Biography of Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick (July 26, 1928 – March 7, 1999) was an influential American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, and photographer, who lived in England during most of the last 40 years of his career. Kubrick was noted for the scrupulous care with which he chose his subjects, his slow method of working, the variety of genres he worked in, his technical perfectionism and his reclusiveness about his films and personal life. He worked far beyond the confines of the Hollywood system, maintaining almost complete artistic control and making movies according to the whims and time constraints of no one but himself, but with the rare advantage of big-studio financial support for all his endeavours.
Kubrick is widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative, influential and intriguing directors in the history of cinema. He directed a number of highly acclaimed and often controversial films that have often been perceived as a reflection of his obsessive and perfectionist nature. His films are characterized by a formal visual style and meticulous attention to detail – often combining elements of surrealism and expressionism with an ironic pessimism, while also being among the "most original, provocative, and visionary motion pictures ever made".
Eight of Kubrick's thirteen feature films currently reside in the Internet Movie Database top 250.
Stanley Kubrick was born on July 26, 1928 at the Lying-In Hospital in Manhattan, the first of two children born to Jacques Leonard Kubrick (1901–85) and his wife Gertrude (née Perveler; 1903–85). His sister, Barbara, was born in 1934. Jacques Kubrick, whose parents were of Jewish Austro-Hungarian and PolishNote a origin, was a doctor. At Stanley's birth, the Kubricks lived in an apartment at 2160 Clinton Ave. in The Bronx.
Kubrick's father taught him chess at age twelve, and the game remained a lifelong obsession. He also bought his son a Graflex camera when he was thirteen, triggering a fascination with still photography. As a teenager, Kubrick was interested in jazz, and briefly attempted a career as a drummer.
Kubrick attended William Howard Taft High School from 1941–45. He was a poor student, with a meager 67 grade average. He graduated from high school in 1945, and his poor grades, combined with the demand for college admissions from soldiers returning from the Second World War, eliminated any hopes 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 official school photographer for a year. In 1946, he briefly attended City College of New York (CCNY) and then left. 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. He became an apprentice photographer for Look in 1946, 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.)
During his Look magazine years, Kubrick married Toba Metz (b. 1930) on May 29, 1948. They lived in Greenwich Village, eventually divorcing in 1951. During this time, Kubrick began frequenting film screenings at the Museum of Modern Art and the cinemas of New York City. He was particularly inspired by the complex, fluid camerawork of director Max Ophüls, whose films influenced Kubrick's later visual style.
Film career and later life---
In 1951, Kubrick's friend Alex Singer persuaded him to start making short documentaries for The March of Time, a provider of newsreels to movie theatres. Kubrick agreed, and shot the independently financed Day of the Fight in 1951. The film notably employed a reverse tracking shot, which would become one of Kubrick's signature camera movements. Although its distributor went out of business that year, Kubrick sold Day of the Fight to RKO Pictures for a profit of $100. Inspired by this early success, Kubrick quit his job at Look magazine and began working on his second short documentary, Flying Padre (1951), funded by RKO. A third film, The Seafarers (1953), Kubrick's first color film, was a 30-minute promotional film for the Seafarers' International Union. These three films constitute Kubrick's only surviving work in the documentary genre. However, it is believed that he was involved in other shorts, which have been lost—most notably World Assembly of Youth (1952). He also served as second unit director on an episode of the Omnibus television program about the life of Abraham Lincoln. None of these shorts has ever been officially released, though they have been widely bootlegged, and clips are used in the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures. In addition, Day of the Fight and Flying Padre have been shown on TCM as part of a festival of short films.
1950s: Fear and Desire, Killer's Kiss & Paths of Glory--
Kubrick moved to narrative feature films with Fear and Desire (1953), the story of a team of soldiers caught behind enemy lines in a fictional war. Kubrick and his then-wife, Toba Metz, were the only crew on the film, which was written by Kubrick's friend Howard Sackler, who later became a successful playwright. Fear and Desire garnered respectable reviews but was a commercial failure. In later life, Kubrick was embarrassed by the film, which he dismissed as an amateur effort. He refused to allow Fear and Desire to be shown at retrospectives and public screenings and did everything possible to keep it out of circulation. At least one copy remained in the hands of a private collector, and the film subsequently surfaced on VHS and later on DVD.
