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The Lost & Unmade Projects Of Stanley Kubrick

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist March 4, 2013 at 11:59AM


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, Texas sheriff, "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’ tells the story of an an ex-carnival worker with serious anger-management issues, and the nervous, attractive barfly he picks up in a Hopper-esque 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 lead 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.

Kubrick was pleased with the finished screenplay, but became sidetracked with “Spartacus” and never revisited it. Years later it was lost, but Kubrick still hoped to make it. “I remember Stanley talking about ‘Lunatic,’ ” his son-in-law Philip Hobbs told the 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 it. In 2010 it was announced that Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell were reportedly attached to star in the new iteration, but there has been zero movement since.

“The Passion Flower Hotel”/”Perfume”/”Colette”/”Foucault’s Pendulum”
Over the years there have been a number of other projects Kubrick eyed. While he only made two films with producer James B. Harris -- “The Killing” and “Lolita” -- they kept in touch, and from time to time talked about collaborating again. One such proposed 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 turning 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. The word came from one of the writer’s associates, 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

This article is related to: Features, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Napoleon, Ridley Scott, Ang Lee

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