Stanley Kubrick nearly made a Night Manager movie decades ago

Tom Hiddleston wasn't the only one who wanted to adapt John le Carré's novel.

Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager
Bond audition? Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager. Image Picture BBC

We’re all familiar with Tom Hiddleston’s gripping BBC adaptation of The Night Manager, but did you know there was nearly a big screen version of the novel made decades before?

It’s been revealed that legendary director Stanley Kubrick nearly adapted John le Carré’s spy story for a movie in the 90s, but declined as he thought it would be impossible to do the novel justice.

Literary agent Jonny Geller tweeted a scan of a fax sent from Kubrick to le Carre (real name David Cornwell), which sees him politely decline the chance to make the movie after reading a draft in 1992.

“Dear David, I loved the book, as I have loved all your work, and I’m sorry I had to ration my time to read it. But, for me at least, it was great to have a book you want to get back to and know it’s there each day,” the note reads.

“Unhappily, the problem is still pretty much as I fumbled and bumbled it out to you on the phone yesterday.

“Essentially: how do you tell a story it took the author 165,000 (my guess) good and necessary words to tell, with 12,000 words (about the number of words you get to say in a two hour movie, based on 150wps speaking rate, less than 30% silence and action) without flattening everybody into gingerbread men?” he wrote.

“I have only said this to John Calley [a studio exec at MGM in the 90s] who seemed to me unusually involved in this, and who I know loves and admires you and your work.

“I am very flattered and grateful you let me read the MSS so early on. I don’t suppose you want moronic-logic-of-the-audience feedback on any plot points: so none offered. Kasparov does not need the comments of the kibitzers,” Kubrick added.

Watch a Night Manager trailer below:

The Night Manager tells the story of a hotel worker who is recruited by an intelligence agency to spy on a fearsome arms dealer.

Despite his comments about word count, Kubrick successfully adapted Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, which counts in at 60,000 words.

It’s surprising to read that Kubrick didn’t think he could do the novel justice – after all, this is the man who famously said: “If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.”

Kubrick died in 1999, just seven years after the letter was sent, and a movie based on the novel was never made.

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Loaded staff writer Harry Fletcher has covered news, sport and entertainment for several major websites across the UK. Follow him on Twitter at @Harry__Fletcher.