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The Lost & Unmade Projects Of Stanley Kubrick

by Kevin Jagernauth
March 4, 2013 11:59 AM
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Marlon Brando One Eyed-Jacks
“Downslope”/”One-Eyed Jacks”/”Operation Mad Ball”
War was a longstanding subject of fascination for Kubrick. One project under consideration was a film set during the American Civil War, following Col. John S. Mosby who seeks justice after Custer hangs his men. A script was co-written by Kubrick and Civil War historian Shelby Foote, with a budget of $100 million (in today's dollars) being tossed around, and according to “Stanley Kubrick: A Biography,” Gregory Peck was eyed as a potential lead. While that incarnation never happened, in August of last year it was announced that eOne was now tackling the material with plans to turn it into a TV movie, with a new screen adaptation by Brit screenwriter Stephen R. Clarke

Around this time, the filmmaker also spent six months working with Marlon Brandon on the western “One-Eyed Jacks.” He rewrote Sam Peckinpah's original script, and while he was planning to direct, Brando eventually took over to direct himself.

Meanwhile, in 1957, after seeing the comedic war movie “Operation Mad Ball,” Kubrick and his producer James B. Harris liked it so much that they approached Ernie Kovacs with plans to reprise his character in a television series that would follow the commandant of a boy’s school. Development was started, and the trio actually went to Black Fox Military Academy to meet with a real-life commandant. While by all accounts these initial meetings were a success, the project never came to life. Kubrick would later scratch the war/comedy itch with “Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb.”

“I Stole 16 Million Dollars” AKA ”God Fearing Man”
Based on the book “I Stole 16 Million Dollars,” according to “Stanley Kubrick: A Biography” the project, now known as "God Fearing Man," is based on the true-story tale of Herbert Emerson Wilson, a priest who became the biggest bank robber in America in the early 20th century. Kubrick co-wrote the script with Jim Thompson (“Paths Of Glory,” “The Killing”), and it was set up under Kirk DouglasBryna Productions banner but the actor passed on it. It was also offered to Cary Grant. However, it’s another Kubrick project that's come back to life thanks to Stephen R. Clarke, and it’s now being looked at as a potential miniseries.

"The Burning Secret"/"Natural Child"
With MGM initially turning down “Paths Of Glory,” Kubrick decided to tackle another MGM property, “The Burning Secret.” According to “Stanley Kubrick: Visual Poet 1928-1999,” the filmmaker was excited as it was based on a book by Stefan Zweig, who penned the story that inspired “Letter From an Unknown Woman,” directed by Max Ophuls, a helmer Kubrick admired. He worked on the screenplay with author Calder Winningham. According to “The Wolf At The Door: Stanley Kubrick, History & Holocaust,” the story centered on a baron visiting a spa in the mountains, who sets out to seduce a woman, and befriends her son in the process.

Kubrick also apparently wanted to adapt Winningham’s 1952 book “Natural Child,” about “ two young men and two young women living the bohemian lifestyle of the time.” The sexuality of both stories was apparently deemed unlikely to pass the Production Code of the time, and they weren’t developed further. However, in 1988, “Burning Secret” would be brought to the big screen in a separate adaptation by director Andrew Birkin.

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  • 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.

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