Kubrick's marriage to Toba Metz ended during the making of Fear and Desire. He met his second wife, Austrian-born dancer and theatrical designer Ruth Sobotka, in 1952. They lived together in the East Village from 1952 until their marriage on January 15, 1955. They moved to Hollywood that summer. Sobotka, who made a cameo appearance in Kubrick's next film, Killer's Kiss (1954), also served as art director on The Killing (1956). Like Fear and Desire, Killer's Kiss is a short feature film, with a running time of slightly more than an hour. It met with limited commercial and critical success. The film is about a young heavyweight boxer at the end of his career who is involved with organized crime. Both Fear and Desire and Killer's Kiss were privately funded by Kubrick's family and friends.
Alex Singer introduced Kubrick to a young producer named James B. Harris, and the two became close friends. Their business partnership, Harris-Kubrick Productions, would finance Kubrick's next three films. The two bought the rights to a Lionel White novel called Clean Break, which Kubrick and coscreenwriter Jim Thompson turned into a story about a race track robbery gone wrong. Starring Sterling Hayden, The Killing was Kubrick's first full-length feature film, shot with a professional cast and crew. The resulting film was unusual in 1950s American cinema in that it had a nonlinear storyline (in a manner imitated nearly 40 years later by director Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction) and an unhappy ending. In many ways, it followed the conventions of film noir, both in its plotting and cinematography style. That kind of crime caper film had peaked in the 1940s; but today, many regard this film as one of the best of the noir genre. While it was not a financial success, it received good reviews.
The widespread admiration for The Killing brought Harris-Kubrick Productions to the attention of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The studio offered them its massive collection of copyrighted stories from which to choose their next project. During this time, Kubrick also collaborated with Calder Willingham on an adaptation of the Austrian novel The Burning Secret. Although Kubrick was enthusiastic about the project, it was eventually shelved.
Kubrick's next film Paths of Glory was set during World War I and based on Humphrey Cobb's 1935 antiwar novel of the same name. It is about a French army unit ordered on an impossible mission by their superiors. As a result of the mission's failure, three innocent soldiers are charged with cowardice, as an example to the other troops. Kirk Douglas was cast as Colonel Dax, a humanitarian officer who tries to prevent the soldiers' execution. Douglas was instrumental in securing financing for the ambitious production. The film was not a significant commercial success, but it was critically acclaimed and widely admired within the industry, establishing Kubrick as a major up-and-coming young filmmaker. Critics over the years have praised the film's unsentimental, spare, and unvarnished combat scenes and its raw black-and-white cinematography. Steven Spielberg has named this one of his favorite Kubrick films.
During the production of Paths of Glory in Munich, Kubrick met and romanced young German actress Christiane Harlan (credited by her stage name, "Susanne Christian"), who played the only female speaking part in the film. Kubrick divorced his second wife, Ruth Sobotka, in 1957. Christiane Susanne Harlan (b. 1932 in Germany) belonged to a theatrical family and had trained as an actress. She and Kubrick married in 1958 and remained together until his death in 1999. During her marriage to Kubrick, Christiane concentrated on a career as a painter. In addition to raising Christiane's young daughter Katharina (b. 1953) from her first marriage to the late German actor Werner Bruhns (d. 1977), the couple had two daughters, Anya (b. 1958) and Vivian (b. 1960). Christiane's brother Jan Harlan was Kubrick's executive producer from 1975 onward.
1960s: Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove & 2001--
Upon his return to the United States, Kubrick worked for six months on the Marlon Brando vehicle One-Eyed Jacks (1961). The two clashed over a number of casting decisions, and Brando eventually fired him and decided to direct the picture himself. Kubrick worked on a number of unproduced screenplays until Kirk Douglas asked him to take over Douglas' epic production Spartacus (1960) from Anthony Mann, who had been fired by the studio two weeks into shooting.
Based upon the true story of a doomed uprising of Roman slaves, Spartacus was a difficult production. Creative differences arose between Kubrick and Douglas, and the two reportedly had a stormy working relationship. Frustrated by his lack of creative control, Kubrick later largely disowned the film, which further angered Douglas. The friendship the two men had formed on Paths of Glory was destroyed by the experience of making the film. Years later, Douglas referred to Kubrick as "a talented shit."
