Upon his return to the United States, Kubrick worked for six months on the Marlon Brando vehicle One-Eyed Jacks (1961). Brando eventually fired him and decided to direct the picture himself. The two had clashed over a number of casting decisions. Kubrick worked on a number of unproduced screenplays until Kirk Douglas asked him to take over Douglas' epic production Spartacus (1960) from Anthony Mann who had been fired by the studio two weeks into shooting.
Based upon the true story of a doomed uprising of Roman slaves, Spartacus was a difficult production. Creative differences arose between Kubrick and Douglas, and the two reportedly had a stormy working relationship. Frustrated by his lack of creative control, Kubrick later largely disowned the film, which further angered Douglas. The friendship the two men had formed on Paths of Glory was destroyed by the experience of making the film. Years later, Douglas referred to Kubrick as "a talented shit."
Despite the on-set troubles, Spartacus was a major critical and commercial success, and established Kubrick as a major director. However, its embattled production convinced Kubrick to find ways of working with Hollywood financing while remaining independent of its production system, which he called "film by fiat, film by frenzy."
Spartacus is the only Stanley Kubrick film in which Kubrick had no hand in the screenplay, no final cut, no producing credit, nor any hand in the casting. It is largely Kirk Douglas' project.