It’s fair to say the aggressive alien hand syndrome, dubious German accents, and missile rodeoing of Dr. Strangelove have come to occupy a special place in the work of Stanley Kubrick. Special not only for their wild imagination and cutting political satire but also because they stand as some of the few comic turns in an oeuvre better known for its droogy beatings, diabolic orgies, and homicidal AI. Next year, Strangelove fans will be able to enjoy the film’s antics and timeless dialogue anew as the film gets its first stage adaptation (and the first of any Kubrick film), led by award-winning comedy writer Armando Iannucci.
In addition to their blessing, Kubrick’s family have given Iannucci and co-writer and director Sean Foley access to Kubrick’s personal archive, which includes discarded scenes, first drafts, and unfilmed materials. Speaking to BBC, Iannucci said of the archive, “There are little shards of ideas there, and one or two of them have developed into full-scale new moments and new scenes in the final [play].”
The cast of the show has not yet been decided, but Foley said they were looking for “a great comic actor” with a “shape-shifting kind of quality,” alluding to Peter Sellers’ tripartite role in the 1964 film. Foley went on to say, “They’ve got to want it. It’s going to be a really tough gig. I’m sure some people, when we approach them, are going to go, ‘No way, I’m not going to be compared with Peter Sellers in those roles.’ But there will be someone who has the appetite and skill and talent and sees the opportunity to do it in their own way.”
As writer of the comedy series The Thick of It and Veep, and director of In the Loop and the BAFTA-nominated The Death of Stalin, Iannucci is no stranger to political satire. And he has high hopes that his new adaptation of Strangelove can resonate in the current political climate. “Not just with the war in Ukraine, but also the whole apocalyptic sense of global warming and so on––it feels like a very relevant reassertion of the message that this is the madness staring at us if we don’t do anything about it. And currently, we aren’t doing anything about it. So the outcome is not good. But if you can leave the theater with that message and a smile, then all the better.”
The show will play in London’s West End next autumn.