Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon edited by Alison Castle
The greatest movie never made Ten books in one tell the fascinating tale of Kubrick’s unfilmed masterpiece
After completing The Stanley Kubrick Archives, I returned to the Kubrick estate for another year to immerse myself in the Napoleon archives. Knowing that it would take a conceptual approach to distill the material into a book that could make sense of an unmade film, I turned to M/M (Paris) for the graphic design. The result is truly unique book-object, produced first in a limited run of 1000 copies that sold out almost immediately, followed by a single-volume edition.
Slated for production immediately following the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick’s Napoleon was to be at once a character study and a sweeping epic, replete with grandiose battle scenes featuring thousands of extras. To write his original screenplay, Kubrick embarked on two years of intensive research; with the help of dozens of assistants and an Oxford Napoleon specialist, he amassed an unparalleled trove of research and preproduction material, including approximately 15,000 location scouting photographs and 17,000 slides of Napoleonic imagery. No stone was left unturned in Kubrick’s nearly obsessive quest to uncover every piece of information history had to offer about Napoleon. But alas, Kubrick’s movie was not destined to be: the film studios, first MGM and then United Artists, decided such an undertaking was too risky at a time when historical epics were out of fashion.
TASCHEN’s tribute to this unmade masterpiece makes Kubrick’s valiant work available to fans for the first time. Readers can peruse a selection of Kubrick’s correspondence, various costume studies, location scouting photographs, research material, script drafts, and more, each category of material in its own book. Kubrick’s final draft is reproduced in facsimile while the other texts are tidily kenneled into one volume where they dare not interfere with the visual material. All of these books are tucked inside of—or shall we say hiding in?—a carved-out reproduction of a Napoleon history book.
The book of texts features the complete original treatment, essays examining the screenplay in historical and dramatic contexts, an essay by Jean Tulard on Napoleon in cinema, and a transcript of interviews Kubrick conducted with Oxford professor Felix Markham. The culmination of years of research and preparation, this unique publication offers readers a chance to experience the creative process of one of cinema’s greatest talents as well as a fascinating exploration of the enigmatic figure that was Napoleon Bonaparte.
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