Despite the on-set troubles, Spartacus was a major critical and commercial success and established Kubrick as a major director. However, its embattled production convinced Kubrick to find ways of working with Hollywood financing while remaining independent of its production system, which he called "film by fiat, film by frenzy."
Spartacus is the only Stanley Kubrick film in which Kubrick had no hand in the screenplay, no final cut, no producing credit, nor any say in the casting. It is largely Kirk Douglas's project.
Spartacus would go on to win 4 Oscars with one going to Peter Ustinov, for his turn as slave dealer Batiatus, the only actor to win one under Kubrick's direction.
In 1962, Kubrick moved to England to film Lolita, and he would live there for the rest of his life. The original motivation was to film Lolita in a country with laxer censorship laws. However, Kubrick had to remain in England to film Doctor Strangelove since Peter Sellers was not permitted to leave England at the time, and the filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey required the large capacity of the sound stages of Shepperton studios, which were not available in America. It was after filming the first two of these films in England and in the early planning stages of Odyssey that Kubrick decided to settle in England permanently. The film was Kubrick's first major controversy. The book, by Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov, dealt with an affair between a middle-aged man named Humbert Humbert (James Mason) and his twelve-year-old stepdaughter, and was already notorious as an "obscene" novel and a cause celebre when Kubrick embarked on the project. The difficult subject matter was mocked in the film's famous tagline, "How did they ever make a film of Lolita?" Kubrick originally engaged Nabokov to adapt his own novel for the screen. The writer first produced a 400-page screenplay, which he then reduced to 200. The final screenplay was written by Kubrick himself, and Nabokov himself estimated that only 20% of his work made it into the film. Nabokov's original draft was later published under the title Lolita: A Screenplay.
Prior to its release, Kubrick realized that to get a Production Code seal, the screenplay would have to not be overly provocative, treading lightly with its theme. Kubrick tried to make some elements more acceptable by omitting all material referring to Humbert's lifelong infatuation with "nymphets" and possibly ensuring Lolita looked like a teenager. Nonetheless, Kubrick had liased with the censors during production and it was only "slightly edited", in particular removing the eroticism between Lolita and Humbert. As a result, the novel's more perverse aspects were toned down in the final cut, leaving much to the viewer's imagination. Kubrick would later say that had he known the severity of the censorship he would face, he probably would not have made the film.
Lolita was the first of two times Kubrick worked with British comic actor Peter Sellers, the second being Dr. Strangelove (1964). Sellers' role is that of Clare Quilty, a second older man unknown to Humbert who is involved with Lolita, serving dramatically as Humbert's darker doppelganger. In the novel, Quilty is behind the scenes for most of the story, but Kubrick brings him to the foreground, which resulted in an expansion of his role (even then running to only about half an hour’s screen time). Kubrick adds the dramatic device of Quilty's pretending to be multiple characters, allowing Sellers to employ his gift for mock accents.
Critical reception of the film was mixed; many praised it for its daring subject matter, while others were surprised by the lack of intimacy between Lolita and Humbert. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Sue Lyon, who played the title role, won a Golden Globe for Best Newcomer.
Film critic Gene Youngblood holds that stylistically Lolita is a transitional film for Kubrick, "marking the turning point from a naturalistic cinema...to the surrealism of the later films."
Kubrick's next film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), became a cult film and is now considered a classic. The screenplay—based upon the novel Red Alert, by ex-RAF flight lieutenant Peter George (writing as Peter Bryant)—was cowritten by Kubrick and George, with contributions by American satirist Terry Southern. Red Alert is a serious, cautionary tale of accidental atomic war. However, Kubrick found the conditions leading to nuclear war so absurd that the story became a sinister macabre comedy. Once so reconceived, Kubrick recruited Terry Southern to polish the final screenplay.
