Sam Rockwell and Scarlet Johansson have been signed to star in Lunatic At Large, a film being developed from a treatment authored by pulp writer Jim Thompson in the late 1950s for iconoclastic director Stanley Kubrick.
Directors develop material for films all that the time that never makes it in front of cameras and Kubrick was no exception. Among the well known properties that the director was working on at various points in his career include an epic Napoleon bio-pic and a Holocaust film called Aryan Papers.
The existence of the treatment for Lunatic At Large first came to light in 2006 when Philip Hobbs, the late director’s son-in-law, discovered the document while cataloging Kubrick’s extensive personal papers. Thompson had written the treatment, fleshing out a story idea from Kubrick, following the two working together on the films The Killing (1956) and Paths Of Glory (1957). Unfortunately, despite Kubrick’s reportedly enthusiasm for the material, other projects kept pushing it to the side. Kubrick hoped to make it his next film after One Eyed Jacks (1959), however, after he quit that film midway through filming he was quickly hired to replace Anthony Mann in the director’s chair for the epic Spartacus. Following Spartacus came a too-good-to-pass-up opportunity to bring the controversial novel Lolita to the big screen, keeping Lunatic At Large on the back burner. However, following his relocation to England to film Lolita, where he would live until his death in 1999, Kubrick discovered that Thompson’s treatment had been misplaced, not being found until after his passing.
At the time of the announcement of the treatment’s existence, Hobbs stated that Stephen R. Clarke has expanded the treatment into a full screenplay and that British commercials director Chris Palmer was attached to direct. It is not known if Palmer is still involved or if Clarke’s screenplay has passed through any other writers’ hands.
The New York Times described the story as –
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.
Writer Thompson died of alcholism in 1977 and never saw the interest that Hollywood took in his work in the 1990s when his novels The Grifters, The Getaway, The Kill-Off and After Dark, My Sweet were all adapted for the big screen.