Later this year, Ridley Scott will release his David Scarpa-scripted, Joaquin Phoenix-led take on Napoleon Bonaparte for Apple TV+, but he’s not the only major filmmaker mounting a cinematic take on the French military commander’s life and pursuits. After being in development for some time, it looks like an adaptation of Stanley Kubrick’s unproduced Napoleon script is finally moving ahead in the hands of Steven Spielberg.
As revealed at a Berlinale press conference today, The Fabelmans director said the project is in active development with the backing of Stanley Kubrick’s widow Christiane Kubrick and his long-time producer and brother-in-law Jan Harlan. The “large production” will take the form of a seven-part limited series for HBO.
Back when Kubrick was developing it, the meticulously researched war epic was courting Audrey Hepburn and Jack Nicholson, the latter of whom would go on to lead The Shining, but after the financial disappointments War & Peace and Waterloo, it was shelved. After Kubrick passed, Baz Luhrmann and Cary Fukunaga were also circling to adapt the project.
Clocking in at 155 pages and chronicling the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s mission to conquer Europe in the 19th century, the script also details Kubrick’s precise production plans. Foreseeing the film would clock in at 180 minutes, he broke up the 150-day shoot from July to September of 1969, which would include up to 15,000 extras as troops (although Romania offered 30,000), 500 books for research, and shooting on 70mm.
This, of course, wouldn’t be Spielberg’s first adaptation of a Kubrick script, following A.I. Artificial Intelligence. While it’s unclear if Spielberg will direct any parts of the adaptation or produce, he did confirm at the Berlinale press conference that he hasn’t settled on his next film yet, even though he’s adapting a Bradley Cooper-led Frank Bullitt thriller. “I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I have no idea,” he said. “And it’s kind of a nice feeling, and it’s also a horrible feeling. It’s nice that I can actually have control of my life again and make my own choices. But I need to work and I love to work. That’s the biggest question I’m going to have for the rest of the year, trying to figure this out.”