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Kubrick filming Barry Lyndon (1975)
|Born||July 26, 1928|
Bronx, New York,
|Died||March 7, 1999 (aged 70)|
St Albans, Hertfordshire,
England, United Kingdom
Cause of death
|Occupation||Film director, producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor|
|Spouse(s)||Toba Etta Metz (1948–51; divorced)|
Ruth Sobotka (1954–57; divorced)
Christiane Harlan (1958–99; his death)
Kubrick filming Barry Lyndon (1975)
|Born||July 26, 1928|
Bronx, New York,
|Died||March 7, 1999 (aged 70)|
St Albans, Hertfordshire,
England, United Kingdom
Cause of death
|Occupation||Film director, producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor|
|Spouse(s)||Toba Etta Metz (1948–51; divorced)|
Ruth Sobotka (1954–57; divorced)
Christiane Harlan (1958–99; his death)
Stanley Kubrick (//; July 26, 1928 – March 7, 1999) was an American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, and editor who did most of his work as an expatriate in the United Kingdom. He is regarded by many as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. His films, typically adaptations of novels or short stories, are noted for their "dazzling" and unique cinematography, attention to detail in the service of realism, and the evocative use of music. Kubrick's films covered a variety of genres, including war, crime, romantic and black comedies, horror, epic and science fiction. Kubrick was also noted for being a perfectionist, using painstaking care with scene staging and working closely with his actors.
Starting out as a photographer in New York City, he taught himself all aspects of film production and directing after graduating from high school. His earliest films were made on a shoestring budget, followed by one Hollywood blockbuster, Spartacus, after which he spent most of the rest of his career living and filming in the United Kingdom. His home at Childwickbury Manor in Hertfordshire (north of and near to London) became his workplace where he did his writing, research, editing and management of production details. This allowed him to have almost complete artistic control, but with the rare advantage of having financial support from major Hollywood studios.
Many of his films broke new ground in cinematography, including 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), a science-fiction film which director Steven Spielberg called his generation's "big bang," with innovative visual effects and scientific realism. For Barry Lyndon (1975), Kubrick obtained lenses developed by Zeiss for NASA in order to film scenes under natural candlelight and The Shining (1980) was among the first feature films to make use of a Steadicam for stabilized and fluid tracking shots. As with his earlier shorts, Kubrick was the cinematographer and editor on the first two of his thirteen feature films. He directed, produced and wrote all or part of the screenplays for nearly all his films.
While some of Kubrick's films were controversial with mixed reviews, such as Paths of Glory (1957), Lolita (1962), and A Clockwork Orange (1971), most of his films were nominated for either Oscars, Golden Globes or BAFTAs, and were later acclaimed as being masterpieces. Film historian Michel Ciment considers his films to be "among the most important contributions to world cinema in the twentieth century." One writer states that "Kubrick is a legend in every sense of the word, and is one of the most influential, shocking, and well-respected men in the history of film," while director Norman Jewison calls him one of the "great masters" that America has produced.
Stanley Kubrick was born on July 26, 1928, in the Bronx, New York, the first of two children of Jacques (Jacob) Leonard Kubrick (1901–85) and his wife Sadie Gertrude (née Perveler; 1903–85), both of whom were Jewish. His sister, Barbara Mary Kubrick, was born in 1934. Jacques Kubrick, whose parents and paternal grandparents were of Polish, Austrian, and Romanian origin, was a doctor. At Stanley's birth, the Kubricks lived in an apartment at 2160 Clinton Avenue in The Bronx.:6 Kubrick biographer Geoffrey Cocks writes that Kubrick's family was not religious, although his parents had been married in a Jewish ceremony. When, in 1980, Michel Ciment asked Kubrick whether he had a religious upbringing, he replied "No, not at all."
A friend of Kubrick's family notes that although his father was a prominent doctor, "Stanley and his mom were such regular people. They had no airs about them.":24 As a boy, he was considered "bookish" and generally uninterested in activities in his Bronx neighborhood. According to a friend, "When we were teenagers hanging around the Bronx, he was just another bright, neurotic, talented guy—just another guy trying to get into a game with my softball club and mess around with girls." Many of his friends from his "close-knit neighborhood" would become involved with his early films, including writing music scores and scripts.
When he was twelve, Kubrick's father taught him chess. The game remained a lifelong obsession and appeared in many scenes in his films. Kubrick explained the value of playing chess to his career thus:
If chess has any relationship to filmmaking, it would be in the way it helps you develop patience and discipline in choosing between alternatives at a time when an impulsive decision seems very attractive.:11
When he was thirteen, Kubrick's father bought him a Graflex camera, triggering a fascination with still photography. As a teenager, Kubrick was interested in jazz, and briefly attempted a career as a drummer. His father was disappointed in his failure to achieve excellence in school, which he felt Stanley was capable of. He encouraged him to read from his library at home while at the same time permitting him to take up photography as a serious hobby.
Kubrick attended William Howard Taft High School from 1941 to 1945 (one of his classmates was Edith Gormezano, later known as the singer Eydie Gorme). He was a poor student, with a meager 67 grade average. According to his English teacher, "the idea of literature and the reading of literature, from a non-academic, from a more human point of view, clearly was what interested him. He was a literary guy even as a young man ...":23 Kubrick had a poor attendance record, and often skipped school to take in double-feature films.:15 He graduated in 1945, but his poor grades, combined with the demand for college admissions from soldiers returning from the Second World War, eliminated hope of higher education. Later in life, Kubrick spoke disdainfully of his education and of education in general, maintaining that nothing about school interested him. His parents sent him to live with relatives for a year in Los Angeles in the hopes that it would help his academic growth.
While still in high school, he was chosen as an official school photographer for a year. In 1946, since he was not able to gain admission to day session classes at colleges, he briefly attended evening classes at the City College of New York (CCNY).:33 Eventually, he sought jobs as a freelance photographer, and by graduation, he had sold a photographic series to Look magazine. Kubrick supplemented his income by playing chess "for quarters" in Washington Square Park and various Manhattan chess clubs.
In 1946, he became an apprentice photographer for Look and later a full-time staff photographer. (Many early [1945–50] photographs by Kubrick have been published in the book Drama and Shadows [2005, Phaidon Press] and also appear as a special feature on the 2007 Special Edition DVD of 2001: A Space Odyssey.) In 2011, many of his photos for Look, previously available only for viewing in museum archives or books, were hand selected from thousands by curators at the Museum of the City of New York, and made available as limited edition prints.
During his Look magazine years, Kubrick married his high-school sweetheart Toba Metz in May 1948. They lived together in Greenwich Village. During this time, Kubrick began frequenting film screenings at the Museum of Modern Art and the cinemas of New York City. He was inspired by the complex, fluid camerawork of the director Max Ophüls, whose films influenced Kubrick's later visual style, and by the director Elia Kazan, whom he described as America's "best director" at that time, with his ability of "performing miracles" with his actors.
In 1951, Kubrick made a few short documentaries, beginning with The March of Time newsreels to movie theatres. His first was the independently financed Day of the Fight (1951), notable for using reverse tracking shot, later to become one of Kubrick's characteristic camera movements. Inspired by this early success, Kubrick quit his job at Look and began work on others, including, Flying Padre (1951) and The Seafarers (1953), Kubrick's first color film. These three films constitute Kubrick's only surviving documentary works, although some historians believe he made others. He also served as second unit director on an episode of the TV show, Omnibus, about Abraham Lincoln, clips of which are included in the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001).
Kubrick told writer Joseph Gelmis in 1969 how he became interested in making those documentaries:
I’d had my job with Look since I was seventeen, and I’d always been interested in films, but it never actually occurred to me to make a film on my own until I had a talk with a friend from high school, Alex Singer, who wanted to be a director himself.
At the time, Singer worked in the offices of the newsreel production company, The March of Time, and Kubrick felt he could make a film for much less than the company was paying other filmmakers, telling an interviewer, "I can’t believe it costs that much to make eight or nine minutes of film". He began learning all he could about filmmaking on his own, calling film suppliers, laboratories, and equipment rental houses. Kubrick decided to make a short film documentary about a boxer, the same one he wrote a story about for Look a year earlier. He rented a camera and produced a 16-minute black-and-white documentary, Day of the Fight. Kubrick summarizes this first effort at filmmaking:
I was cameraman, director, editor, assistant editor, sound effects man—you name it, I did it. It was invaluable experience, because being forced to do everything myself I gained a sound and comprehensive grasp of all the technical aspects of filmmaking.
Fear and Desire (1953), Kubrick's first feature film, was a low-budget production about a team of soldiers caught behind enemy lines in a fictional war. Kubrick and his wife Toba Metz were the only crew on the film, which was written by his friend Howard Sackler. It garnered some respectable reviews but was still a commercial failure. Kubrick was later embarrassed by the film as an amateur effort and tried to keep it out of circulation. He called it a "bumbling, amateur film exercise . . . a completely inept oddity, boring and pretentious."
The film is said to demonstrate Kubrick's early interest in warfare and, observes film historian James Naremore, "He's especially interested in how rational, militaristic planning spins out of control and becomes irrational." Kubrick's later films expressed different aspects of that theme, including Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, and Full Metal Jacket.
Killer's Kiss is a 67-minute film noir film about a young heavyweight boxer's involvement with a woman being abused by her criminal boss. Like Fear and Desire, it was privately funded by Kubrick's family and friends, and production was again made with "a virtual one-man crew," with Kubrick co-writing the script with Sackler.
Although the film met with limited commercial success, film historian Alexander Walker notes that it was an "oddly compelling work that tells much about the young Kubrick and explains why he stirred up immediate critical notice".:45 The film had a number of striking aspects, states Walker: "Kubrick's talent for lighting and photographing a scene so as to abstract its latent emotional value"; and the tone of the film with its urban loneliness and melancholy.:45
The Killing is a fictional story of a meticulously planned racetrack robbery gone wrong, starring Sterling Hayden. This is Kubrick's first full-length feature film shot with a professional cast and crew. Its non-linear narrative would have a major influence on later directors, including Quentin Tarantino, The Killing followed many of the conventions of film noir, in both its plotting and cinematography style, and although the genre peaked in the 1940s, many critics regard this film as one of its best. Not a financial success, it still received good reviews, and brought Kubrick and his producer partner, James B. Harris, to the attention of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which offered them its massive collection of stories from which to choose their next project.
Kubrick's next film, Paths of Glory, set during World War I, is based on Humphrey Cobb's 1935 antiwar novel, and stars Kirk Douglas. It follows a French army unit ordered on an impossible mission by their superiors. The film was his first significant commercial success, and was critically acclaimed and admired within the industry, establishing Kubrick as a major up-and-coming young filmmaker.
Critics praised the film's unsentimental, spare, and unvarnished combat scenes and its raw, black-and-white cinematography. However, the film was banned in both France and (for less time) Germany for many years for its fictionalized depictions of the French military.
Kubrick's cinematography was particularly commented on by critics, along with other directors. "Colonel Dax's (Kirk Douglas) march through his soldier's trench in a single, unbroken reverse-tracking shot has become a classic cinematic trope cited in film classes," and director Steven Spielberg once named this his favorite film.
Kubrick worked for six months on the Marlon Brando vehicle One-Eyed Jacks (1961). The script was written by then unknown Sam Peckinpah, but Kubrick insisted on rewriting it. Kubrick quit as director, explaining, "When I left Brando's picture, it still didn't have a finished script. It had just become obvious to me that Brando wanted to direct the movie."
