Stanley Kubrick may be gone, but he’s not done making movies just yet. According to Production Weekly, two big stars — Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson, who will share the screen this summer in Iron Man 2 — are attached to a long-dusty Kubrick script that has been resurrected from his estate by his son-in-law, Philip Hobbs.
Hobbs found the single copy of the 80-page script treatment for Lunatic at Large — which was written for Kubrick in the late 1950’s by pulp author Jim Thompson — in 1999, and has been shopping it around ever since. The story is described as a dark mystery about an escaped axe-murderer. “When Stanley died, he left behind lots of paperwork,” Hobbs told the New York Times in 2006. “We ended up going through trunks of it, and one day we came across ‘Lunatic at Large.’ I knew what it was right away, because I remember Stanley talking about ‘Lunatic.’ He was always saying he wished he knew where it was, because it was such a great idea.”
The project has been in traction since 2006, when producer Edward R. Pressman became involved in the development of the project. This Production Weekly report marks the first time in two years that any movement has been seen. And while we don’t know many of the key details yet — there is no director attached — the news of Rockwell and Johansson being involved makes a bit of sense. This is about the time — in the lead up to Iron Man 2 — that they would be announcing new projects. And if they are to play Johnnie Sheppard and his attractive companion Joyce (respectively), as described below, we would likely be seeing such news in the near future. It’s an interesting project, but would surely hinge on a director — a dark period piece is one thing, and a Jim Thompson-penned work is something else entirely. Rockwell and Johansson are two very capable actors, but a director with a strong sense of visual style and a handle on narrative fluidity will be the key to the success of such a project. Until that happens, we remain interested but skeptical.
Here is a description of the 2006 script adaptation by the NYT:
His finished screenplay has the feel of authentic Thompsonian pulpiness. Set in New York in 1956, it tells the story of Johnnie Sheppard, an ex-carnival worker with serious anger-management issues, and Joyce, a nervous, attractive barfly he picks up in a Hopperesque tavern scene. There’s a newsboy who flashes a portentous headline, a car chase over a railroad crossing with a train bearing down, and a romantic interlude in a spooky, deserted mountain lodge.
The great set piece is a nighttime carnival sequence in which Joyce, lost and afraid, wanders among the tents and encounters a sideshow’s worth of familiar carnie types: the Alligator Man, the Mule-Faced Woman, the Midget Monkey Girl, the Human Blockhead, with the inevitable noggin full of nails.