The story centers on an American nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, initiated by renegade U.S.A.F. Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden; the character's name is a reference to Jack the Ripper) without official authorization. When Ripper gives his orders, the bombers are all at fail-safe points, before which passing they cannot arm their warheads, and past which, they cannot proceed without direct orders. Once past this point, the planes will only return with a prearranged recall code. The film intercuts between three locales: 1) Ripper's air force base, where RAF Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Sellers) tries to stop the mad Gen. Ripper by obtaining the codes; 2) the Pentagon War Room, where the President of the United States (Sellers) and U.S.A.F. Gen. Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) try to develop a strategy with the Soviets to stop Gen. Ripper's B-52 bombers from dropping nuclear bombs on Russia; and 3) Major Kong's (Slim Pickens) B-52 bomber, where he and his crew of airmen (never knowing their orders are false) doggedly try to complete their mission. It soon becomes clear that the bombers may reach Russia, since only Gen. Ripper knows the recall codes. At this point, the character of Dr. Strangelove (Sellers' third role) is introduced. His Nazi-style plans for ensuring the survival of the fittest of the human race in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust are the black-comedy highlight of the film.
Peter Sellers, who had played a small but pivotal part in Lolita, was hired to play four roles in Dr. Strangelove. He eventually played three, due to an injured leg and his difficulty in mastering bomber pilot Major "King" Kong's Texas accent. Kubrick later called Sellers "amazing," but lamented the fact that the actor's manic energy rarely lasted beyond two or three takes. To overcome this problem, Kubrick ran two cameras simultaneously and let Sellers improvise. Coincidentally, that same year, Columbia Studios released the dramatic nuclear war thriller Fail-Safe.
The film prefigured the antiwar sentiments of the later 1960s that would become explosive only a few years after its release. It was highly irreverent toward war policies of the U.S., which were largely considered sacrosanct up to that time. The film earned four Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture and Best Director) and the New York Film Critics' Best Director award.
Kubrick spent five years developing his next film, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The film was conceived as a Cinerama spectacle and was photographed in Super Panavision 70. Kubrick cowrote the screenplay with science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke, expanding on Clarke's short story "The Sentinel." Kubrick reportedly told Clarke that his intention was to make "the proverbial great science fiction film."
2001 begins four million years ago with an encounter between a group of apes and a mysterious black monolith, which seems to trigger in them the ability to use a bone as both a tool and a weapon. Used as the latter allows them to claim a water hole from another group of apes, who have no tool-wielding ability. A victorious ape tosses his bone into the air, at which point the film makes a celebrated jump cut to an orbiting weapons satellite, circa 2000. At this time, a group of Americans at their moon base have dug up a similar monolith. Geological evidence indicates that it was deliberately buried four million years ago. When the sun rises over the monolith, it sends a radio signal to Jupiter. Eighteen months later, the U.S. sends a group of astronauts aboard the spaceship Discovery on a mission to Jupiter, the purpose of which is to investigate the monolith's signal, although this is concealed from the crew. During the flight, the ship's sentient HAL 9000 computer malfunctions but resists disconnection, believing its control of the mission to be crucial. The computer terminates life support for most of the crew before it is successfully shut down. The surviving astronaut, David Bowman (Keir Dullea), in a tiny space pod, encounters another monolith in orbit around Jupiter, whereupon he is hurled into a portal in space at high speed, witnessing many astronomical phenomena. His interstellar journey concludes with his transformation into a mysterious new being resembling a fetus enclosed in an orb of light, last seen gazing at Earth from space.
The film was a massive production for its time. The special effects, then considered groundbreaking, were overseen by Kubrick and were engineered by a team that included special effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull (Silent Running, Blade Runner). Kubrick extensively used traveling matte photography to film space flight, a technique also used nine years later by George Lucas in making Star Wars, although that film also used motion-control effects that were unavailable to Kubrick at the time. Kubrick used an innovative use of slitscan photography to film the Stargate sequence. The film's striking cinematography was the work of legendary British director of photography Geoffrey Unsworth, who would later photograph classic films such as Cabaret and Superman. Manufacturing companies were consulted as to what the design of both special-purpose and everyday objects would look like in the future. At the time of the movie's release, Arthur C. Clarke predicted that a generation of engineers would design real spacecraft based upon 2001 "…even if it isn't the best way to do it.". The film also is a rare instance of portraying space travel realistically, with complete silence in the vacuum of space and a realistic representation of weightlessness.
The film is famous for using classical music in place of an original score. Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra and Johann Strauss's The Blue Danube waltz became for a while indelibly associated with the film, especially the former, as it was not well-known to the public prior to the film. Kubrick also used music by contemporary avant-garde Hungarian composer György Ligeti, although some of the pieces were altered without Ligeti's consent. The appearance of Atmospheres, Lux Aeterna, and Requiem on the 2001 soundtrack was the first wide commercial exposure of Ligeti's work. This use of "program" music was not originally planned. Kubrick had commissioned composer Alex North to write a full-length score for the film, but Kubrick became so attached to the temporary soundtrack he had constructed during editing that he dropped the idea of an original score entirely.