Spartacus is based on the true life story of the historical figure and the events of the Third Servile War. It was produced by Kirk Douglas who also starred as rebellious slave Spartacus, and Laurence Olivier as his foe, the Roman general and politician Marcus Licinius Crassus. Douglas hired Kubrick to take over direction soon after he fired director Anthony Mann.
Although Kubrick had by that time, at age 31, already directed four feature films, this became his largest by far, with a cast of over 10,000, and at the time was the most expensive film ever made in America. It was also the first time that Kubrick filmed using anamorphic 35mm horizontal Super Technirama process to achieve ultra-high definition, and which allowed him to capture large panoramic scenes, including one with 8,000 trained soldiers from Spain representing the Roman army. Kubrick was accustomed to staging and lighting all scenes as a result of his photography background. According to film author Alan K. Rode, Kubrick began directing cinematographer Russell Metty, who was twice Kubrick's age, how to photograph and light scenes, which led to Metty threatening to quit. However, Metty later muted his criticisms after winning the Oscar for Best Cinematography, his only win during his career.:134
Kubrick had conflicts with Douglas, including his dissatisfaction with the screenplay. He also complained about not having full creative control over the artistic aspects. For Douglas, the film was a "labor of love". He had used his own funds to purchase an option on the book Spartacus from author Howard Fast, and he hired all the primary creative forces involved in production, including Kubrick.:226 Nevertheless, Kubrick realized that in the future he wanted to have autonomy on any films he worked on. "Spartacus is the only film on which I did not have absolute control," he would later say.:193
Originally, Howard Fast was hired to adapt his own novel as a screenplay, but he had difficulty working in the format. He was replaced by Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted as one of the Hollywood Ten. Douglas insisted that Trumbo be given screen credit for his work, which helped to break the blacklist.
The filming was plagued by the conflicting visions of Kubrick and Trumbo. Kubrick complained that the character of Spartacus had no faults or quirks, and he later distanced himself from the film. Despite the on-set troubles, Spartacus was a critical and commercial success and established Kubrick as a major director, receiving six Academy Award nominations and winning four. However, it marked the end of the working relationship between Kubrick and Douglas, although co-star Tony Curtis, in his autobiography, called Kubrick his favorite director, writing, "His greatest effectiveness was his one-on-one relationship with actors".:193
In 1962, Kubrick moved to England to film Lolita, his first attempt at black comedy. It was an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Vladimir Nabokov, the story of a middle-aged college professor becoming infatuated with a 12-year-old girl. It starred Peter Sellers, James Mason, Shelley Winters, and Sue Lyon. Lolita was Kubrick's first film to generate controversy because of its provocative story. Kubrick toned down the screen adaptation to remove much of the eroticism in the novel:225 and made it into "an epic comedy of frustration rather than lust," writes film author Adrian Turner.
Kubrick searched for nearly a year to find what Nabokov called "the perfect nymphet" to play the part. After interviewing Sue Lyon, he found her to be nearly perfect and recalls his reaction:
From the first, she was interesting to watch—even in the way she walked in for her interview, casually sat down, walked out. She was cool and non-giggly. She was enigmatic without being dull. She could keep people guessing about how much Lolita knew about life. When she left us, we shouted to each other, 'Now if she can only act!':203
Kubrick was deeply impressed by the chameleon-like range of actor Peter Sellers and gave him one of his first opportunities to wildly improvise during shooting while filming him with three cameras. To best utilize Sellers' talents, Kubrick, in consultation with him, vastly expanded the role of Clare Quilty and added new material in which Quilty impersonates various other characters.:204–205
Stylistically, Lolita was a transitional film for Kubrick, "marking the turning point from a naturalistic cinema ... to the surrealism of the later films," notes film critic Gene Youngblood. The film received mixed reviews, with some critics praising it for its daring subject matter, while others, like Pauline Kael, describing it as the "first new American comedy" since the 1940s. "Lolita is black slapstick and at times it's so far out that you gasp as you laugh.":224
According to social historian Stephen E. Kercher, the film "demonstrated that its director possessed a keen, satiric insight into the social landscape and sexual hang-ups of cold war America". Kubrick had shown an affinity for liberal satire when he approached others he hoped would become collaborators: he asked comedian Lenny Bruce to work with him on a film, and did the same with fellow Bronx native, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, whom he invited to Los Angeles to work with him on a screenplay titled Sick, Sick, Sick.:331
Kubrick's next project was Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), another satirical black comedy. Because Kubrick came of age after World War II and the beginning of the Cold War period, he, like many others, was worried about the possibilities of nuclear war. He became preoccupied with it in the late 1950s, fearing that New York, where he lived, could be a likely target, and even considered moving to Australia, particularly Sydney or Melbourne. He began consulting with others about the possibility of making the subject into a movie.:227
The novel Red Alert was recommended to Kubrick, and after reading it he saw in it the makings of a good film story about nuclear war. Kubrick then began working on a screenplay along with his producer, James B. Harris, who had produced three of his previous films.
During that writing period, Kubrick decided that turning the otherwise frightening and serious story into a satire would be the best way to make it into a film, although Harris felt otherwise, and chose not to produce it. Kubrick told Harris, "The only way this thing really works for me is as a satire. It's the same point, but it's just a better way of making the point.":228–229 Harris recalls that period:
I said to myself, 'I leave him alone for ten minutes and he's going to blow his whole career.' I was actually convinced he was out of control to do this as a comedy – as it turns out, it's my favorite Kubrick picture.:229
According to LoBrutto and others, "Kubrick was taking a bold and dangerous leap" in his decision to make Red Alert into a comedy, as the topic of nuclear war as a film subject at that time was "considered taboo" and "hardly socially acceptable".:229 Nevertheless, before writing the screenplay as a satire, Kubrick studied over forty military and political research books, including unclassified information on nuclear weapons and effects from Charles B.Yulish, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. He decided that a "serious treatment" of the subject would not be believable, and that some of his most salient points would be fodder for comedy. He then decided to try to "treat the story as a nightmare comedy.":29
Kubrick found that the film would be impossible to make in the U.S. for various technical and political reasons, forcing him to move production to England. There, he developed what became the "first important visual effects crew in the world".:233 To help him write the screenplay, Kubrick hired noted black comedy and satirical writer Terry Southern. Together, they worked closely to transform Red Alert into "an outrageous black comedy" loaded with "outrageous dialogue". LoBrutto notes that the final product is a "raucous satire" that merges Kubrick's "devilishly dark sense of humor" from the New York streets and Southern's "manic comedic mind.":233
From his collection of thousands of record albums, both classical and golden oldies, Kubrick also selected background songs and music which added to the satirical and sardonic effect: during the opening credits with B-52 bombers in flight, the song "Try a Little Tenderness" set the scene; the pilots proceeded to fly into hostile territory, knowing they would not return, to the tune of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"; scenes depicting nuclear explosions featured the song "We'll Meet Again".
The "war room" set created for the film by set designer Ken Adam was considered a "classic of movie design." Director Steven Spielberg told Adam at a later date that it was the "best set that's ever been designed."
Because of perception that Peter Sellers had been pivotal to the success of Lolita, Sellers was again cast to employ his ability to mimic different characters, this time in three different roles. As he had in Lolita, Kubrick allowed Sellers to wildly improvise his dialogue.
The film stirred up much controversy and mixed opinions. New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther worried that it was a "discredit and even contempt for our whole defense establishment . . . the most shattering sick joke I've ever come across". Whereas Time, the Nation, Newsweek and Life, among many, gave it "positive, often ecstatic reviews". Historian and philosopher Lewis Mumford, decades later, "saluted" Kubrick for "having successfully utilized the only method capable of evading our national censor—relentless but hilarious satire". Kubrick himself once stated:
A satirist is someone who has a very skeptical view of human nature, but who still has the optimism to make some sort of a joke out of it. However brutal that joke might be.
Kubrick spent five years developing his next film, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The film was adapted from the short story The Sentinel, by science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, and the screenplay was written by Kubrick and Clarke in collaboration. The film's theme, the birthing of one intelligence by another, is developed in two parallel intersecting stories on two very different times scales. One depicts transitions between various stages of man, from ape to "star child", as man is reborn into a new existence, each step shepherded by an enigmatic alien intelligence seen only in its artifacts: a series of seemingly indestructible eons-old black monoliths. It also depicts human interaction with our own more directly created and controlled offspring intelligence (which we were evidently not quite ready for). The film was conceived as a Cinerama spectacle and was photographed in Super Panavision 70.
Upon its release in 1968, the film was said to defy genre convention and was claimed to be unlike any science-fiction movie before it, and different from any of Kubrick's earlier films or stories. It contained ground-breaking special effects designed by Kubrick to give the viewer a "dazzling mix of imagination and science," and winning Kubrick his only personal Oscar, an Academy Award for Visual Effects.
Kubrick was very much interested in science and the possibilities that life existed beyond Earth. When Kubrick first contacted Clarke through his friend about helping him write the film, he assumed Clarke was a "recluse," then living in Ceylon. Clarke replied back to his friend, "Frightfully interested in working with Enfant Terrible. . . What makes Kubrick think I'm a recluse?" They first met in person in New York, although Kubrick did not offer Clarke the job of writing at that point, nor was the possible film discussed. LoBrutto notes that Clarke "emerged from the meeting impressed with Kubrick's pure intelligence and his ability to comprehend new ideas and concepts instantaneously".:257
Subsequently, after they agreed to the story, Kubrick worked closely with Clarke for three months to produce a 130-page treatment for the film, and consulted with other experts and agencies while doing so.:146 Initially, Clarke worked in Kubrick's apartment office on Central Park West with an electric typewriter. Science writer Albert Rosenfeld explains Kubrick's method of learning about subjects:
When a subject interested Kubrick, he never let it get away until he was through with it. He probed with a ruthless tenacity, asking the right questions, comprehending all he was told, never getting enough details to satisfy him.
Clarke would later comment about this period: "Every time I get through a session with Stanley, I have to go lie down."
Kubrick describes the movie as "a nonverbal experience," but would not elaborate on the film's meaning during a Playboy magazine interview in 1968:
[I] tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeon-holing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content . . . , just as music does. . . . You're free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning.
In an interesting contrast within a film infused with allegory and symbolism, the film was also noted for its groundbreaking scientific realism in depicting space flight, for example in its depiction of various strategies to deal with zero-gravity, the absence of sound in outer space, artificial intelligence, and the fact that interplanetary space travel will require different kinds of vehicles engineered for different stages of the journey.
2001 was the first of several Kubrick films in which classical music played an important role. At the suggestion of Jan Harlan, Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss was included, used for the opening credits, in the "The Dawn of Man" sequence and again in the final transformation of astronaut David Bowman into an otherworldly "star child". Kubrick also used music by avant-garde Hungarian composer György Ligeti, his work's first wide commercial exposure, along with Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz.
The film was not an immediate hit among many critics, however, who faulted its lack of dialogue, slow pacing, and seemingly impenetrable storyline. Others, like Penelope Gilliatt, called it "a great film," and numerous directors were inspired by it.:314 Many today consider it among the greatest science fiction films ever made, as well as one of the most influential. After it was shown at a private screening at the Vatican, producer Jan Harlan recalls that a cardinal stood up and said to the audience, "Here is a film made by an agnostic who hit the bullseye."
