When Stanley Kubrick wanted to adapt Doctor Zhivago with Kirk Douglas

  • Post author:
  • Post category:TV Show
  • Post comments:0 Comments
  • Reading time:3 mins read

Doctor Zhivago
MGM / Warner Bros

A secret Kubrick project emerges more than 60 years later.

Among the many screenings of films this Sunday evening, Arte is betting on a great classic, Doctor Zhivago. Released in 1965 at the cinema, this work tells, like the novel of the same name by Boris Pasternak, the life full of twists and turns of a Russian doctor who was forcibly recruited into the army at the start of the October Revolution, the starting point of ‘a long exodus that separates him from the woman he loves. The film will be followed bya documentary on its main actor, Omar Sharif, which is already visible on Arte.TV.

Did you know that a first adaptation of this literary classic had almost seen the light of day, directed by Stanley Kubrick? In November 2020, The Guardian told all the details of this aborted project: how the historian of cinema James fenwick had discovered that Stanley kubrick and the producer James b harris had attempted to acquire the rights to Boris Pasternak’s novel, Doctor Zhivago, just a year after its publication in 1958.

James Fenwick indeed came across a letter written by the director of 2001 where he asked the writer for help for the rights of his book: “The last film we made together, The Paths of Glory, received the Best Film of the Year Award in Belgium, Brazil and Finland […] Today we would like to purchase the adaptation rights for Dr Zhivago. We contacted the New York lawyers who represent the Italian publisher of the book. Negotiations are at a standstill, they are not yet ready to finalize the deal. ”

How Kirk Douglas “Inspired” Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut

According to Fenwick’s research, for the title role, Stanley Kubrick was already in talks with his performer of Paths of Glory, Kirk Douglas, also interested in producing. In the American context of the Communist witch hunt, the support of the actor to blacklisted authors and a probable filming in the Soviet Union, the historian notes that “It says more about Douglas’s diplomatic tendencies and how he viewed himself as a cultural ambassador to the United States.”

Unfortunately, this project of Kubrick (like many others) did not see the light of day and history will remember that it is another British director who will adapt the novel to the cinema. Doctor Zhivago : David Lean, in 1965 with Omar Sharif. The film will win five Oscars.

Ironically, Stanley Kubrick later reunited with Kirk Douglas on another project: the adaptation of Spartacus, Howard Fast’s 1951 novel. David Lean had also been contacted to direct the film, but declined.

Awesome, Sensitive, Simpsons Fan: Kubrick As Told By Full Metal Jacket Writer

Leave a Reply