If ever proof were needed that it was a myth that Stanley Kubrick was in a position to make any film he wanted, his oft-thwarted attempts to bring his dream project Napoleon to the screen provide it in ample quantities. It was originally going to go ahead in 1971, but a combination of MGM's operating losses, a huge downturn in moviegoing and the massive box-office failure of Waterloo all killed it off. In later years, even though no Kubrick film ever lost money from Lolita onwards and most made huge profits, the industry wasn't interested in epics though Kubrick tried to prove he could pull it off by making Barry Lyndon - which caused another wave of problems. Although that turned a profit, it also went overbudget (largely because of having to relocate from Ireland after the IRA threatened to bomb the set and/or kill Kubrick and Ryan O'Neal and their families for 'supporting' the status quo by shooting scenes with extras playing the 18th Century British army on Irish soil) and it was around then that the legend that Kubrick's films were endless shoots began, which only deterred studios even more.
Even though he delivered three profitable films in a row after that, he could never really shake studios concerns that a Kubrick-length shoot on an epic wasn't a good bet even though his films were never particularly expensive. It didn't help that he was tied to Warner Bros., who have never been into big period epics in the way other studios have. Yet that didn't stop him working and obsessing over the project, developing it for years and amassing a huge amount of research in the process. After his death, that research was finally published in an the absurdly expensive limited edition ten-book set, but this considerably less expensive one volume set now offers all the contents in a single bound volume that you need to go into weightlifting training to pick up. It's a rather splendid affair - not just Kubrick's screenplay (surprisingly heavy on narration) but as much of the contents of his infamous boxes as they could photograph and transcribe. It's not one for casual readers, but for film buffs there's a wealth of material that it usually takes months to go through in an archive. It's quite an eye-opener to see just how much work had been done on its various incarnations. It may not be the greatest film never made, but it's great to have all the pre-production material put together to give some idea of what could and should have been. And you can bet that the next few Napoleon films and TV shows will all avail themselves of the collected resources.