After about half a century in the film business, Steven Spielberg finally made his movie musical, with his remake of West Side Story, and told his own life story in The Fabelmans. So how do you top that? How about by finally making of the greatest unmade films in history into a reality?
Speaking at the Berlin Film Festival this week, Spielberg confirmed that he is prepping a “large production” based on Stanley Kubrick’s unfilmed screenplay for a Napoleon film. Rather than a movie, though, Spielberg’s version — which is being made with the cooperation of Christiane Kubrick and Jan Harlan — will be a “seven-part limited series.”
Kubrick’s career was littered with projects he researched for years but never actually mounted, but his Napoleon may be the most famous. Kubrick initially attempted a Napoleon film in the years after 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the project never came together. (He eventually applied some of the research he’d done to the making of Barry Lyndon, which was set around roughly the same period in history.)
Spielberg had revealed his interest in making Kubrick’s Napoleon before, but it now seems like a much firmer reality. He has obviously worked from Kubrick’s raw materials before, having directed A.I. Artificial Intelligence after Kubrick passed away without ever turning that script into a reality. And Spielberg has worked in TV several times before, including on the acclaimed World War II miniseries Band of Brothers.
If Spielberg and HBO get Napoleon off the ground relatively soon, it will have to compete with Ridley Scott’s film about the same French leader. That version, which stars Joaquin Phoenix in the title role, will be released later this year through Apple TV+.