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Text by Jon FROSCH

Latest update : 2013-03-05

US filmmaker Steven Spielberg has announced he will turn late director Stanley Kubrick’s long-abandoned screenplay about Napoleon into a TV mini-series – a posthumous partnership bound to excite cinephiles around the world.

As if the news of Steven Spielberg heading the 2013 Cannes jury was not enough to set cinephile pulses racing, the beloved US filmmaker has also announced plans to turn Stanley Kubrick’s never-filmed screenplay about Napoleon into a TV mini-series.

“I’ve been developing a Stanley Kubrick screenplay for a miniseries, not for a motion picture, about the life of Napoleon,” Spielberg said during an interview with French TV channel Canal Plus over the weekend, adding that he has been in contact with the late director’s family.

Kubrick, the famously reclusive director who died shortly before his final film, the dark psychosexual odyssey “Eyes Wide Shut”, was released in 1999, reportedly dropped the project about the French emperor when he failed to secure studio funding in the early 1970s.

But in an oft-quoted letter to Hollywood executives in 1971, Kubrick wrote that he expected the film to be “the best movie ever made”.

The notorious perfectionist had already done extensive historical research, and offered the main roles of Napoleon and his wife Josephine to Oskar Werner (the lovelorn Jules in François Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim”) and Audrey Hepburn (who turned down the part).

Kubrick was a cerebral filmmaker known for exploring diverse settings -- 1950s American suburbia in “Lolita”, outer space in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, a dystopian London in “A Clockwork Orange”, 18th century Britain in “Barry Lyndon”, a military training camp in “Full Metal Jacket” -- through meticulously composed and choreographed images that often shivered with dread or menace.

Spielberg, a visually ambitious director with more crowd-pleasing instincts, is best known for sentimental classics and adventure films like “E.T.” and the “Indiana Jones” series. But he has also ventured into darker territory, most memorably in the Holocaust drama “Schindler’s List” and the Mossad thriller “Munich”, and many of his movies, including “Minority Report” and his “War of the Worlds” remake, feature chilly, horror-tinged moments and disturbing themes of abandonment and death.

What the two filmmakers have in common, above all, is their focus on formal rigor and cinematic technique, the often epic scale of the stories they tell, and their shared interest in genres of science fiction and historical drama (Spielberg recently made the sombre political procedural “Lincoln”).

This is not the first time Spielberg will take over a project Kubrick was unable to finish; he directed “AI”, a science fiction drama that Kubrick had been developing for years, in 2001 (two years after Kubrick died).

It is also not Spielberg’s first foray into TV miniseries. He produced a 10-part World War II drama, “Band of Brothers”, which aired in 2001 to great acclaim.

Date created : 2013-03-05


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