Although it eventually became an enormous success, the film was not an immediate hit. Initial critical reaction was extremely hostile, with critics attacking the film's lack of dialogue, slow pacing, and seemingly impenetrable storyline. One of the film's few defenders was Penelope Gilliatt, who called it (in the New Yorker) "some kind of a great film." Word of mouth among young audiences—especially the 1960s counterculture audience, who loved the movie's "Star Gate" sequence, a seemingly psychedelic journey to the infinite reaches of the cosmos—made the film a hit. Despite nominations in the directing, writing, and producing categories, the only Academy Award Kubrick ever received was for supervising the special effects of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Artistically, Odyssey was a radical departure from Kubrick's previous films. It contains only 45 minutes of spoken dialogue, over a running time of two hours and twenty minutes. The fairly mundane dialogue is mostly superfluous to the images and music. The film's most memorable dialogue belongs to the computer HAL in HAL's exchanges with Dave Bowman. Some argue that Kubrick is portraying a future humanity largely dissociated from its environment. The film's ambiguous, perplexing ending continues to fascinate contemporary audiences and critics. After this film, Kubrick would never experiment so radically with special effects or narrative form, but his subsequent films maintain some level of ambiguity.
Interpretations of 2001: A Space Odyssey are numerous and diverse. Despite having been released in 1968, it still prompts debate today. When critic Joseph Gelmis asked Kubrick about the meaning of the film, Kubrick replied:
They are the areas I prefer not to discuss, because they are highly subjective and will differ from viewer to viewer. In this sense, the film becomes anything the viewer sees in it. If the film stirs the emotions and penetrates the subconscious of the viewer, if it stimulates, however inchoately, his mythological and religious yearnings and impulses, then it has succeeded.
2001: A Space Odyssey is perhaps Kubrick's most famous and influential film. Steven Spielberg called it his generation's big bang, focusing attention upon the space race. It was a precursor to the explosion of the science fiction film market nine years later, which began with the release of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
1970s: A Clockwork Orange & Barry Lyndon--
After 2001, Kubrick initially attempted to make a film about the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. When financing fell through, Kubrick went looking for a project that he could film quickly on a small budget. He eventually settled on A Clockwork Orange (1971). His adaptation of Anthony Burgess' novel is a dark, shocking exploration of violence in human society. The film was initially released with an X rating in the United States and caused considerable controversy. The film's iconic poster imagery was created by legendary designer Bill Gold.
The story takes place in a futuristic version of Great Britain that is both authoritarian and chaotic. The central character is a teenage hooligan named Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell), who, along with his companion "droogs", gleefully torments, beats, robs, tortures, and rapes without conscience or remorse. His brutal beating and murder of an older woman finally lands Alex in prison. Alex undergoes an experimental medical aversion treatment that inhibits his violent tendencies, though he has no real free moral choice. At the public demonstration of the success of the technique, Alex is treated cruelly but does not fight back; the treatment has made him less than human. He has been conditioned against classical music, his love of which was his one human feature, and apparently all of his sex drive is gone. We further see hints that the promotion of the treatment is politically motivated. After being freed, he is found by the former partners in crime who had betrayed him and who are now policemen, and they beat him mercilessly.
He then comes to the home of a political writer who disdains "the modern age" and is initially sympathetic to Alex's plight until he recognizes Alex as the young man who brutally raped his wife and paralyzed him a few years before. Alex then becomes a pawn in a political game.