Today, many film critics and moviemakers regard it "as the most significant Hollywood breakthrough since Citizen Kane (1941), with some, such as Steven Spielberg, calling it his generation's "big bang". It is a staple on All Time Top 10 lists.
Following 2001 (1968), Kubrick planned to make a film about the life of the French emperor Napoleon. He had already spent two years doing extensive research about Napoleon's life, and would use a screenplay he wrote in 1961. The film was well into pre-production and ready to begin filming in 1969 when MGM suddenly cancelled the project, partly due to its projected cost, and the poor reception the Soviet version received.
During interviews with Michael Ciment, Kubrick said he still intended to do the film some day. He also explained that his screenplay adopted a chronological approach to his life:
Napoleon himself once remarked what a great novel his life would be. I'm sure he would have said "movie" if he had known about them. His entire life is the story, and it works perfectly well in the order it happened. It would also be nice to do it as a twenty hour TV series, but there is, as yet, not enough money available in TV to properly budget such a venture.:197
In March 2013, director Steven Spielberg, who previously collaborated with Kubrick on A.I. Artificial Intelligence, announced that he would be developing Napoleon as a TV miniseries based on Kubrick's original screenplay.
Screenwriter and director Andrew Birkin, one of Kubrick's young assistants on 2001, helped research the life of Napoleon for Kubrick. He was sent to the Isle of Elba, Austerlitz and Waterloo, taking thousands of pictures which he later went over with Kubrick. Kubrick also had him read scholarly monographs about Napoleon as well as Napoleon's personal memoirs and commentaries.
In 2011, Taschen published the book, Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made, a large volume compilation of literature and source documents from Kubrick, such as scene photo ideas and copies of letters Kubrick wrote and received. Kubrick had already approached numerous stars to play leading roles, including Audrey Hepburn for Empress Josephine, a part which Hepburn couldn't accept.
Decades later, Birkin remembered this period when he saw Kubrick on television receiving an award, recalling how Kubrick "quite frequently gave young people opportunities".
At first I didn't recognize him, he looked like a biblical patriarch. Then I saw the old Stanley when he smiled slightly, and there was that old gleam in his eyes. I adored the man, worshiped him like a hero, and regret that I never told him that I was enormously grateful to him.:283
Julian Senior, V.P. of London's Warner Brothers' office, also said of Kubrick that "he's a great help to young directors, he recommends them to the company if he feels they have talent".:225
When financing for Napoleon fell through, Kubrick searched for a project that he could film quickly on a small budget. He settled on A Clockwork Orange (1971). His adaptation of Anthony Burgess' novel of the same name is an exploration of violence and experimental rehabilitation by law enforcement authorities. LoBrutto describes the film as a "sociopolitical statement about the government's threat against personal freedom,":371 and Ciment explains that through the story, Kubrick "is denouncing brainwashing of every kind and making a plea for free-will".:122 Kubrick did not deny those conclusions, asserting that even with good motives there were limits to how society should maintain "law and order".
The State sees the spectre looming ahead of terrorism and anarchy, and this increases the risk of its over-reaction and a reduction in our freedom.:163
Because of its depiction of teenage violence, however, the film became one of the most controversial films of the decade, and part of an ongoing debate about violence in cinema. Detractors claimed the film glorified violence. Kubrick personally pulled the film from release in the United Kingdom after receiving death threats after a series of copycat crimes based on the film; it was thus banned completely until after Kubrick's death, and not re-released until 2000. Kubrick disagreed that a film could transform a person into a criminal, and argued that "violent crime is invariably committed by people with a long record of anti-social behavior":163
Nevertheless, Kubrick defended the depiction of high levels of violence in the film arguing "The violence in the story has to be given sufficient dramatic weight so that the moral dilemma it poses can be seen in the right context" otherwise the viewer would not reach a "meaningful conclusion about relative rights and wrongs". The State cannot turn even the most "vicious criminals into vegetables".:162–163
Kubrick also expanded his ideas to the nation's popular media and worried that it could have a similar effect on a wider scale. In a letter Kubrick had published by the New York Times in 1972, he warned against what he described as multimedia "fascism" that could also turn human beings into "zombies". Author Julian Rice explains that in this larger context, Kubrick implies that "spectators" of media can become a "massive entity subject to predictable response".
A Clockwork Orange was rated 'X' for violence in the USA on its original release just a year before that rating became linked to pornography. Kubrick later released a cut version for an 'R' rating, though the original version has now been re-rated to 'R'.
Barry Lyndon (1975) was an adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's The Luck of Barry Lyndon (also known as Barry Lyndon), a picaresque novel about the adventures of an 18th-century Irish gambler and social climber. The cinematography and lighting techniques that Kubrick, together with his cinematographer John Alcott, used in Barry Lyndon were highly innovative. Most notably, interior scenes were shot with a specially adapted high-speed f/0.7 Zeiss camera lens originally developed for NASA to be used in satellite photography. The lenses allowed many scenes to be lit only with candlelight, creating two-dimensional, diffused-light images reminiscent of 18th-century paintings. Cinematographer Allen Daviau says that it gives the audience a way of seeing the characters and scenes as they would have been seen by people at the time.
A number of production experts have described the efforts that Kubrick took to both acquire the lenses, considered "priceless" by the head of Panavision, and adapt it for use on his camera. He had to have the camera engineered and rebuilt, which made it dedicated for that one lens only. Ed Di Giulio, who rebuilt the camera for Kubrick, says that it is two f-stops faster than even the fastest lenses currently available.
Barry Lyndon found a great audience in Europe, particularly in France. However, its measured pace and length at three hours put off many American critics and audiences, although the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, more than any other Kubrick film. As with most of Kubrick's films, Barry Lyndon's reputation has grown through the years, particularly among filmmakers. The director Martin Scorsese has cited it as his favorite Kubrick film. Spielberg has praised its "impeccable technique", although he had panned it when much younger. Like its two predecessors, the film does not have an original score. Irish traditional songs (performed by The Chieftains) are combined with classical works from the period.
According to some critics who recognized the technical skills and special lenses used for the film, "every scene could have been a painting". Writer George Lewis points out that for many of the scenes, Kubrick posed the actors for an instant before the action, thereby emphasizing this painterly quality. He adds, "The scenes look like European paintings of the 1700s and 1800s," and such paintings are considered art in the American popular mind. The effect was accentuated, notes Ciment, by Kubrick's use of "slow reverse zoom which, moving out from a single character, enlarges the field of vision until its powerful scrutiny takes possession of the whole decor".:114 Kubrick told Ciment, "I created a picture file of thousands of drawings and paintings for every type of reference that we could have wanted. I think I destroyed every art book you could buy in a bookshop."
The Shining, released in 1980, was adapted from the novel of the same name by bestselling horror writer Stephen King. The film stars Jack Nicholson as a writer who takes a job as a winter caretaker of a large and isolated hotel in the Rocky Mountains. He spends the winter there with his wife, played by Shelley Duvall, and their young son, who displays paranormal abilities. During their stay, they confront both Jack's descent into madness and apparent supernatural horrors lurking in the hotel.
Kubrick, who was noted for giving his actors freedom to extend the script, and even improvise on occasion, did so with the film's main stars, Nicholson and Duvall. Nicholson notes that actors were given new script pages or revisions on almost a daily basis. According to LoBrutto, Kubrick made it clear that the printed script was to be used as a guide "to use to find the real scene with the actors...". On the set, Nicholson always appeared in character, and if Kubrick felt confident, after they considered how a scene could be shot, that he knew his lines well enough, he might encourage him, as he did Peter Sellers, to improvise.:434 As a result, writes LoBrutto, "one of Nicholson's inspired improvisations was the now legendary 'Here's Johnny!' line after he has axed in the bathroom door to get to the frightened Wendy".:433
Vivian Kubrick's film, The Making of The Shining, shows Nicholson and Duvall rehearsing the scene and revising the script along with Kubrick. Kubrick allowed his daughter Vivian to film the documentary, an unusual move as he kept access to the set closed to all others.:434
Kubrick made extensive use of the newly invented Steadicam, a weight-balanced camera support, which allowed for smooth hand-held camera movement in scenes where a conventional camera track was impractical. According to Garrett Brown, Steadicam's inventor, it was the first picture to utilize its full potential. Kubrick's perfectionist style required dozens of takes of certain scenes. Nicholson's scene with the ghostly bartender was shot thirty-six times, for example.
The film opened to mixed reviews, but proved a commercial success. As with most Kubrick films, subsequent critical reaction has treated the film more favorably. Among horror movie fans, The Shining is a cult classic. The film's financial success renewed Warner Brothers' faith in Kubrick's ability to make profitable films after the commercial failure in the US of Barry Lyndon.
While Kubrick admitted he had always been interested in the subject of ESP and paranormal experiences, he only first became interested in doing the film after he read King's novel, calling it "one of the most ingenious and exciting stories of the genre I had read". Kubrick added that he believed that such "fantasy stories at their best serve the same function for us that fairy tales and mythology formerly did. . . . The nineteenth century was the golden age of realistic fiction. The twentieth century may be the golden age of fantasy.":181
King was surprised when Kubrick told him he thought stories of the supernatural "were always optimistic" because they "suggest we survive death". Kubrick concluded, "If we survive death, that’s optimistic". In a subsequent interview, Kubrick expanded on this idea and its relevance to The Shining's story:
I think the unconscious appeal of a ghost story, for instance, lies in its promise of immortality. If you can be frightened by a ghost story, then you must accept the possibility that supernatural beings exist. If they do, then there is more than just oblivion waiting beyond the grave.:181
Seven years later, Kubrick made his next film, Full Metal Jacket (1987), an adaptation of Gustav Hasford's Vietnam War novel The Short-Timers. Kubrick said to film critic Steven Hall that his attraction to Gustav Hasford's book was because it was "neither antiwar or prowar", held "no moral or political position", and was primarily concerned with "the way things are".
It was filmed in a derelict gasworks in the London Docklands area which was adapted as a ruined-city set, which makes the film visually very different from other Vietnam War films. Instead of a tropical jungle, the second half of the picture unfolds in a city undergoing urban warfare.:469–470 Reviewers and commentators thought this contributed to the bleakness and seriousness of the film.
According to Ciment, the film contained some of Kubrick's trademark characteristics, such as his selection of ironic music, portrayals of men being dehumanized, and attention to extreme detail to achieve realism. At the beginning of the film, as new and expressionless recruits have their hair cut down to their scalp, the song "Goodbye Sweetheart, Hello Vietnam" is playing in the background; in a later scene where United States Marines patrol the ruins of an abandoned and totally destroyed city, the theme song to the Mickey Mouse Club is heard as a sardonic counterpoint.
The film is split into halves. The recruits in boot camp are also subjected to what Ciment calls "a form of lobotomy, a barrage of physical and verbal aggression". Ciment writes, "In the transition from man to weapon, Kubrick underlines the process of dehumanization . . . . the same contradiction between the mechanical and the living that is manifest in A Clockwork Orange.:234 According to one review, notes co-star Matthew Modine, "The first half of FMJ is brilliant. Then the film degenerates into a masterpiece." Modine's book, Full Metal Jacket Diary, includes other background details and photographs covering the two years the film was being made.
