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What Was the Greatest Film That Never Got Made?

Director Stanley Kubrick was known for being very particular about every detail of his work, so what would life on set have been like if he had been able to complete his dream project on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte? Not only did Kubrick write a 150-page script that encompassed Napoleon's entire life, from his romance of Josephine to his rampages on the battlefield, he also compiled 25,000 index cards on which he jotted down all of the details of Napoleon's military maneuvers. But there's more. Kubrick enlisted 50,000 Romanian soldiers to film war scenes, and rumor has it that Jack Nicholson -- whom Kubrick would later direct in The Shining -- had signed on for the lead role. Other stars who were approached for the film included Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, and Charlotte Rampling. But just like Napoleon meeting his Waterloo, Kubrick's huge effort ended in failure.

Despite Kubrick's track record of success -- 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example -- backers got cold feet at the costs that were piling up, and ultimately the film was never made. At last report, Kubrick's script was in the hands of none other than fellow movie magician Steven Spielberg, so it's possible that Napoleon will finally be brought to life at some point.

A close-up on Stanley Kubrick:

  • Despite often being called one of history's greatest directors, Kubrick won only one Oscar throughout his career: for visual effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Marlon Brando fired Kubrick as the director of One-Eyed Jacks and directed it himself.
  • Kubrick made Jack Nicholson break through 60 doors before finally approving the "Here's Johnny!" scene in The Shining.
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