The society was sometimes perceived as Communist (as Michael Ciment pointed out in an interview with Kubrick, although he himself didn't feel that way) due to its slight ties to Russian culture. The teenage slang has a heavily Russian vocabulary, which can be attributed to Burgess. There is some evidence to suggest that the society is a socialist one, or at least a society moving out of a failed, Leftist socialism and into a Rightist or fascist society. In the novel, streets have paintings of working men in the style of Russian socialist art, and in the film, there is a mural of socialist artwork with obscenities drawn on it. As well, Alex's residence was shot on actual failed Labour party architecture (as Malcolm McDowell points out on the DVD commentary), and the name "Municipal Flat Block 18A, Linear North" alludes to socialist-style housing. Later in the film, when the new right-wing government takes power, the atmosphere is certainly more authoritarian than the anarchist air of the beginning. Kubrick's response to Ciment's question remained ambiguous as to exactly what kind of society it is. He held that the film held comparisons between both the left and right end of the political spectrum and that there is little difference between the two. Kubrick stated, "The Minister, played by Anthony Sharp, is clearly a figure of the Right. The writer, Patrick Magee, is a lunatic of the Left. ...They differ only in their dogma. Their means and ends are hardly distinguishable."
Kubrick photographed A Clockwork Orange quickly and almost entirely on location in and around London. Despite the low-tech nature of the film as compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick showed his talent for innovation; at one point, he threw an Arriflex camera off a rooftop in order to achieve the effect he wanted. For the score, Kubrick enlisted electronic music composer Wendy Carlos—at the time, known as Walter Carlos (Switched-On Bach)—to adapt famous classical works (such as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony) for the Moog synthesizer.
The film was extremely controversial because of its explicit depiction of teenage gang rape and violence. It was released in the same year as Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs and Don Siegel's Dirty Harry, and the three films sparked a ferocious debate in the media about the social effects of cinematic violence. The controversy was exacerbated when copycat crimes were committed in England by criminals wearing the same costumes as characters in A Clockwork Orange. British readers of the novel noted that Kubrick had omitted the final chapter (also omitted from American editions of the book) in which Alex finds redemption and sanity.
It is pivotal to the plot that the lead character, Alex, is fond of classical music, and that the brainwashing Ludovico treatment accidentally conditions him against classical music. As such, it was natural for Kubrick to continue the tradition begun in 2001: A Space Odyssey of using a great deal of classical music in the score. However, in this film, classical music accompanies scenes of violent mayhem and coercive sexuality rather than of graceful space flight and mysterious alien presences. Both Pauline Kael (who generally disliked Kubrick) and Roger Ebert (who often praises Kubrick) found Kubrick's use of juxtaposing classical music and violence in this film unpleasant, Ebert calling it a "cute, cheap, dead-end dimension," and Kael, "self-important." However, novelist Anthony Burgess, in his introduction to his own stage adaptation of the novel, held that ultimately, classical music is what will finally redeem Alex.
After receiving death threats to himself and his family as a result of the controversy, Kubrick took the unusual step of removing the film from circulation in Britain. It was unavailable in the United Kingdom until its re-release in 2000, a year after Kubrick's death, although it could be seen in continental Europe. The Scala cinema in London's Kings Cross showed the film in the early 1990s, and at Kubrick's insistence, the cinema was sued and put out of business, thus depriving London of one of its very few independent cinemas. It is now a club.
In the mid-1990s, a documentary entitled Forbidden Fruit, about the censorship controversy, was released in Britain. Kubrick was unable to prevent the documentary makers from including footage from A Clockwork Orange in their film. Kubrick's next film, released in 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 and misadventures of an 18th-century Irish gambler and social climber. After serving in the Prussian army, Lyndon slowly insinuates himself into English high society, eventually marrying the Countess of Lyndon. The world of the aristocracy turns out to be a hollow paradise, dull and decaying. Lyndon is ultimately unable to maintain his good standing there and falls from grace after a series of persecutions.
Some critics, especially Pauline Kael (one of Kubrick's greatest detractors), found Barry Lyndon a cold, slow-moving, and lifeless film. Its measured pace and length—more than three hours—put off many American critics and audiences, although it received positive reviews from Rex Reed and Richard Schickel. Time magazine published a cover story about the film, and Kubrick was nominated for three Academy Awards. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, more than any other Kubrick film. Despite this, Barry Lyndon was not a box office success in the U.S., although the film found a great audience in Europe, particularly in France.
As with most of Kubrick's films, Barry Lyndon's reputation has grown through the years, particularly among other filmmakers. Director Martin Scorsese has cited it as his favorite Kubrick film. Steven Spielberg has praised its "impeccable technique," though, when younger, he famously described it "like going through the Prado without lunch."