Ciment also recognizes aspects of this war film with Paths of Glory (1957), which Kubrick directed thirty years earlier. There are similarities in both films, such as the use of natural lighting, an off-screen narrator, attention to detail, a sense of chaos, and the exploration of panoramic spaces. As a result, both films "accentuate the impression of reality . . . . and photographic hyper-realism".:236
A few of the methods for achieving this realistic look was explained by Kubrick:
I try to photograph things realistically. I try to light them as they really would be lit. On interiors I used natural light and windows and no supplemental lights. I was after a realistic, documentary look in the film, especially in the combat footage. Even the Steadicam shots were deliberately made less steady to get a newsreel effect.:246
Kubrick's final film was Eyes Wide Shut (1999), starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a wealthy Manhattan couple on a sexual odyssey. The story is based on Arthur Schnitzler's Freudian novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story in English), which Kubrick relocated from turn-of-the-century Vienna to New York City in the 1990s. The film's theme has been described by actor Jack Nicholson as delving into questions of the "dangers of married life," and the "silent desperations of keeping an ongoing relationship alive".
Screenwriter Michael Herr notes that although the film outwardly presents "sex and thrills" as its subject, its ending conveys a message valuing "marriage and fidelity". The "core theme" of the film, writes Webster, is that of "monogamous fidelity".:142
The secret password that Cruise needed in the film was "Fidelio". Historian Stuart McDougall adds that Fidelio is, "ironically," the title of Beethoven's only opera, and which is subtitled, "Married Love". "One could argue Kubrick strengthened this idea via his choice of password in the film," adds Webster, as the original password by Schnitzler was "Denmark". According to Herr, "Fidelio" is the password and the presiding spirit of the piece.:82
The title of the film also gives a clue to that theme. Webster sees an antecedent to the title phrase, "eyes wide shut," in a quotation by Benjamin Franklin on marriage:
Critic Charles Whitehouse agrees, stating, "My guess is that the phrase "Eyes Wide Shut" is shorthand for the most successful attitude a monogamous couple can adopt to viewing each other's inner life.:142
Kubrick's wife noted his long-standing interest in the project, saying "over the years he would see friends getting divorced and remarried, and the topic [of the film] would come up". She knew that this was a subject he wanted to make into a film. Co-star Nicole Kidman observed that "Stanley's expectations of people were not really high".
Although Kubrick was almost seventy years of age, he worked relentlessly for 15 months in order to get the film out by its planned release date of July 16, 1999. He worked 18 hours a day, all the while maintaining complete confidentiality about the film. Press releases were sent to the media, stating briefly that "Stanley Kubrick's next film will be Eyes Wide Shut, a story of jealousy and sexual obsession . . . ":141Eyes Wide Shut, like Lolita and A Clockwork Orange before it, faced censorship before release. Kubrick sent an unfinished preview copy to the stars and producers a few months before release, but his sudden death on March 7, 1999 came a few days after he finished editing. He never saw the final version released to the public.:311
Film critic Michel Ciment believes that "he literally worked himself to death," trying to complete the film to his liking. Ciment explains that Kubrick's desire to keep this, and many of his earlier films, private and unpublicized during its production, was an expression of Kubrick's "will to power," and not a penchant for secrecy: "Kubrick felt, quite rightly, that the public generally knows far too much about a film before it opens and that the surrounding media frenzy made the joy of surprise and pleasure of discovery impossible".:311
Speaking about the film, Kidman notes that despite some critics describing the film's theme as "dark," in essence "it is a very hopeful film". During an interview in the documentary, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, she says that Kubrick was indirectly stressing the moral values of "commitment and loyalty," adding that "ultimately, Eyes Wide Shut is about that commitment". Although there were rumors at the time that making the film may have negatively impacted her marriage to Tom Cruise, and they both recognized that "Stanley wanted to use our marriage as a supposed reality . . . . obviously it wasn't us," and she does not believe it affected their relationship. She also felt that acting under Kubrick's direction "was like having a great, great teacher."
It's optimum to work with someone trying to shift things, to give us a greater understanding of why we're here, what we are. When you're working with someone like that, as Stanley was, it's an honor.
Sydney Pollack, who acted in the film, adds that "the heart of [the film] was illustrating a truth about relationships and sexuality. But it was not illustrated in a literal way, but in a theatrical way." Michel Ciment agrees with Kidman, and notes the positive meaning underlying the film, pointing out how some of it is voiced through the dialog, and suggests that the words "resonate like an epitaph" to Kubrick:
Kubrick, shortly before his death, for the first time in his career, offers us a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, the dawn at the end of the nocturnal journey . . . Alice [Kidman] learns the lesson of her and Bill's emotional odyssey: "Maybe, I think, we should be grateful ... grateful that we've managed to survive through all of our adventures, whether they were real or only a dream".
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Kubrick collaborated with Brian Aldiss on an expansion of his short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" into a three-act film. It was a futuristic fairy-tale about a robot that resembles and behaves as a child, and his efforts to become a 'real boy' in a manner similar to Pinocchio. Kubrick reportedly held long telephone discussions with Steven Spielberg regarding the film, and, according to Spielberg, at one point stated that the subject matter was closer to Spielberg's sensibilities than his.
In 1999, following Kubrick's death, Spielberg took the various drafts and notes left by Kubrick and his writers and composed a new screenplay based on an earlier 90-page story treatment by Ian Watson written under Kubrick's supervision and according to Kubrick's specifications. In association with what remained of Kubrick's production unit, he directed the movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence. which was produced by Kubrick's longtime producer (and brother-in-law) Jan Harlan. Sets, costumes and art direction were based on work by conceptual artist, Chris Baker, who had also done much of his work under Kubrick's supervision.
Although Spielberg was able to function autonomously in Kubrick's absence, he nevertheless said he felt "inhibited to honor him," and followed Kubrick's visual schema with as much fidelity as he could, writes author Joseph McBride. Spielberg, who once referred to Kubrick as "the greatest master I ever served," now with production underway, admitted, "I felt like I was being coached by a ghost".
The film was released in June 2001. It contains a posthumous production credit for Stanley Kubrick at the beginning and the brief dedication "For Stanley Kubrick" at the end. The film contains many recurrent Kubrick motifs, such as an omniscient narrator, an extreme form of the three-act structure, the themes of humanity and inhumanity, and a sardonic view of psychiatry. In addition, John Williams' score contains many allusions to pieces heard in other Kubrick films.
Kubrick both developed and was offered several film ideas which never saw completion. The most notable of these were an epic biopic of Napoleon and a Holocaust-themed film entitled Aryan Papers. Kubrick had done much research on Napoleon and it was well into pre-production, when the studio suddenly pulled the plug after another big-budget biopic about Napoleon entitled Waterloo failed financially. Work on Aryan Papers depressed Kubrick enormously, and he eventually decided that Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List covered much of the same material.
Tony Frewin, an assistant who worked with the director for a long period of time, revealed in a March 2013 Atlantic article: "He [Kubrick] was limitlessly interested in anything to do with Nazis and desperately wanted to make a film on the subject." The article then elaborates upon Frewin's statement and discusses another World War II film that was never realized—a film based on the life story of Dietrich Schulz-Koehn, a Nazi officer who used the pen name "Dr. Jazz" to write reviews of German music scenes during the Nazi era. Kubrick had been given a copy of the Mike Zwerin book Swing Under the Nazis after he had finished production on Full Metal Jacket, the front cover of which featured a photograph of Schulz-Koehn. However, a screenplay was never completed and Kubrick's film adaptation plan was never initiated (the unfinished Aryan Papers was a factor in the abandonment of the project).
Kubrick was also unable to direct a film of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum as Eco had given his publisher instructions to never sell the film rights to any of his books after his dissatisfaction with the film version of The Name of the Rose. However, Eco was unaware specifically of Kubrick's interest and later said he would have relented had he known of it.
When the film rights to Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings were sold to United Artists, The Beatles approached Kubrick to direct them in a film based on the books, but Kubrick told John Lennon he felt the story was unfilmable. Director Peter Jackson has reported that Tolkien was against the involvement of the Beatles.
Kubrick's family and many critics felt that his Jewish ancestry may have contributed to his worldview and aspects of his films. After his death, both his daughter and wife stated that although he was not religious, "he did not deny his Jewishness, not at all". His daughter noted that he wanted to make a film about the Holocaust, to have been called Aryan Papers, having spent years researching the subject. Most of his friends and early photography and film collaborators were Jewish, and his first two marriages were to daughters of recent Jewish immigrants from Europe. British screenwriter Frederic Raphael, who worked closely with Kubrick in his final years, believes that the originality of Kubrick's films was partly because he "had a (Jewish?) respect for scholars". He said that it was "absurd to try to understand Stanley Kubrick without reckoning on Jewishness as a fundamental aspect of his mentality".
Walker notes that Kubrick was influenced by the tracking and "fluid camera" styles of director Max Ophüls, and used them in many of his films, including Paths of Glory and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick noted how in Ophuls' films "the camera went through every wall and every floor". He once named Ophüls' Le Plaisir as his favorite film. According to film historian John Wakeman, Ophüls himself learned the technique from director Anatole Litvak in the 1930s, when he was his assistant, and whose work was "replete with the camera trackings, pans and swoops which later became the trademark of Max Ophuls".
Film critic Robert Kolker sees the influence of Welles' moving camera shots on Kubrick's style. LoBrutto notes that Kubrick identified with Welles and influenced the making of The Killing, with its "multiple points of view, extreme angles, and deep focus".:126, 318
Kubrick adapted all but his first two full-length films from existing novels or short stories.
Many of the subjects Kubrick used for his films came to him unintentionally and indirectly, from books, newspapers, and talking with friends about various topics. Once he found a subject that interested him, however, "he devoured all relevant material" he could find about the topic, notes Walker. He occasionally collaborated with writers established outside the film world (often novelists or reporters) for several of his screenplays: Terry Southern for Dr. Strangelove, Arthur C. Clarke for 2001, and Diane Johnson for The Shining.
Geoffrey Cocks believes that Kubrick was also influenced by Ophüls' stories of thwarted love and a preoccupation with predatory men, while Herr notes that Kubrick was deeply inspired by G. W. Pabst, who earlier tried but was unable to adapt Schnitzler's Traumnovelle, the basis of Eyes Wide Shut.:27
As a young man, Kubrick was fascinated by the films of Soviet filmmakers such as Eisenstein and Pudovkin.:55 Kubrick read Pudovkin’s seminal theoretical work, Film Technique, which argues that editing makes film a unique art form, and it needs to be employed to manipulate the medium to its fullest. Kubrick recommended this work to others for years to come. Thomas Nelson describes this book as "the greatest influence of any single written work on the evolution of [Kubrick's] private aesthetics".
Kubrick also found the ideas of Constantin Stanislavski to be essential to his understanding the basics of directing, and gave himself a crash course to learn his methods. He explained their significance:
The equivalent to Pudovkin's book on film editing is a book oddly enough about Stanislavsky, not by him: Stanislavsky Directs, by Nikolai M. Gorchakov. It provides a very detailed and practical description of Stanislavsky at work on different productions. I would regard it as an essential book for any intending film director.:21
Diane Johnson, who co-wrote the screenplay for The Shining with Kubrick, notes that he "always said that it was better to adapt a book rather than write an original screenplay, and that you should choose a work that isn't a masterpiece so you can improve on it. Which is what he's always done, except with Lolita".:293 Ciment notes that Kubrick always emphasized that finding a 'good' story was the biggest part of making a film, its visual aspect never posing an insoluble problem for him. And he had "tremendous respect for the writers he worked with" when adapting a book for the screen.:232
When deciding on a subject for a film, there were a number of aspects that he looked for. According to his co-producer Jan Harlan, Kubrick mostly "wanted to make films about things that mattered, that not only had form, but substance". Harlan explains this during an interview with Charlie Rose in June 2001:
While his films are all very different from each other . . . there is something that connects them all, and that is a very serious look at human nature, at human frailty.
