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Found: Stanley Kubrick’s Lost Screenplay, ‘Burning Secret’

A script co-written by Stanley Kubrick has been found by a British film academic who was researching the legendary director’s last picture, “Eyes Wide Shut.” The screenplay, “Burning Secret,” is an adaptation of a 1913 novella by Austrian novelist and playwright Stefan Zweig.

It was written by Kubrick and author and screenwriter Calder Willingham (“The Graduate”) in 1956. The story follows a mother and son on a holiday and a mysterious man who befriends the young boy in an attempt to seduce his mother.

It was known that Kubrick had worked on “Burning Secret” but not to what extent, or whether there was a completed screenplay. Nathan Abrams, a film professor at Bangor University in Wales, told BBC radio Monday that he was shown the 100-plus-page screenplay by the son of one of Kubrick’s collaborators, who wants to remain anonymous. The Guardian reported the find on Sunday.

“It’s a full script: beginning, middle, end,” Abrams told BBC radio. “As to whether that was the final one, we can’t say.”

Abrams added that there was enough material to make a film, but “whether it would fit Stanley Kubrick’s vision, that’s a whole other matter….You have to add into the mix that Stanley only ever looked at a screenplay as a blueprint to which he then added his audiovisual expertise.”

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Kubrick and Willingham worked together again in 1957 on the anti-war film “Paths of Glory,” starring Kirk Douglas and based on the Humphrey Cobb novel.

Burning Secret” has been adapted for the big screen before, first in 1933 as an Austrian-German film from Robert Siodmak. An English-language picture followed in 1988.

The latter was directed by Kubrick’s assistant Andrew Birkin from Birkin’s own screenplay and starred Faye Dunaway and David Eberts. Variety described it as an “intriguing story of a mother’s near-adultery as seen through the impressionable eyes of her 12-year-old son,” and Eberts went on to win a Young Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival.

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