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Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Lost’ Screenplay ‘Burning Secret’ Unearthed

1956 script co-written by director and novelist Calder Willingham considered “too risqué” at the time

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A "lost" screenplay co-written by Stanley Kubrick in 1956 titled 'Burning Secret' has been unearthed.

Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

A “lost” screenplay co-written by Stanley Kubrick in 1956 has been unearthed.

Burning Secret, penned by Kubrick and novelist Calder Willingham, was adapted from a 1913 novella by Viennese author Stefan Zweig. It was originally planned as Kubrick’s next film following his noir classic The Killing. However, Kubrick and Willingham instead collaborated on the anti-war film Paths of Glory.

While Kubrick historians knew about the filmmaker’s intention to make Burning Secret, they didn’t know that he had written a 100-page screenplay for the film. The screenplay was stamped by the MGM script department in October 1956 and subsequently forgotten until it was rediscovered by film historian Nathan Abrams, who found the screenplay while doing research on Kubrick for an upcoming book, the Guardian reports.

Abrams describes Burning Secret as “the inverse of Lolita,” the Vladimir Nabakov novel that Kubrick adapted in 1962 following a recommendation from Willingham.

“The child acts as an unwitting go-between for his mother and her would-be lover, making for a disturbing story with sexuality and child abuse churning beneath its surface,” Abrams said of the film’s plot, adding that it would have been “too risqué” for 1956.

Burning Secret isn’t the first project worked on by Kubrick to reach the big screen after his 1999 death. In 2001, Steven Spielberg released A.I., which Kubrick purchased the story rights to in 1969 and worked on for decades before handing off the project to Spielberg in 1995.

While Kubrick never made Burning Secret, the director’s one-time location scout Andrew Birkin later adapted the novella for a 1988 feature film titled Burning Secret. That adaptation didn’t make use of the Kubrick/Willingham script, which is currently owned by the son of one of Kubrick’s collaborators, the Guardian reports.

In This Article: RSX, Stanley Kubrick

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