However, in selecting subjects for his screenplays, he rarely had any particular theme in mind. Kubrick stated, "Somehow, the question presumes that one approaches a film with something resembling a policy statement, or a one-sentence theme, . . . Maybe some people work this way, but I don't, and even though you obviously have some central preoccupation with the subject, . . . the characters and the story develop a life of their own.:38 Nor did he like to explain the theme or story even after the film was completed, preferring to let the viewers and critics interpret their own meanings. Walker explains that "Kubrick preferred to leave the film as the only real comment he could make on his work".:37 Kubrick himself believed that audiences quite often were attracted to "enigmas and allegories" and did not like films in which everything was spelled out clearly. He felt a film was "spoiled" for those
unfortunate enough to have read what the filmmaker "has in mind". ...I..enjoy those subtle discoveries where I wonder whether the filmmaker...was even aware that they were in the film:38
Kubrick did enjoy surprising his audience by alternating dramatically the types of stories he filmed, notes Ciment, and it became a key aspect of his originality as a filmmaker. Ciment states that Kubrick often tried to confound audience expectations by establishing radically different moods from one film to the next
It is as if Kubrick were obsessed with contradicting himself, with making each work a critique of the previous one.:59
Ciment notes that The Shining (1980) continued this process, again being the "antithesis of the film which preceded it, Barry Lyndon. "Such a succession only confirms his habit over the last twenty years of alternating between deliberately slow-paced, meditative, even melancholic works and others with a taut, staccato rhythm, generated by a dynamism which can occasionally be frenetic.":150 Kubrick explains:
There is no deliberate pattern to the stories that I have chosen to make into films. About the only factor at work each time is that I try not to repeat myself.:153
However, his preference for finding and adapting unique stories and filming them with photographic realism, was not usually appreciated upon their initial release. Ciment notes that "it's easy to forget just how controversial his films were. Many were rejected by critics at the time of their release, only to become classics of the cinema years later.":305 Jack Nicholson, who starred in The Shining, also recognized, but couldn't explain that aspect of critical reviews.:297
Although a few of his films were obvious satires and black comedies, such as Lolita and Dr. Strangelove, many of his other films also contained less visible elements of satire or irony. "All his films have a streak of irony," states Nicholson. "This is just one among many things where he and I agreed completely, and I had a lot of fun working on the film," noting that Kubrick "loved to tease". :298
Film author Julian Rice describes many ironic scenes and dialog within Kubrick's films, including The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, 2001, Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut.
Johnson notes that although Kubrick was a "visual filmmaker," he also loved words:
Speaking with him was like speaking with another writer. Much more so than other directors I've worked with. They represented things visually but had little interest in narrative elements, . . . Kubrick was very sensitive to the story itself. . . He thought like a writer, which I found quite unique.:295
That trait was also observed by Ciment, who stated that "he liked to talk and he loved words". He adds that Kubrick, although he was a visual thinker, "liked writers and worked with them on his screenplays. . . . He preferred them to professional screenwriters who he felt were too involved in the well-worn pathways of convention.":310
Before shooting began, Kubrick tried to have the script as complete as possible, but still allowing himself enough space to make changes during the actual filming. Citing the importance of being in the place of the audience, Kubrick described this early stage of production:
One has to work out very clearly what the objectives of a scene are from the point of view of narrative and character, but once this is done, I find it much more profitable to avoid locking up any ideas about staging or camera or even dialogue prior to rehearsals:26
However, film author Patrick Webster notes that Kubrick's methods of writing and developing scenes fit with the auteur theory of directing, whereby Kubrick's script would be "far from a final shooting script; in other words that numerous changes were made in collaboration with the actors during filming".:68 Actor Malcolm McDowell recalled Kubrick's collaborative emphasis during their discussions and his willingness to allow him to improvise a scene:
There was a script and we followed it, but when it didn't work he knew it, and we had to keep rehearsing endlessly until we were bored with it.:68
Once he was confident in the overall staging of a scene, and felt the actors were prepared, he would then develop the visual aspects, including camera and lighting placement. As Walker points out, Kubrick was able to handle that phase quickly and easily with his background in cinematography: "He was one of the very few film directors competent to instruct their lighting photographers in the precise effect they want.":26
Kubrick was noted for requiring multiple takes during filming. His high take ratio was considered by some critics as "irrational," although he firmly believed that actors were at their best during the actual filming, as opposed to rehearsals. He stated: "Actors who have worked a lot in movies don't really get a sense of intense excitement into their performances until there is film running through the camera".:403
Nicole Kidman explains that the large number of takes he often required stopped actors from consciously thinking about technique, thereby helping them enter a "deeper place." She describes what she understood to be Kubrick's reasoning:
He believed that what it does to you, as an actor, was that you would lose control of your sense of self, of the part of you that was internally watching your own performance. Eventually, he felt, you would stop censoring yourself."
Many actors considered the large number of takes to be extremely difficult. Although "none of his actors has ever questioned the merits of this method, however much he might have suffered from it," states Ciment.:38 Jack Nicholson adds, "Stanley's demanding. He'll do a scene fifty times and you have to be good to do that.":38 During an interview, Ryan O'Neal recalled Kubrick's directing style:
God, he works you hard. He moves you, pushes you, helps you, gets cross with you, but above all he teaches you the value of a good director. Stanley brought out aspects of my personality and acting instincts that had been dormant . . . . My strong suspicion [was] that I was involved in something great.:385
O'Neal describes how he felt after successfully completing one long and very difficult scene in Barry Lyndon requiring multiple takes: "Stanley grabbed my hand and squeezed it. It was the most beautiful and appreciated gesture in my life. It was the greatest moment in my career.":396 During an interview in late 2012, he sums up his feelings about working with Kubrick:
It was a stunning experience. I'm still not recovered. He was magnificent. He was breath-taking. I had a man-love for him.
Actors especially liked that Kubrick would often devote his personal breaks to have lengthy discussions with them so they could gain more confidence. Among those who valued his attention was Tony Curtis, star of Spartacus, who said Kubrick was his favorite director, adding, "his greatest effectiveness was his one-on-one relationship with actors.":193 Similarly, Malcolm McDowell recalls the long discussions he had with Kubrick to help him develop his character in A Clockwork Orange (1971) noting that on his sets, he felt entirely uninhibited and free, saying "This is why Stanley is such a great director.":38
A decade earlier, Kubrick's work with Peter Sellers on Lolita (1962), a black comedy, gave them both the chance to use improvisation, which Sellers did successfully. According to Sellers' biographer Alexander Walker, his collaborative work with Kubrick became a turning point in his career, noting that "for the first time, he tasted what it was like to work creatively during shooting," as opposed to the preproduction stage. The experience also lifted Sellers' spirit as an actor. Kubrick describes this change:
When Peter was called to the set he would usually arrive walking very slowly and staring morosely. . . . As work progressed, he would begin to respond to something or other in the scene, his mood would visibly brighten and we would begin to have fun. ...[At times] Peter reached...a state of comic ecstasy.:135
Walker adds that Sellers "was 'licensed' to break the rules, . . . [and] encouraged by Kubrick to explore the outer limits of the comédie noire—and sometimes, he felt, go over them—in a way that appealed to the macabre imagination of himself and his director.":136
Costume designer Marit Allen noted that Kubrick's directing style combined "slow interminable rehearsals" and "a kind of malicious humour". Kubrick would "accept anything from anyone, providing they knew what was at stake and did their best, and at the same time he was very demanding with everyone.":279
Shelley Duvall, who starred in The Shining, had an especially difficult time with many of the long and highly emotional scenes, and had to repeat them until he was satisfied. Although she benefited in hindsight, and enjoyed the liberal atmosphere during filming, along with the humor on the set. She commented during a filmed interview that she learned more about acting in that one year than in all her previous years combined:
He made life miserable for me, but he expanded my scope as an actress. . .[and] to my great surprise, Kubrick gave a great deal of freedom, to Jack and myself, in our acting:301
Kubrick was also noted for his attention to accessory details. Gay Hamilton, a co-star in Barry Lyndon, notes that even for her costumes he asked to look at every one before approving them. "He was in touch with everything. . . There was no question that he had his finger on every single aspect of moviemaking.":396 That impression was shared by cinematographer John Alcott, who worked closely with Kubrick on four of his films, and won an Oscar for Best Cinematography on Barry Lyndon: "He questions everything.":407 Kubrick worked with Alcott in camera placement, scene composition, choice of lens, and even operating the camera. "He's the nearest thing to genius I've ever worked with, with all the problems of a genius," adds Alcott.:391 James B. Harris, who produced many of his early films, agreed that he was a perfectionist:
For him, every single detail was extremely important and he was ready to give himself up totally to his goal – which was the movie – for you have to live with your work to the end of your life.:202
In deciding which props and settings would be used, he tried to collect as much background material as possible, "a bit like being a detective," Kubrick stated. For Barry Lyndon he gathered a large file of paintings and drawings of the period from art books, which he used as reference. From those sources, he made clothes, furniture, hand props, architecture, vehicles, etc. Kubrick also found the research process a personal benefit to himself:
You have an important reason to study a subject in much greater depth...,and then you have the satisfaction of putting the knowledge to immediate good use.:176
Kubrick was also noted for working intensely, with full concentration, when directing. Michael Herr was surprised when visiting him on the set: "I was amazed at how fast he moved, and how light, darting around the crew and cameras like one of the Sugar Rays, grace and purpose in motion.":16 Kubrick states that he rarely adds camera instructions in the script, preferring to handle that after a scene is created:
It never takes me long to decide on set-ups, lighting or camera movements. The visual part of filmmaking has always come easiest to me, and that is why I am careful to subordinate it to the story and performance.:177
Kubrick credited the ease with which he photographed scenes to his early years as a photographer. It was his first "step up to movies", and for Kubrick the one essential piece of knowledge required to film well.:196
John Alcott also saw the connection, stating that Kubrick "is, in his heart of hearts, a photographer,... As a result, even in his later films,...Kubrick would still collaborate with his cinematographers to make sure they captured scenes exactly as he wanted. ":214 He adds that Kubrick displayed his talent as a photographer in some of his earliest films, noting especially the tracking shots in the trenches of Paths of Glory which "because of the angle chosen and the general movement of the scene, appears extremely stable.":214
Having worked with Kubrick as cinematographer on four films over ten years, he states that Kubrick was "capable of becoming an expert in every field," adding that as a result, "with him there can be no excuses and no tricks because he is on to them immediately." For him, the positive aspect to Kubrick's attention to cinematic detail, was that he gave his crew a great deal of inner energy. "When you're shooting a film with him, it's eight o'clock in the evening before you know it.":216
Among Kubrick's notable innovations in cinematography are his use of special effects, as in 2001, where he used both slit-scan photography and front-screen projection, which won Kubrick his only Oscar for special effects.
