReply

    Good article. There's a valid reason each of these projects was scuttled — Napoleon being the exception. As it stands Kubrick's oeuvre is perfect. He wisely jettisoned the weaklings.

  • PcChongor | March 4, 2013 2:07 PMReply

    Wish I could remember the name of the title, but in "The Kubrick Archives," Jan Harlan makes note of a particular Viking epic that Kubrick considered to be one of the greatest adventure stories ever told. He toyed with the idea of adapting it himself, but figured the budget of such a film would always preclude him from making it.

    Also of note, the version of "All The King's Men" Kubrick was interested in making wasn't the Robert Warren Penn version of 1949 fame, but rather, it was Robert Marshall's nonfiction account of MI6's attempted sabotage of the SOE's efforts during WW2, which ended in the deaths of a number of undercover operatives.

    "The more you know!"

  • Chris | March 4, 2013 2:02 PMReply

    Could you guys do a "Lost and Unmade Projects" series? I think it would be interesting with directors like Dennis Hopper or John Cassavetes?

  • Bob Roberts | March 4, 2013 4:39 PM

    I second that. Would love to hear about Scorsese/Max Ophuls/Coens/Linklater/PT Anderson/Howard Hawks and many more unmade projects. Although it might be too depressing it makes for nice dreams.

  • Leonardo | March 4, 2013 4:23 PM

    I have loved both articles, but i really want the "Lost Projects" to become a more regular feature on the site, that would be awesome.

  • BOBY | March 4, 2013 2:53 PM

    I agree ! And can I suggest Paul Verhoeven as the next candidate ? Between "Crusade", "Dinosaurs" and "Mistress of the Seas", I think he is the director with the most amazing and exciting unmade projects of the last four decades.

  • Rodrigo | March 4, 2013 2:29 PM

    Yeah, we've considered it. We did one on Terrence Malick. http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/the_lost_projects_and_unproduced_screenplays_of_terrence_malick

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