Posted on 11 August 2009.
March 7, 1999 was the day the world lost Stanley Kubrick. At least we lost the director in his physical form, which only a privileged few were allowed to see and greet anyway. He had a reputation for being a recluse, but in actuality, he just wanted to keep his life private. It didn’t stop the endless debates over his films, nor did it stop a countless number of biographies on his life and analysis over his contribution to cinema. His blanket of influence spread so vast, I never saw one of his films in the theater during its initial release, but he’s become one of my favorite directors (side-by-side with Alfred Hitchcock). Now, it appears, he’s back.
Although he died before its release, the last film Kubrick put his directorial flourish on was Eyes Wide Shut. It seemed to be misunderstood upon its release, but like almost all of his films, has garnered more and more affection over time. One of the unfinished projects he’d be laboring over for decades was an adaptation of a short story about a Pinocchio-like boy who dreams of becoming real, titled “Supertoys Last All Summer Long,” by Brian Aldiss. He had been tinkering with the film in script form with numerous screenwriters and novelists and never quite got it to feel right. He did robotic tests with director Chris Cunningham. The film likely would have been his next if he had lived, but sadly all he ended up with was a mammoth-sized treatment. Before he died, he had discussed the film with Steven Spielberg and told him the story might be better suited for his sensibilities anyway. Based on Kubrick’s treatment, Spielberg wrote a script by himself for the first time since Close Encounters of the Third Kind and in 2001, that film became A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.
A.I. has had its share of detractors just the same. Some feel it an unlikely representation of what Kubrick would have brought to the table, and indeed Spielberg has said it was as much his movie as it was Kubrick’s. One individual has even created a fan edit of the film to adhere to Kubrick’s sensibilities and vision through interviews and research (more information can be found here). Sadly, A.I. was not the only project of Kubrick’s to go unmade by the master. He had a long list of projects he did hours upon hours of research for, only to end up with nothing. One of those unmade films was as adaptation of a book by Terry Southern (Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove writing partner), called Blue Movie, about an A-list director making a big budget pornographic film. That project was the topic of our April Fool’s Day post earlier this year. Another unrealized project was a film to be called The Aryan Papers.
The Aryan Papers was a film Kubrick was developing in the early 1990s, based on the novel “Wartime Lies,” by Louis Begley. The story revolves around a Jewish-Polish woman and her nephew who had to pretend to be Catholics to escape persecution from the Nazi regime during WWII. Ironically enough, the project was scrapped when Kubrick became aware of another Holocaust-themed film in production, that of Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.
Now, speaking at the Edinburgh Festival, Kubrick’s brother-in-law and producer, Jan Harlan, is calling for The Aryan Papers‘ resurrection. Harlan called out Warner Bros, who still owns the rights to the novel, saying the time has come to start it again. He suggested Ang Lee as a director worthy of stepping into Kubrick’s shoes. Harlan also said he’d be happy to rejoin the project. At the moment Warner Bros said it was unable to confirm if it had plans to start the project anew.
Kubrick’s script is already in existence and although it’s a subject which frankly has been done to death, I’ve been yearning for another piece of Kubrick to come along for a long time. The Ang Lee suggestion seems a bit odd to me, though. A bigger name that could fit the bill is someone like Paul Thomas Anderson (though I doubt he’s want to tackle the subject) or someone like Sexy Beast‘s Jonathan Glazer, who I believe has some Kubrickian tendencies.
What do you think of the possibility of a resurrection of The Aryan Papers? If you like the idea, who would you like to see direct?