Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon, a yet-unfinished sprawling biographical film about the eponymous French emperor, will finally be seen to completion in the form of an HBO mini-series, directed by Cary Fukunaga and produced by Steven Spielberg. The film, dubbed “the greatest movie never made,” was once the lifelong passion of the iconic director, who died before the film ever reached fruition. The script has lain dormant until it was picked up by Fukunaga and Spielberg earlier this year.
Kubrick’s family and estate, who will also have a hand in the culmination of the project, have recently given HBO access to all of the late director’s archives. Napoleon was never completed because of Kubrick’s occasionally overwhelming vision: the Eyes Wide Shut director reportedly traveled Europe, collecting close to 20,000 Napoleon artifacts, and planned to utilize 30,000 members of the Romanian army for battle scenes in the film. The movie’s broad scope, which sought to give a comprehensive overview of Napoleon’s efforts to unify all of Europe under his rule in the 1800s, also contributed to obscene production costs that hindered the film’s release.
Though Napoleon will undoubtedly prove to be a daunting task to complete, it’s in good hands. Cary Fukunaga established himself as an accomplished director at the helm of the celebrated first season of HBO series True Detective and Netflix’s critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation. Spielberg, meanwhile, is a name almost synonymous with success in the film industry, with legendary titles like Jaws, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan under his belt. This won’t be the first time Spielberg has worked in partnership with Kubrick, who handed off the film A.I. Artificial Intelligence to Spielberg shortly before his death.
It’s both exciting and scary to see this film, which has been in the works since the ‘60s, finally come to fulfillment—where Kubrick’s name goes, an inordinate amount of hype is bound to follow. With Kubrick’s archive now in the very resourceful and capable possession of HBO, it seems the mini-series is in prime position to be as close to the director’s original vision as it possibly can be.