Some reviewers have described and illustrated with video clips, Kubrick's use of "one-point perspective", which leads the viewer's eye towards a central vanishing point. The technique relies on creating a complex visual symmetry using parallel lines in a scene which all converge on that single point, leading away from the viewer. Combined with camera motion it could produce an effect that one writer describes as "hypnotic and thrilling."
The Shining was among the first half-dozen features to use the then-revolutionary Steadicam (after the 1976 films Bound for Glory, Marathon Man and Rocky). Kubrick used it to its fullest potential, which gave the audience smooth, stabilized, motion-tracking by the camera. Kubrick described why he wanted to use it in many scenes:
The Steadicam allows one man to move the camera any place he can walk – into small spaces where a dolly won't fit, and up and down staircases. . . . You can walk or run with the camera, and the Steadicam smooths out any unsteadiness. It's like a magic carpet. The fast, flowing, camera movements in the maze would have been impossible to do without the Steadicam.:189
Garrett Brown, its inventor, was the operator of the Steadicam for the film. In order to use it, it had to be mounted to a spring-loaded arm attached to a frame, which is then strapped to the operator's shoulders, chest and hips. Kubrick states that it "in effect, makes the camera weightless." During filming, Kubrick would walk alongside him and direct the camera's movements and angles.:190 A scene showing the Steadicam being used while running on the hedge-maze set was filmed by Vivian Kubrick for her documentary The Making of "The Shining".
Kubrick catalyzed the most important extension to the Steadicam since its inception. Since he wanted it to be able to shoot from just above floor level, Brown came up with the "low mode" bracket which mounts the camera on an inverted post, greatly increasing the creative angles of the system which previously could not go much lower than the operator's waist height.
Kubrick was among the first directors to use video assist during filming. At the time he began using it in 1966, it was considered cutting-edge technology, requiring him to build his own system. Having it in place during the filming of 2001, he was able to view a video of a take immediately after it was filmed.:294
On some films, such as Barry Lyndon, he used custom made zoom lenses. This allowed him to start a scene with a close-up and slowly zoom out to capture the full panorama of scenery. LoBrutto records that he ordered the customized 20:1 zoom lens along with a special joystick directly from the manufacturer. He also had them develop a quick-response aperture adjustment device. It allowed him to film long takes under changing outdoor lighting conditions by making aperture adjustments while the cameras rolled. LoBrutto notes that Kubrick's technical knowledge about lenses "dazzled the manufacturer's engineers, who found him to be unprecedented among contemporary filmmakers.":389 Kubrick also operated the cameras himself for many scenes.
For that film he also used a specially adapted high-speed (f/0.7) Zeiss camera lens, originally developed for NASA, to shoot numerous scenes lit only with candlelight. Actor Steven Berkoff recalls that Kubrick wanted scenes to be shot using "pure candlelight," and in doing so Kubrick "made a unique contribution to the art of filmmaking going back to painting . . . You almost posed like for portraits.":400 LoBrutto notes that the candlelight scenes became an "instant legend" in the film business.
Cinematographers all over the world wanted to know about Kubrick's magic lens . . . he had set a technical and artistic standard that took a Zen-like discipline and dedication to the art of film.:408
Ryan O'Neal remembers that Kubrick often looked through 18th century art books as reference for setting up a scene: "He found a painting—I don't remember which one—and posed Marisa and me exactly as if we were in that painting.":395
For Kubrick, written dialogue was one element to be put in balance with mise en scène (set arrangements), music, and especially, editing. Inspired by Pudovkin's treatise on film editing, Kubrick realized that one could create a performance in the editing room and often "re-direct" a film. Kubrick explained this:
I love editing. I think I like it more than any other phase of filmmaking. . . . Editing is the only unique aspect of filmmaking which does not resemble any other art form—a point so important it cannot be overstressed. . . It can make or break a film.:42
Kubrick stated that he used two Steenbeck editing tables and a Moviola, which he said allowed him to work faster. Nevertheless, he often spent extensive hours editing, often working seven days a week, and more and more hours a day as he got closer to deadlines.:42
Walker adds that whether he was directing or editing, "his work so obsessed him that nothing was allowed to distract him from it, disturb or destabilize him. Everything in his daily agenda was arranged with that singular aim.":360 And because he often shot numerous takes of scenes, he could edit with copious options, explains biographer John Baxter:
Instead of finding the intellectual spine of a film in the script before starting work, Kubrick felt his way towards the final version of a film by shooting each scene from many angles and demanding scores of takes on each line. Then over months ... he arranged and rearranged the tens of thousands of scraps of film to fit a vision that really only began to emerge during editing.
In his last six films, Kubrick usually chose music from existing sources, especially classical compositions. He preferred selecting recorded music over having it composed for a film, believing that no hired composer could do as well as the public domain classical composers. He also felt that building scenes from images great music often created the "most memorable scenes" in the best films.:153:156
His attention to music was an aspect of what many referred to as his "perfectionism" and extreme attention to minute details. In one instance, for a scene in Barry Lyndon which was written into the screenplay as merely, "Barry duels with Lord Bullingdon," he spent forty-two working days in the editing phase. During that period, he listened to what Lobrutto describes as "every available recording of seventeenth-and eighteenth- century music, acquiring thousands of records to find Handel's sarabande used to score the scene.":405 Jack Nicholson likewise observed his attention to music for his films, stating that Kubrick "listened constantly to music until he discovered something he felt was right or that excited him.":297
Kubrick is credited with introducing Hungarian composer György Ligeti to a broad Western audience by including his music in 2001, The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut. His music in 2001 employed the new style of micropolyphony, which used sustained dissonant chords that shift slowly over time, a style which he originated. Its inclusion in the film became a "boon for the relatively unknown composer" partly because it was introduced alongside background by notable composers, Johann Strauss and Richard Strauss.
Kubrick married his high-school sweetheart Toba Metz in May 1948, when he was nineteen years of age. They lived together in Greenwich Village and divorced three years later in 1951.
He met his second wife, the Austrian-born dancer and theatrical designer Ruth Sobotka, in 1952. They lived together in New York's East Village from 1952 until their marriage in January 1955. They moved to Hollywood six months afterwards, where she played a brief part as a ballet dancer in Kubrick's film, Killer's Kiss (1955). The following year she was art director for his film, The Killing (1956). They divorced in 1957.
During the production of Paths of Glory (1957) in Munich, Kubrick met and romanced young German actress Christiane Harlan, who played a small though memorable role. She was his girlfriend at the time, and Kubrick created a new ending to the film which he felt was too grim.
Kubrick married Harlan in 1958, and in 1959 they settled into a home in Beverly Hills with Harlan's daughter, Katherina, age six.:165 They also lived in New York, during which time Christiane studied art at the Art Students League of New York, later becoming an independent artist. Like Kubrick, she wanted "solace to think, study, and practice her craft," writes LoBrutto.:224 They remained together 40 years, until his death in 1999. Besides his stepdaughter, they had two daughters together.
Shortly after his death, Christiane assembled a personal collection of never-before-seen photographs and commentary into a book, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. Included among the photos was only one of Kubrick's family together, taken in 1960. In 2010, she gave a videotaped interview with U.K.'s Guardian, where she discussed his personality, his love of editing films, and some reasons why he chose to not make Aryan Papers.
Actor Jack Nicholson, who starred in The Shining (1980), observed that "Stanley was very much a family man." Similarly, Nicole Kidman, who starred in Eyes Wide Shut (1999), adds that Christiane "was the love of his life. He would talk about her, he adored her, something that people didn't know. His daughters adored them . . . I would see that, and he would talk about them very proudly." The opinion was shared by Malcolm McDowell, who starred in A Clockwork Orange: "He was happily married. I remember his daughters, Vivian and Anya, running around the room. It was good to see such a close-knit family.":287
Kubrick moved to the United Kingdom to make Lolita because of easier financing and freedom from censorship. When he hired Peter Sellers to star in his next film, Dr. Strangelove, Sellers was unable to leave the UK. Kubrick made Britain his permanent home thereafter, although "he never considered himself an expatriate American," notes Walker.:26 He also shunned the Hollywood system and its publicity machine, resulting in little media coverage of him as a personality.
In 1978, Kubrick purchased the Childwickbury Manor in Hertfordshire, England, about 48 km (30 mi) north of London. There he set up his life so that family and business were one. Christiane Kubrick told the London Times how rough New York had become, with children having to be escorted to school by police, people being rude, and smashed glass all over the street.:271 Although he thrived on the manic energy of New York, Kubrick soon adapted to the more genteel atmosphere of Britain.
LoBrutto notes that living in the United Kingdom brought peace to the Kubrick family.:328 After moving to Britain, recalls Christiane, one of the first British radio shows they heard was on gardening. The area's many landscaped parks, gardens and animals was an enormous contrast to New York.:335 "It's very pleasant," said Kubrick, "very peaceful, very civilized here. London is in the best sense the way New York was" in the early 1900s.:341
His friend, screenwriter Michael Herr, points out however that he did not live in Britain because he disliked America:
"God knows; America was all he ever talked about. It was always on his mind, and in his blood.":46
Kubrick's home in the English countryside, a half-hour drive from London, gave him "energy, inspiration, and confidence," states Walker. It provided him with a "favorable psychological climate in which to function," with more privacy and time for reflection.:27 Kubrick's close friend, Julian Senior, who was vice president for Warner Brothers' London office, compared Kubrick's lifestyle to "a medieval craftsman whose home was his workshop.":367 However, he did manage to stay up on current affairs, and read the New York Times daily, notes Jan Harlan, adding that Kubrick remained a "New Yorker" at heart his entire life.
His new home, originally a large country mansion once owned by a wealthy racehorse owner, became a workplace for Kubrick and Christiane. One of the large ballroom-size rooms became her painting studio. Kubrick converted the stables into extra production rooms besides ones within the home that he used for editing and storage.:368 Christiane called their home "a perfect family factory.":374
A film trailer was kept in the driveway, and she took care of keeping visiting crew, staff, and actors, ensuring they were well fed and cared for. They both made special effort to keep their home warm and friendly, yet they shared a need for privacy. She adds, "When Stanley is relaxed he plays chess and likes to be very quiet. . . . Stanley is so gentle, such a shy and sensitive person.":374–375 At home, children and animals would frequently come in and out of the room as he worked on a script or met with an actor. Kubrick's many dogs and cats, toward which he showed an extraordinary affection, were often brought onto film sets or editing rooms.
Diane Johnson, co-screenwriter of The Shining, notes that he enjoyed sharing his work with his family: "They all worked together, creating art and film on the kitchen table, so to speak. . . . Stanley was in no way an isolated individual, and never excluded his family from what he was doing.":295
Kubrick rarely left England during the forty years before he died. "He lived a simple (outer) life, and a largely devotional one," writes Herr, who describes his home and workplace::38
His enormous house was as much a studio as a home, a double studio actually, one for him and his movies and one for his wife, Christiane, and her painting. It was a space of perpetual creative activity. He was thought by the press, and so by the public, to be sequestered there . .:38
Although Kubrick once held a pilot's license, some have claimed that he later developed a fear of flying and refused to take airplane trips. However, Matthew Modine, star of Full Metal Jacket, stated that the stories about his fear of flying were "fabricated," and that "he wasn't afraid to fly." He simply preferred spending most of his time in England, where his films were produced and where he lived.
