“But despite the brilliance of his tactics, Napoleon’s numbers dwindled and, in desperation, he made a daring and imaginative decision to move eastward, placing himself in the rear of the allied armies. This would cut their long lines of communication but, at the same time, leave open the road to Paris. Napoleon counted on Joseph fulfilling his orders for the defense of the city, so that, if the allies took the bait and marched on Paris, it would offer Napoleon an opportunity for a decisive victory.”
A 1969 draft of Stanley Kubrick’s screenplay for Napoleon, which he later discarded, can be read here. I especially love the production notes, reproduced below. If you haven’t made it to the LACMA retrospective, you should.
1.3 minutes average per day.
150 days, allowing 10 days lost to travel.
July 1 - September 1, 1969
DAYS TYPE OF PRODUCTION COUNTRY
30 Battles and marches Yugoslavia
40 Location exteriors Yugoslavia
40 Location interiors Italy
30 Front projection Yugoslavia
10 Lost to travel
Fifteen sequences which will approximately average 12
minutes per sequence, giving 180 minutes finished length.
The four principle categories of cost which represent the
largest proportion of any spectacle film are:
1. Large numbers of extras.
2. Large numbers of military uniforms.
3. Large numbers of expensive sets.
4. Over-priced movie stars.
I intend that, for 'Napoleon', these four categories be
handled in a financially advantageous manner, which will
result in substantial savings to the budget, allowing the
film to be produced for a much lower cost than I had first
envisaged, without any loss of quality, size or substance.
The daily cost of a costumed extra in England is $19.20,
in Spain $14.28, in Italy $24 and France $24.30.
We have received bids from Romania to provide up to a
maximum of 30,000 troops at $2 per man, though it is
unlikely that we will ever exceed 15,000 men on the
We have also received a bid from Yugoslavia to provide up
to the same numbers at $5 per man. Both prices also apply
to lesser numbers.
I have personally met with representatives of both
countries and they are all extremely anxious to have an
important film made largely in their country.
They are also very, very interested in getting dollars,
and can give us very generous deals for their services and
man-power that they can pay for with their own currency,
and which have little relationship to the dollar
equivalent they receive. They have almost the same
freedom to trade, in this respect, as they would if they
were swapping monopoly money for dollars.
Effective guarantees of their performance on this, or any
other deal made with a Socialist country, can be obtained
through the Cyrus Eaton Organization, who have worked with
us in arranging the Romanian contact. They guaranteed
performance on the "Fixer," filmed in Hungary, and
regularly preform this function for important business
deals of every type between East and West.
Both countries have offered to make military uniforms and
costumes for us at a very reasonable rate, about $40 for a
first-line military uniform, compared with about $200 for
a normal European costumier.
But, in this area, the most significant break-through has
come through a New York firm, who can produce a printed
uniform on a Dupont, fireproof, drip-dry, paper fabric,
which has a 300-pound breaking strength, even when wet,
for $1-$4 depending on the detailing.
We have done film tests on the $4 uniform and, from a
distance of 30 yards or further away, it looks marvelous.
Naturally, in a large crowd scene, these cheap uniforms
will be seen from a much further distance than 30 yards.
I should point out that renting uniforms for this film is
not a viable proposition, because the numbers available
are totally inadequate, and for a long, rough usage, it
is cheaper to make them.
Building and decorating a large number of Palatial sets
for Emperors and Kings would be a formidable expense
indeed, somewhere, I should say, between $3 - $6 million.
Fortunately, this will not be necessary to do. A number
of authentic Palaces and Villas of the period are
available for shooting in France and Italy. There is even
one in Sweden, built and decorated by Bernadotte and
Desiree. These locations can be rented for a daily fee of
between $350 - $750, and in most cases are completely
furnished, requiring only the most minor work on our part
In addition to this, I intend to exploit, to the fullest,
the Front Projection techniques I developed during the
production of '2001.' I have several new ideas for
enhancing its usefulness and making operations even more
I think sufficient proof must now exist that over-priced
movie stars do little besides leaving an insufficient
amount of money to make the film properly, or cause an
unnecessarily high picture cost. A recent 'Variety'
study, published during the past year, showed the domestic
grosses of the last four films by a group of top stars
were not sufficient to return even the star's salary,
computed at a recoupment rate of 2.5 to 1.
On the other hand, films like 'Dr. Zhivago', '2001', 'The
Graduate' and many others show that people go to see good
films that they enjoy, and that the main impetus of going
to the movies is word-of-mouth recommendations from
As was discussed in our first meetings about 'Napoleon',
my intention is to use great actors and new faces, and
more sensibly put emphasis on the power of the story, the
spectacle of the film, and my own ability to make a film
of more than routine interest.
