By Jeff Labrecque
June 22, 2015 at 07:57 PM EDT
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Marc Forster is developing a movie trilogy based on a Civil War screenplay that Stanley Kubrick and Shelby Foote wrote in 1956. The Downslope, which the late director wrote before he made Paths of Glory, is the bitter and bloody war story of the series of battles between Union general George A. Custer and cagey Confederate raider John Mosby in 1884. Mosby was known as the Gray Ghost and his cavalry riders gave Custer and his superior Union forces great trouble as they tried to squash the rebellion and end the war. The battles became personal after Custer executed some of Mosby’s rangers, and he attempted to exact revenge. 

“We’ve been given the unique privilege to produce a Stanley Kubrick script no one has had the opportunity to make,” said producer Lauren Selig (Lone Survivor). “The first installment of the planned trilogy, written by Kubrick, is an engrossing story illustrating a crucial moment in history toward the end of the American Civil War.”

The Kubrick family has blessed the project, and Forster (World War Z) is planning to direct and produce the first film, which is described as “a cautionary, anti-war tale,” according to a press release. “The succeeding stories will expand upon Kubrick’s original story and journey west, as post-war Americans settled the new frontier, delivering on the country’s unbending ambitions and dreams of Manifest Destiny.”

Kubrick had worked with Foote to bring the story to the screen. “It’s about John Mosby when … Custer’s division hang six of his rangers,” the late Foote told The Paris Review in 1999. “Mosby from then on, when he captured one of Custer’s men, had him taken to a schoolhouse in the backwoods until he had about 50 of them. Then he had them line up and draw slips of paper out of a hat. Six of them would be hanged in retaliation. You can imagine the relief everybody felt who got a blank slip instead of a black dot. Then they discovered that one of the black-dot unfortunates was a drummer boy about 14 years old and Mosby said, ‘I’m not hanging no boys. Have them draw again.’ So they had to draw again.”