Emilio D'Alessandro, a former race-car driver, was his personal assistant at his home workplace for thirty years, handling much of the day-to-day chores such as driving actors to and from his home. In his 2012 book, Stanley Kubrick & Me, he describes his personal experiences, saying that Kubrick wasn't simply his "employer but his university," and that he was, "really like a father." Kubrick kept in close contact with business associates in the U.S. and elsewhere, mostly by telephone, calling associates at all hours for conversations that lasted from under a minute to many hours. Many of Kubrick's admirers and friends spoke of these telephone conversations with great affection and nostalgia after his death.:64 Kubrick also frequently invited people to his house, ranging from actors to close friends, admired film directors, writers, and intellectuals. He rarely took vacations, even after completing a major film, and would simply begin preparing for his next one by catching up on seeing movies that had come out during the last year and searching through books and magazines for his next project idea.:495–496
Kubrick was an early user of desktop computers and had five that he worked with at home.:43 LoBrutto describes Kubrick's home office:
Kubrick's personal office mirrored the pragmatic clutter of his New York apartment. An arsenal of tape recorders facilitate the mammoth shooting script process . . . the office warehoused an enormous record collection of every recorded modern musical composition available. .:282
Screenwriter Michael Herr remembers working with him on Full Metal Jacket, in what he describes as Kubrick's home "War Room" which was a large space "crammed with desks and computers and filing cabinets" and "long trestle tables littered" with sketches and idea papers and photos of "streets, pagodas, prostitutes, shrines, and signs.":41
His appearance was not well known in his later years, to the extent that a British man named Alan Conway successfully impersonated Kubrick locally for a number of years. Biographer Vincent LoBrutto notes that his privacy led to spurious stories about his reclusiveness, "producing a mythology more than a man," similar to those about Greta Garbo, Howard Hughes, and J. D. Salinger.:1
However, Michael Herr, Kubrick's co-screenwriter on Full Metal Jacket, and someone who knew him well, considers his "reclusiveness" to be myth: "[H]e was in fact a complete failure as a recluse, unless you believe that a recluse is simply someone who seldom leaves his house. Stanley saw a lot of people . . . he was one of the most gregarious men I ever knew, and it didn't change anything that most of this conviviality went on over the phone.":3 He hated being photographed, notes Herr, although he let a few people, including his daughter, Vivian, take a few candids when working.:15 Matthew Modine, who became close friends with Kubrick while working in Full Metal Jacket, describes how others saw him:
He becomes like the Great and Powerful Oz. This image of Stanley Kubrick is projected onto our consciousness, but he was just a menschy Jewish kid from the Bronx who was hiding behind a curtain.
Herr also describes his voice and conversational style, noting that he had an "especially fraternal temperament" and quite a few women found him "extremely charming." He adds that despite his living in England, his Bronx accent was still noticeable, but added that his voice was fluent and "melodious". "it was as close to the condition of music as speech can get and still be speech":4–5
"Stanley always seemed supernaturally youthful to his friends," writes Herr. "His voice didn't age over the almost twenty years that I knew him [and] he had a disarming way of 'leavening' serious discourse with low adolescent humor, . . .":22 Ciment adds that he was "soft-spoken, with a crisp, surprisingly youthful voice, alternately serious and humorous in tone.":41
Kubrick dressed simply, wearing the same style clothes every day: beat chinos, a basic blue work shirt, a ripstop cotton fatigue jacket with many pockets, and a pair of well-worn running shoes. "Many producers and actors thought he dressed like a beatnik", notes Herr,:14–15 and his wife thought his baggy trousers made him look like a "balloon vendor." His meals were also simple, "he has no time to waste," writes Ciment.:41
His eyes were "dark, focused, and piercing:"
He looked out from a perceptibly deep place, and the look went far inside of you, if you were what he happened to be looking at. . . I know that quite a few people, mostly actors, have unraveled when they got caught in Stanley's beams, even though there was rarely much anger in them. Stanley's look was just so deliberate, cool as functioning intelligence itself, demanding satisfaction, or resolution, of some kind of answer to some kind of problem . . . .:16–17
According to screenwriter Frederic Raphael, who worked with him on Eyes Wide Shut, "vanity was not his style; he never cited his own work with complacency and often admired other people's. He could be pitiless, but never conceited. . . he solicited my views quite as if I were some venerable oracle." That view was shared by Herr: "Nobody who really thinks he's smarter than everyone else could ask as many questions as he always did, . . . and trying to see every movie ever made.":25 His inquisitiveness about photography and films started when he was a teenager. He later infiltrated film facilities around New York, hung around editing rooms, laboratories and equipment stores, constantly asking questions.:26
Herr also notes similarities between Kubrick's temperament and satirist and comedian Lenny Bruce, who was nearly the same age, with their love of jazz, ball games, and their common hipster persona.:26 His temperament as a hipster also reflected Kubrick's likes and dislikes in everyday society. Among those, writes Herr, were his aversions to "waste, haste, . . . [and] bullshit in all its proliferating manifestations, subtle and gross, from the flabby political face telling lies on TV to the most private, much more devastating lies we tell ourselves." According to Herr, Kubrick felt that "hypocrisy was not some petty human foible, it was the corrupted essence of our predicament. . . ":44
After he moved to England, Kubrick especially enjoyed watching his favorite TV shows, including The Simpsons, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Seinfeld, and Roseanne, thinking they were excellent comedies that portrayed American life. He had friends in the U.S. send him tapes of television shows, along with sports events and news broadcasts.:47 Gay Hamilton, one of the stars in Barry Lyndon, recalls one night she couldn't get his attention while he and Ryan O'Neal were watching a boxing video he received from the U.S.:396
"He was fiercely unpretentious," notes Herr. "He was exclusive, he had to be, but he wasn't a snob. It wasn't America he couldn't take. It was L.A.":47 According to Ciment, "social standing means nothing to him and he has no interest in acquiring it; money serves exclusively to guarantee him independence.":41
Herr points out that most of what people knew about Kubrick came from the press, primarily the entertainment press. However, few of the journalists that wrote about his life actually met him or knew much about it. He rarely gave interviews, "because he thought you had to be crazy to do interviews unless you had a picture coming out," adds Herr, who contrasted this with the many celebrities eager for the spotlight and thought this contributed to the public image of Kubrick as reclusive.:70
Among the notable aspects of his desire for privacy, in his home and film life, was that he never talked about his movies while they were being made. Nor did he like discussing them even afterwards, except to friends. He most of all avoided discussing their "meaning," notes Herr, because "he believed so completely in their meaning that to try and talk about it could only spoil it" for the listener. "He might tell you how he did it, but never why." When he was once asked how he thought up the ending for 2001, he replied, "I don't know. How does anybody ever think of anything?":70–71
This aspect of his penchant for privacy may have also contributed to the negative reviews of many of his films or about him personally. Herr states that "it can never turn out well when a square takes a hipster for his subject.":77 Similarly, Ciment argues that his refusal to "become one of the 'family' may have also "wrecked his chances of ever being honored" in Hollywood as a director, similar to the way Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Robert Altman were denied Oscars, all of them considered at the time to be "rebels" within the film world.:43
When he did grant interviews, however, he did so "with good grace and modesty," writes Ciment. A chauffeur would drive reporters to either a pub or to his home office, which was also his editing room. Interviewers would join him in his room "piled high with cans of film, newspapers, files and card-indexes, like some enormous artist's loft in Montparnasse or Greenwich Village – where this 'eternal student' can work away in privacy.":41
On March 7, 1999, four days after screening a final cut of Eyes Wide Shut for his family and the stars, Kubrick died in his sleep of natural causes at the age of 70. His funeral was held on March 12 at his home estate with only close friends and family in attendance, totaling approximately 100 people. The media was kept a mile away outside the entrance gate.:372
Alexander Walker, who attended the funeral, describes it as a "family farewell, . . . almost like an English picnic," with cellists, clarinetists and singers providing song and music from many of his favorite classical compositions. Although Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning, was recited, the funeral had no religious overtones, and few of his obituaries mentioned his Jewish background.:373–374
Among those who gave eulogies were Terry Semel, Jan Harlan, Steven Spielberg, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. He was buried next to his favorite tree in Childwickbury Manor, Hertfordshire, England. In her book dedicated to Kubrick, his wife Christiane included one of his favorite quotes by Oscar Wilde:
The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.:12
Leading directors, including Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Woody Allen, Terry Gilliam, the Coen brothers, Ridley Scott, and George A. Romero, have cited Kubrick as a source of inspiration, and in the case of Spielberg, collaboration. On the DVD of Eyes Wide Shut, Steven Spielberg, in an interview, comments on Kubrick that "nobody could shoot a picture better in history" but the way that Kubrick "tells a story is antithetical to the way we are accustomed to receiving stories". Writing in the introduction to a recent edition of Michel Ciment's Kubrick, film director Martin Scorsese notes that most of Kubrick's films were misunderstood and under-appreciated when first released. Then came a dawning recognition that they were masterful works unlike any other films. Perhaps most notably, Orson Welles, one of Kubrick's greatest personal influences and all-time favorite directors, famously said that: "Among those whom I would call 'younger generation' Kubrick appears to me to be a giant." The directors Richard Linklater, Sam Mendes, Quentin Tarantino, Joel Schumacher, Taylor Hackford, and Darren Aronofsky have all mentioned Kubrick as having made one of their favorite films.
Kubrick continues to be cited as a major influence by many directors, including Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Guillermo del Toro, David Lynch, Lars Von Trier, Michael Mann, and Gaspar Noé. Many filmmakers imitate Kubrick's inventive and unique use of camera movement and framing. For example, several of Jonathan Glazer's music videos contain visual references to Kubrick. The Coen Brother's Barton Fink, in which the hotel itself seems malevolent, contains a hotel hallway Steadicam shot as an homage to The Shining. The storytelling style of their Hudsucker Proxy was influenced by Dr. Strangelove. Director Tim Burton has included a few visual homages to Kubrick in his work, notably using actual footage from 2001: A Space Odyssey in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and modeling the look of Tweedledee and Tweedledum in his version of Alice in Wonderland on the Grady girls in The Shining. Film critic Roger Ebert also noted that Burton's Mars Attacks! was partially inspired by Dr. Strangelove. The video for The Killers song Bones (2006), Burton's only music video, includes clips from Kubrick's Lolita, as well as other films from the general era.
Paul Thomas Anderson (who was fond of Kubrick as a teenager) in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, stated "it's so hard to do anything that doesn't owe some kind of debt to what Stanley Kubrick did with music in movies. Inevitably, you're going to end up doing something that he's probably already done before. It can all seem like we're falling behind whatever he came up with." Reviewer William Arnold described Anderson's There Will Be Blood as being stylistically an homage to Kubrick "particularly "2001: A Space Odyssey" – opening with a similar prologue that jumps in stages over the years and using a soundtrack throughout that employs anachronistic music."
Kubrick's influence on Todd Field was perhaps the most direct. After acting in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, Field immediately went on to make In the Bedroom. Kubrick's schooling of Field noted by many critics at the time including William Arnold who in reviewing the film wrote,
"Like Kubrick, Field's direction manages to feel both highly controlled and effortlessly spontaneous at the same time; and his lifting of the facade of this picturesque, Norman Rockwell setting is carried out with surgical precision… also like Kubrick, Field doesn't make any moral judgments about his characters, and his film remains stubbornly enigmatic. It can be read as a high-class revenge thriller, an ode to the futility of vengeance or almost anything in between.."
