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Stanley Kubrick Wanted To Make A Doctor Zhivago Movie With Kirk Douglas


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Stanley Kubrick wanted to make Doctor Zhivago with Kirk Douglas, new research reveals. Thanks to immortal classics like Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick is widely regarded as one of the greatest directors in movie history.

Though Kubrick’s filmography features multiple works considered to be masterpieces, the director was not the most prolific of filmmakers, completing just 13 feature films in 46 years. But Kubrick of course planned to do more movies than the ones he ultimately made, including a film on the life of Napoleon that he completed copious research on before abandoning. Kubrick also at one point planned to direct an adaptation of the book Supertoys Last All Summer Long, a project that eventually made its way to Steven Spielberg to become the 2001 movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

As revealed by film historian James Fenwick, Kubrick’s list of unmade movies also included what would have been an adaptation of a great 20th Century novel, Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. The Guardian reports on Fenwick’s discovery of a letter from Kubrick to Pasternak in which the director informed the author of his intent to buy the rights to his book, which was published in 1957 after being smuggled out of the Soviet Union. Fenwick also unearthed the surprising revelation that legendary star Douglas wanted the rights to make Zhivago himself with the intention of shooting the movie in the Soviet Union (a move that at the time would have been unprecedented).
 
 

Kubrick evidently intended his Doctor Zhivago to be a career-boosting prestige film, as Fenwick quotes the director’s notebooks as saying:
 
 
“The precise moment of absolute success for a director is when he is allowed to film a great literary classic of over 600 pages, which he does not understand too well, and which is anyway impossible to film properly due to the complexity of the plot or the elusiveness of its form or content.”
As any fan of classic Hollywood movies realizes, Kubrick and Douglas ultimately were unable to secure the rights to Doctor Zhivago, which was eventually adapted by David Lean with Omar Sharif and Julie Christie. Lean’s 1965 movie was nominated for 10 Oscars, winning five, including one for its memorable score by Maurice Jarre.

Kubrick and Douglas of course first collaborated on Paths of Glory, which is regarded as a classic war film, and later worked together again on the epic film Spartacus which among other things helped break the infamous Hollywood blacklist by giving credit to blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo. As great as the pair’s two films together are, it would have been truly fascinating to see how they would’ve tackled Pasternak’s novel, a sweeping tale of the Russian Revolution centered on the titular Doctor Zhivago and his lover Lara. Douglas would have certainly made a more rough-hewn Zhivago than the elegant Sharif, and Kubrick’s coldly precise way with the camera would no doubt have made for a less lush and romantic film than the one Lean created. Shooting Doctor Zhivago in the Soviet Union as Douglas hoped would no doubt have added a level of authenticity to the movie, but given the political realities of the time, it seems highly unlikely such a shoot would’ve taken place had Kubrick and Douglas even secured the rights and gone ahead with their take on the book.
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