I have not completed my casting survey, but I expect to
have this done shortly. I will then send you a list of
actors' names, broken down by parts.
I would like to give you some idea, however, of my general
thinking about some of the more important characters in
Napoleon was 27 when he took command of the Army of Italy,
and 30 when he became First Consul. He was 35 when he was
proclaimed Emperor, 45 at Waterloo, and 51 when he died.
I want an actor between 30-35 who has the good looks of
the younger Napoleon and who can be aged and made-up for
the middle-aged Napoleon.
He should be able to convey the restless energy, the
ruthlessness, and the inflexible will of Bonaparte, but,
at the same time, the tremendous charm which every
contemporary memorist attributes to him.
Josephine should be five to six years older than Napoleon,
beautiful and elegant.
The most important supporting characters will probably be
Talleyrand and Fouche, and there are untold numbers of
actors who can play parts like these.
There are excellent younger parts for Napoleon's aides,
staff officers, and Marshals: Junot, Marmont, Ney,
Berthier, Murat, Eugene, Caulaincourt. These parts should
be played with virile, fit, military types; again, there
is considerable choice.
Important younger women will be Maria Walewska, Hortense
Beauharnais, Marie-Louise and Napoleon's sister, Pauline.
All of these women will be attractive and should lend
luster to the cast.
Napoleon's mother is very important, and again a great
deal of choice exists.
Czar Alexander, Francis Joseph of Austria, Kutusov,
Wellington, Blucher, all of these represent important
PREPARATION THUS FAR
A great deal of preliminary preparation has already taken
place and I would like to briefly outline what this has
1. A picture file of approximately 15,000 Napoleonic
subjects has been collected, cataloged and indexed, on
IBM aperture cards. The retrieval system is based on
subject classification, but a special visual signaling
method allows cross indexing to any degree of complexity.
2. David Walker, who is a leading costume designer in
England, has been preparing research and making sketches.
Because of the very provocative, see-through dresses and
bare bosoms of the Directoire period, the film will have
some very notable costumes.
3. Military uniform prototypes of the different nations
involved have been manufactured and these will serve as
quality control comparisons in the subsequent mass
production of uniforms of all grades.
4. Extensive location research photography has taken
place in France and Italy, covering the possible interior
locations in which we might wish to work. A team is now
in Yugoslavia doing the same thing, and another team is
about to leave for Romania.
5. The services of Professor Felix Markham have been
engaged as principal historical advisor, and the rights to
his biography of Napoleon have been purchased.
Professor Markham has devoted some 30 years of work to the
period, and is one of the outstanding living Napoleonic
scholars writing in English.
The rights to his book also establish a known work on
which to legally base the screenplay, and should help to
avoid the usual claims from the endless number of people
who have written Napoleonic books.
6. A master biographical file on the principal 50
characters in the story has been prepared by graduate
history students of Oxford University. They have taken
the highlights of each person's life, putting a single
event and its date on a single 3 x 5 index card. These
cards have all been integrated in a date order file with
special signals indicating the names of the characters.
The system allows you to instantly determine what any of
the 50 people were doing on any given date.
7. A library of approximately 500 Napoleonic books has
been set up, cataloged and indexed and is available for my
own use and anyone else on the production. These books
contain the key memoirs and the principal biographies
available in English.
8. A Production Designer and Art Director have been
engaged, as well as the necessary Production staff and
Location research staff.
9. Research has been done in locating an extremely fast
lens, which will cover a 70 mm format. This will allow
shooting to continue on exterior locations beyond the
normal hour where the light becomes photographically
Fast lenses are also vital in shooting interior locations
with only the natural daylight coming from the windows.
We have found an F.95 50 mm lens, made by the Perkin Elmer
Co. who specialize in making lenses for the Aero Space
Industry. This lens is two full stops faster than the
fastest lens presently available for 65 mm cameras and
should even allow interiors to be shot by candlelight.
Despite the extremely high speed of this lens, the
resolution is very good.
Research has also been carried out to find means of
increasing the speed of color film by special laboratory
A small laboratory which can be installed at the studio in
Borehamwood, can accomplish this. I believe that a
feasibility study on this subject is being done by the MGM
studio in Borehamwood. Personally, I am convinced it is
not only economically feasible for the studio to invest in
this, but there will also be very significant advantages
that go beyond the profit and loss statement of the lab,
because it will be capable of doing many other things,
particularly in the area of special effects, which are not
currently possible by using the conventional laboratory
facilities available in England.