Although Michael Moore specializes in documentary filmmaking, at the beginning of shooting his only non-documentary feature film Canadian Bacon, he sat his cast and crew down to watch Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. He told them "What this movie was in the '60s, is what we should aspire to with this film." Moore had previously written Kubrick a letter telling him how much Bacon was inspired by Strangelove.
Film director Frank Darabont has been inspired by Kubrick's use of music. In an interview with The Telegraph, he states that 2001 took "the use of music in film" to absolute perfection, and one shot employing classical music in The Shawshank Redemption follows Kubrick's lead. On the other hand, while Darabont has followed Kubrick in directing two Stephen King adaptations, Darabont shares Stephen King's negative view of Kubrick's adaption of The Shining. In the same interview, Darabont said
It completely misses the human element. Kubrick's work on screen tends to be the eye of a scientist examining humanity as if it were a paramecium under a microscope. Sometimes that worked brilliantly, and sometimes it took a really good book like The Shining and totally fucked it up. It's an utter failure as an adaptation of great material. However, it doesn't take away from his extraordinary achievements in his other films. And I think that 2001 is his crown jewel."
Critics occasionally detect a Kubrickian influence when the actual filmmaker acknowledges none. Critics have noticed the influence of Stanley Kubrick on Danish independent director Nicolas Winding Refn. Jim Pappas suggests this comes from Refn's employment of Kubrick's cinematographer for Eyes Wide Shut in his film Fear X, suggesting "it is the Kubrick influence that leaves us asking ourselves what we believe we should know is true". The apparent influence of Kubrick on his film Bronson was noted by the Los Angeles Times and the French publication Evene However, when asked by Twitch about the very frequent comparisons by critics of the film Bronson to A Clockwork Orange, Refn denied the influence. Refn stated
Of course if you put violence with classical music, people think it's obvious that's Clockwork Orange, because Kubrick used it very well and you always look at it as a reference. There are similarities between my Bronson and the Alex character from Clockwork Orange. There is kind of anti-authoritarian popculture iconish quality, but I stole every single thing from Kenneth Anger. Bronson is a mixture of [Anger's] Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) and Scorpio Rising (1964).
In 2000 BAFTA renamed their Britannia lifetime achievement award the "Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award". Kubrick is among filmmakers such as D. W. Griffith, Laurence Olivier, Cecil B. DeMille, and Irving Thalberg, all of whom have had annual awards named after them. Kubrick won this award in 1999, and subsequent recipients have included George Lucas, Warren Beatty, Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, and Daniel Day-Lewis.
A number of people who worked with Kubrick on his films created the 2001 documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, produced and directed by Kubrick's brother-in-law, Jan Harlan, who had executive produced Kubrick's last four films. The film's chapters each cover one of Kubrick's films and Kubrick's childhood is explored in the introductory section.
On October 30, 2012, an exhibition devoted to Kubrick opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and concluded in June 2013. The exhibition, curated by Deutsches Filminstitut and Deutsches Architekturmuseum, was previously displayed in Frankfurt am Main, Germany (2004); Berlin, Germany (2005); Melbourne, Australia (2006); Ghent, Belgium and Zurich, Switzerland (both in 2007); Rome, Italy (2008); Paris, France (2011); and Amsterdam, Netherlands (2012). Exhibits include a wide collection of documents, photographs and on-set material assembled from 800 boxes of personal archives that were stored in Kubrick's home-workplace in the U.K. A number of celebrities attended and spoke at the museum's pre-opening gala, including Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Jack Nicholson, while Kubrick's widow, Christiane, appeared at the pre-gala press review.
On November 7, 2012, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in conjunction with the LACMA exhibition, celebrated Kubrick's life and career. Malcolm McDowell hosted, and along with other actors, including Paul Mazursky, Ryan O'Neal and Matthew Modine, discussed personal experiences of working with Kubrick.
In October 2013, the Brazil Sao Paulo International Film Festival paid tribute to Kubrick, staging an exhibit of his work and a retrospective of his films. The exhibit is also scheduled to open at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in late 2014.
The TV series The Simpsons is said to contain more references to Kubrick films than any other pop culture phenomenon. References abound to many of his films, including 2001, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining. When the Director's Guild of Great Britain gave Kubrick a lifetime achievement award, they included a cut-together sequence of all the homages from the show.
In 2009, an exhibition of paintings and photos inspired by Kubrick's films was held in Dublin, Ireland, entitled 'Stanley Kubrick: Taming Light'. In 2010, painter (and film storyboard artist) Carlos Ramos held an exhibition entitled "Kubrick" in Los Angeles, featuring paintings in a variety of styles based on scenes from Stanley Kubrick films.
Among her multiple allusions to Kubrick in song and video, pop singer Lady Gaga's video for Bad Romance appeared to pay homage to Kubrick, and her concert shows have included the use of dialogue, costumes, and music from A Clockwork Orange.
In the early 1990s, a con artist named Alan Conway frequented the London entertainment scene claiming to be Stanley Kubrick, and temporarily deceived New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich, as well as multiple aspiring actors. Kubrick's personal assistant, Anthony Frewin, who helped track Conway down, wrote the screenplay for a film based on the Conway affair Colour Me Kubrick starring John Malkovich as Alan Conway. Kubrick's widow, Christiane Kubrick, was also a consultant for the film. The film contains several tongue-in-cheek homages to scenes from Kubrick's films. Conway was earlier the subject of a short documentary film The Man Who Would be Kubrick.
In 2002, the French documentary film maker William Karel (occasionally referred to as "Europe's Michael Moore") made initial plans for a documentary on Stanley Kubrick, but changed course. Karel was fascinated by the pervading conspiracy theory that Kubrick had faked footage of the NASA moon landings during the filming of Space Odyssey, and chose to make a parody "mockumentary" entitled Dark Side of the Moon advancing the same thesis entirely in jest. He had the help of Kubrick's surviving family who both acted as consultants for the film and gave scripted fake interviews. In spite of clues that the film is a news parody, some test audiences believed the film to be sincere, including at least one believer in the moon landing conspiracy.
Kubrick has been portrayed on film by actor Stanley Tucci in the film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Although Sellers acted in two of Kubrick's films, the material here is almost wholly focused on their work together in Dr. Strangelove.
In 2012, the documentary film Room 237 was released, which speculates about overt and hidden meanings behind the The Shining. The film includes footage from that, and other Kubrick films, along with discussions by a number of Kubrick experts. The film includes nine segments, with each segment focusing on different elements within the film which "may reveal hidden clues and hint at at a bigger thematic oeuvre."
|1951||Day of the Fight||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Himself (uncredited cameo), cinematographer, editor (uncredited); sound department (uncredited).|
|Flying Padre||Yes||Yes||Yes||Cinematographer; uncredited as writer|
|1953||Fear and Desire||Yes||Yes||Yes||Cinematographer and editor; sound department (uncredited)|
|The Seafarers||Yes||Yes||Cinematographer, editor and sound department|
|1955||Killer's Kiss||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Story, cinematographer and editor|
|1956||The Killing||Yes||Yes||Producer (uncredited)|
|1957||Paths of Glory||Yes||Yes||Producer (uncredited)|
|1962||Lolita||Yes||Uncredited as screenwriter and producer|
|1968||2001: A Space Odyssey||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Special photographic effects designer and director|
|1971||A Clockwork Orange||Yes||Yes||Yes||Additional camera operator (uncredited)|
|1980||The Shining||Yes||Yes||Yes||Co-written with Diane Johnson|
|1987||Full Metal Jacket||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Murphy (uncredited voice cameo)|
|1999||Eyes Wide Shut||Yes||Yes||Yes||Additional camera operator (uncredited)|
As noted above, the 2001 film A.I.: Artificial Intelligence directed by Steven Spielberg is dedicated to Kubrick who originally had rights to the source material, provided the concept for the film, and did much of the groundwork preparation for it, including having supervised both story treatments and the conceptual art that were used in the final project. Spielberg made enormous efforts to be visually faithful to Kubrick's visual conception for the film.
Two scholarly books that are comparative critical studies of Kubrick's work discuss this film and even list it in their filmography. The website "The Kubrick Corner" also treats this as part of Kubrick's work. Finally, a book on the making of the film with a foreword by Spielberg also treats the film throughout as effectively a collaboration between Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg. Other scholarly treatments of Kubrick largely ignore AI. A 2012-2013 retrospective of Kubrick's film at Los Angeles County Museum of Art is showing all of Kubrick's films over a period of two months, but does not include A.I.
All of Stanley Kubrick's films from Paths of Glory till the end of his career, except for The Shining, were nominated for Academy Awards and/or Golden Globe Awards, in various categories. 2001: A Space Odyssey received numerous technical awards, including a BAFTA award for cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth and an Academy Award for best visual effects, which Kubrick (as director of special effects on the film) received. This was Kubrick's only personal Academy Award win among 13 nominations. Nominations for his films were mostly in the areas of cinematography, art design, screenwriting, and music. Only four of his films were nominated by either an Academy Award or Golden Globe Award for their acting performances, Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, and A Clockwork Orange.
Personal awards for Kubrick:
|Year||Title||Awards (limited to Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA), Saturns, and Razzies)|
|1953||Fear and Desire|
|1955||Killer's Kiss||Locarno International Film Festival Prize for Best Director (won)|
|1956||The Killing||Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best Film from Any Source|
|1957||Paths of Glory|
|1960||Spartacus||Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama (won)|
Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best Film from Any Source
Nominated–Golden Globe Award for Best Director
|1962||Lolita||Nominated–Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (Kubrick's extensive work on this was uncredited; the nominee was Vladimir Nabokov)|
Nominated–Golden Globe Award for Best Director
|1964||Dr. Strangelove||BAFTA Award for Best British Film (won)|
BAFTA Award for Best Film from Any Source (won)
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director (won)
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Picture
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best British Screenplay (nomination shared with Peter George and Terry Southern)
|1968||2001: A Space Odyssey||Academy Award for Best Effects: Special Visual Effects (won)|
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (nomination shared with Arthur C. Clarke)
Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best Film
|1971||A Clockwork Orange||New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Picture (won)|
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director (won)
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Picture
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated–Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama
Nominated–Golden Globe for Best Director
Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best Film
Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay
|1975||Barry Lyndon||Nominated–Academy Award for Best Picture|
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated–Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated–Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama
Nominated–Golden Globe for Best Director
Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best Film
Nominated–BAFTA Award for Best Director
|1980||The Shining||Nominated–Saturn Award for Best Director|
Nominated–Razzie Award for Worst Director
|1987||Full Metal Jacket||Nominated–Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (nomination shared with Michael Herr and Gustav Hasford)|
|1999||Eyes Wide Shut|
Kubrick received two awards from major film festivals: Best Director from the Locarno International Film Festival in 1959 for Killer's Kiss, and Filmcritica Bastone Bianco Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1999 for Eyes Wide Shut. He also was nominated for the Golden Lion of the Venice Film Festival in 1962 for Lolita. The Venice Film Festival awarded him the Career Golden Lion in 1997. He received the D.W. Griffith Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America, and another life-achievement award from the Director's Guild of Great Britain, and the Career Golden Lion from the Venice Film Festival. Posthumously, the Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival awarded him the Honorary Grand Prize for life achievement in 2008. He also received the coveted Hugo Award three times for his work in science fiction.
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