Nostromo screenplay by Robert Bolt and David Lean [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
Sir David Lean is rightly celebrated as one of British cinema’s greatest ever directors, the creator of, among others, Lawrence of Arabia, Great Expectations and The Bridge on the River Kwai. And yet little is known of his final project, Nostromo, which proved to be one of the biggest epics never to see the light of day and which caused the downfall of a tormented genius.
Based on Joseph Conrad’s novel, written in 1904, the project took five years of work, involving four different scriptwriters and some of the most celebrated names in cinematic history, including Steven Spielberg, Alec Guinness, Marlon Brando and Peter O’Toole. But the effort involved proved too much for the director, whose mental and physical health declined dramatically during the course of the project and, ultimately, led to his death on 16 April 1991 at the age of 83 – six weeks before the film was set to shoot. Now 20 years on, the trials and tribulations of the film have come to light in scripts, notes and correspondence between the different parties involved, which have been donated by the David Lean Foundation to the British Film Institute. —Chris Evans