Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made


Editor: Alison Castle

Originally released in an edition of 10 small books that fit neatly into one large book-shaped case, this re-release has all the books now printed in the main book itself. Ideally any reader would want a collectable edition first – but considering the figure you’re now expected to pay for that book you may want to check out this edition first. And considering the price this hard cover is, you’re getting an absolute bargain for the content within. The book is very heavy; more than capable of breaking feet, or crushing small animals that happen to get in the way of its fall.

Kubrick set out to make a film on Napoleon – ultimately the project failed – but the wealth of knowledge Kubrick amassed is represented here in this large volume.

Let’s take a look at each section of the book:


A mixed-media section largely concerned with the visual art of the period.


The entire script by Stanley Kubrick, which charts Napoleon’s life from birth to death.


This part includes the yellow-paged production schedule, notation file cards and even newspaper clippings of the film as it hit the press.


Printed and handwritten notes – sometimes both on the same page – allowing the reader to follow the train of thought, as well as some alterations that were made throughout the pre-production of the project.


A large collection of letters going back and forth from Kubrick. Many are studio-related letters, but you’ll also find correspondence from the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Ian Holm.


Fact-based noted cards that chart the lifeline of Napoleon.


This large volume is split into several sections including: a Preface; Stanley Kubrick & Napoleon; Notes and annotations; Research material inventory; Napoleon dialogues between Kubrick and Felix Markham (with introduction); Treatment; Historical critique of the screenplay; and Napoleon on film. This is where the bulk of the written text lies and where you’ll get most of the background information on the project.


A visual guide with many photographs of costume tests as well as a variety of sketches and watercolours for period designs.

Location Scouting

Another visual guide, this time covering the interior and exteriors of locations expected to have been used for the shooting of the film – or perhaps recreated. 

Picture File

This is a vast collection of slides. The range includes illustrations, paintings, portraits, places and people in period detail and fashions.


Kubrick had already made some of his big hit films. The time he invested into this project becomes all too apparent even if you just to flick through this book quickly. The research and testing is both vast and expansive. And yet all it took was for one other film on the subject to bomb at the box office to shut it down.

Despite the other film (Waterloo) causing this issue, you’d think and hope that Kubrick would have waited for the dust to settle before approaching the subject again. But sadly this wasn’t to be. Just look back over the past decade with the sheer amount of ‘epics’ that have been made, you can’t help but think that Kubrick would have made them all look like amateurs.

Steven Hurst


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