Interview with Screenwriter Mike Mann (Kubricks Waterloo)

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

in 1969 Stanley Kubrick attempts to make his dream film, an epic about Napoleon Bonaparte. If Napoleon doesn’t unmake him first…


Narrator: Steve Rizzo
Kubrick: Sean Ballantyne
Christiane: Val Cole

Get to know the screenwriter:

1. What is your screenplay about?

Kubrick’s Waterloo is the true story of master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick battling studios, public perception, and hubris while attempting to bring his epic Napoleon film to screens… with the help of Napoleon himself.

It humanizes the monolithic director in a way that many may not expect, showing a softer side to the man that his family and inner circle spoke of. It also explores the obsessive side of his creativity, personified through interactions with the Emperor.

As Kubrick struggles with his own Napoleonic tendencies, he faces the reality that no matter how well regarded you are and how much you plan, factors outside of your control can lead to defeat.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

The screenplay is a biopic of an artist at a very specific point in his life. It combines comedy and drama to flesh out the complexity of the man and the duality of his nature.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

Kubrick’s Napoleon is often referred to as the greatest movie never made, yet the story behind it is largely unknown. There has never even been a biopic on Stanley Kubrick and this film is a snapshot of the man behind the myth. Kubrick deserves an intimate portrait that showcases his complexities both as a creator and a human being.

This isn’t a typical birth to death, career-spanning, biopic that tries to force the subject’s entire life into a reductive package. The script is full of fun characters, personal moments, interesting visuals and meditations on what it takes to be a giant in your field while maintaining your humanity. Plus, the character of Napoleon joins him on his journey, adding a unique layer of comedy and introspection along the way.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Unique Biopic.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

The Princess Bride. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it. Anybody want a peanut?

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I heard about Kubrick’s Napoleon project many years ago and was fascinated. The idea of exploring that stuck with me. It seemed like such an obvious idea that I kept waiting for someone to make it.

As with all of my projects, I end up writing something that I really want to see that no one else has written. When I finally decided that this would be my next project, I read every book about Kubrick I could get my hands on. Read his Napoleon screenplay. Watched and listened to every interview.

The actual writing of the screenplay came pretty quick after I assimilated all that history and knew my take on it. It took about 2 ½ weeks to get it on the page.

7. How many stories have you written?

Once I decided to really go for screenwriting, I co-created and wrote a pilot spec to an hour-long comedy drama. After the second draft, I just wanted to continue telling the story, so I wrote drafts of the next five episodes!

Next was Kubrick’s Waterloo. Then I wanted to stretch my muscles in another direction and wrote a big action/adventure/fantasy. It combines two public domain properties in an unexpected way and is a real blast!

I’m currently finishing my third feature script, another genre stretch for me. It’s a heist flick, loosely based on the D.B. Cooper hijacking. I’d say it’s similar in tone to Catch Me If You Can. It’s exciting!

If any producers see this and these sound up your alley, give me a shout!

(Shameless self-promotion. Is there any other kind?)

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

My current favorite is Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks. It’s just so lovely. Of course this changes all the time. Dylan, Bowie and Elvis Costello are perineal favorites of mine.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

There was a lot that I wanted to cram in. Little details from this era of his life. Specific scenes that actually happened. I’d never written something based on a true story that I had to research so extensively then condense. Trying to be as accurate as possible to the events while still having the artistic license to play and craft compelling scenes. Then, adding the character of Napoleon into the mix. That was a decision I made early on and presented its own challenges, but really adds a fun and unique layer that I can’t imagine my story without.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I’m very devoted to my wife and 5 year old son. They are the most clever, funny and wonderful people I’ve ever even encountered. Spending time with them is my main joy in life.

I used to co-host a Star Trek podcast called “Making It So” in which we interviewed behind the scenes creators from across all of the shows. It was amazing getting to know these writers, directors, producers and artists and hear stories that never get heard. That was a real passion project.

And I love music. You’ll find me dancing to Talking Heads with my son whenever possible!

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

FilmFreeway was recommended to me by Bruce Nahin and I’ve had nothing but incredible experiences with it. It’s easy to use, provides so many festival opportunities and keeps track of all of your submissions and wins in one place. I’d recommend it to anyone.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

This festival seemed so unique in its opportunities. And it didn’t disappoint! The feedback I received on my script was detailed and specific. Care was clearly put into reading the script and evaluating it. Getting an award and having a scene performed by voice actors was an incredible experience on top that I’m grateful for.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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