Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy has written a smart essay about who might direct a forthcoming televised version of Stanley Kubrick‘s Napoleon, which Steven Spielberg has said he’s hoping to produce. The piece has many sage observations, but I was especially taken by McCarthy’s clever notion about who would be best suited to direct Kubrick’s 186-page screenplay, which would run about three hours but could theoretically expand into a six-hour miniseries.

That person would not be Spielberg, McCarthy claims, as Napoleon embraces the same misanthropic view of human nature as Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. “An ideal director should be someone whose style is precise, analytical and cold — an analytical sort with a skeptical, if not caustic, view of human motivations and a belief that intelligence and rationality are very often trumped by destructive traits, particularly hubris,” McCarthy writes.

That is Kubrick in a nutshell, and about as far away as you can get from the “fundamentally optimistic and ennobling attitude that is almost always dominant in Spielberg’s work,” he says.

“Who, then, among big-name Hollywood directors, could realize Napoleon — or, more likely, parts of Napoleon — in a way that would be most compelling and still properly honor Kubrick? Seven clear-cut candidates would be David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese, Kathryn Bigelow, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan and Peter Weir.”
Then McCarthy suggests what seems to me like the perfect fellow, “a now highly prominent international director who has only ever undertaken his own projects and has never done anything on this scale but whose work is just as exacting and chilly as Kubrick’s and is probably his intellectual equal: Michael Haneke.

“I have little doubt that Kubrick himself would have loved The White Ribbon, and I believe that, if Haneke shot, in his own style, any portion of Kubrick’s script more or less as he wrote it, we’d have something as close to what Kubrick would have done as any director now on Earth could manage.”