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The Lost & Unmade Projects Of Stanley Kubrick

by Kevin Jagernauth
March 4, 2013 11:59 AM
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Foucault's Pendulum Perfume
"Lunatic At Large”
Stanley Kubrick was always a big fan of pulp crime fiction author Jim Thompson. He called Thompson’s pulpy noir “The Killer Inside Me,” about a sadistic, psychopathic Sheriff in Texas, "probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered.” Kubrick loved the writer so much that he got him to adapt Lionel White's crime novel "Clean Break" (which became Kubrick's "The Killing”) and Thompson also penned “Paths Of Glory.” Though Thompson received little credit for either screenplay, they would work together once more on a from-scratch crime project called “Lunatic At Large.” 

Set in New York in 1956, ‘Lunatic’ told the story of an an ex-carnival worker with serious anger-management issues, and the nervous, attractive barfly he picks up in a Hopperesque tavern. The screenplay included a car chase over a railroad crossing with a train bearing down, and a romantic interlude in a spooky, deserted mountain lodge. One of the film’s biggest set pieces was a nighttime carnival sequence in which the female, lost and afraid, wanders among the tents and encounters a sideshow’s worth of familiar carnie types: the Alligator Man, the Mule-Faced Woman, the Midget Monkey Girl, the Human Blockhead. The screenplay was finished, Kubrick pleased with it, but the filmmaker then became sidetracked with “Spartacus” and never revisited it. Years later it was lost, and Kubrick still hoped to make it. “I remember Stanley talking about ‘Lunatic,’ ” his son-in-law Philip Hobbs told the New York Times in 2006. “He was always saying he wished he knew where it was, because it was such a great idea.” The screenplay was discovered years later, and Stephen R. Clarke took a run at the script. In 2010 it was announced that Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell were reportedly attached to star. There’s been zero movement on it since and one wonders if the project is actually moving forward.

“The Passion Flower Hotel”/”Perfume”/”Colette”/”Foucault’s Pendulum”
Over the years there have been a number of other projects Kubrick toyed with. While with producer James B. Harris he only made two films -- “The Killing” and “Lolita” -- they kept in touch, and from time to time talked about collaborating again. One such project was “The Passion Flower Hotel” according to “Stanley Kubrick: A Biography.” It would return them to erotic territory, with the story centering a group of young women from an all-girls school who sell sexual services to the boys at an all-boys school down the road.

The book also notes that prior to tackling “Wartime Lies” Kubrick briefly flirted with idea of helming an adaptation of Peter Suskind’s novel “Perfume.” Tom Tykwer would eventually direct the movie, with a screenplay by Andrew Birkin, who helmed “Burning Secret,” another book adaptation Kubrick had toyed with.

Also in the pre-”Wartime Lies” phase, Kubrick was apparently considering a biopic on the life of the colorful French novelist Colette. Finally, Kubrick had at one time inquired about adapting Umberto Eco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum” into a movie. However, the author still felt stung over Jean Jaques-Annaud’s not-so-well-received 1986 movie “The Name Of The Rose,” and Kubrick’s request was rejected...but not by Eco directly. Instead, it was one of the writer’s people who figured Eco would have turned it down. But this wasn’t the case, and Eco’s efforts to reach Kubrick didn’t pan out. The author would later share his regret that the pair weren’t able to collaborate.

Other projects offered to Kubrick include "The Lord Of The Rings," which John Lennon approached the filmmaker with when The Beatles were attached. Kubrick turned it down, citing the enormity of the project. Kubrick also considered an adaptation of Robert Marshall's non-fiction, "All The King's Men," optioning the book that told the true story of the MI6's attempt to dismantle Winston Churchill's Special Operation's Executive.

Thoughts, opinions? Which of these Kubrick projects are you sad didn't get realized, and which do you hope get brought back to life? Let us know in the comments section below. --additional reporting by Rodrigo Perez

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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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