As in his other films, Kubrick's cinematography and lighting techniques were highly innovative. Most famously, interior scenes were shot with a specially adapted high-speed f/0.7 Zeiss camera lens originally developed for NASA. This allowed many scenes to be lit only with candlelight, creating two-dimensional diffused-light images reminiscent of 18th-century paintings.
Like its two predecessors, the film does not have an original score. Irish traditional songs (performed by The Chieftains) are combined with works such as Antonio Vivaldi's Cello Concerto in B, a Johann Sebastian Bach Double Concerto, George Frideric Handel's Sarabande from the Keyboard Suite in D minor (HWV 448, HG II/ii/4), and Franz Schubert's German Dance No. 1 in C major, Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat, and Impromptu No. 1 in C minor. The music was conducted and adapted by Leonard Rosenman, for which he won an Oscar.
In 1976, production designer Ken Adam, who had worked with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove and Barry Lyndon, asked Kubrick to visit the recently completed 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios to provide advice on how to light the enormous soundstage, which had been built for and was being prepared for the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. Kubrick agreed to consult when it was promised that nobody would ever know of his involvement. This was honored until after his death in 1999, when in 2000 the fact was revealed by Adam in the documentary on the making of The Spy Who Loved Me on the special edition DVD of the 007 movie.
1980s: The Shining & Full Metal Jacket--
The pace of Kubrick's work slowed considerably after Barry Lyndon, and he did not make another film for five years. The Shining, released in 1980, was adapted from the novel of the same name by bestselling horror writer Stephen King. The film starred Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a failed writer who takes a job as an off-season caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, a high-class resort deep in the Colorado mountains. The job requires spending the winter in the isolated hotel with his wife, Wendy (played by Shelley Duvall) and their young son, Danny, who is gifted with a form of telepathy—the "shining" of the film's title.
As winter takes hold, the family's isolation deepens, and the demons and ghosts of the Overlook Hotel's dark past begin to awake. The hotel displays increasingly horrible, phantasmagoric images to Danny. Meanwhile, Jack is slowly driven mad by the haunted surroundings until he finally collapses into homicidal psychosis.
The film was shot entirely on London soundstages, with the exception of second-unit exterior footage, which was filmed in Colorado, Montana, and Oregon. In order to convey the claustrophobic oppression of the haunted hotel, Kubrick made extensive use of the newly invented Steadicam, a weight-balanced camera support, which allowed for smooth camera movement in enclosed spaces.
More than any of his other films, The Shining gave rise to the legend of Kubrick as a megalomanic perfectionist. Reportedly, he demanded hundreds of takes of certain scenes (approximately 1.3 million feet of film was shot). This process was particularly difficult for actress Shelley Duvall, who was used to the faster, improvisational style of director Robert Altman.
Stephen King disliked the movie, calling Kubrick "a man who thinks too much and feels too little." In 1997, King collaborated with Mick Garris to create a television miniseries version of the novel that was more faithful to King's original.
The film opened to mostly negative 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, often appearing at the top of best horror film lists alongside Psycho (1960), The Exorcist (1973) and Halloween (1978). Some of its images, such as an antique elevator disgorging a tidal wave of blood, are among the most recognizable and widely known images from any Stanley Kubrick film. The financial success of The Shining renewed Warner Brothers' faith in Kubrick's ability to make artistically satisfying and profitable films after the commercial failure of Barry Lyndon in the United States. It was seven years until Kubrick's next film, Full Metal Jacket (1987), an adaptation of Gustav Hasford's Vietnam War novel The Short-Timers, starring Matthew Modine as Joker, Adam Baldwin as Animal Mother, R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, and Vincent D'Onofrio as Private Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence. 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."
The film begins at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, U.S., where Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman relentlessly pushes his recruits through basic training in order to transform them from worthless "maggots" into motivated and disciplined killing machines. Private Lawrence, an overweight, slow-witted recruit who Hartman has nicknamed "Gomer Pyle," is unable to cope with the program and slowly cracks under the strain. On the eve of graduation, he has a psychotic breakdown and murders Hartman before killing himself.
In characteristic Kubrick style, the second half of the film jumps abruptly to Vietnam, following Joker, since promoted to sergeant. As a reporter for the United States Military's newspaper, the Stars and Stripes, Joker occupies war's middle ground, using wit and sarcasm to detach himself from the carnage around him. Though a soldier at war, he is also a reporter and is thus compelled to abide by the ethics of his profession. The film then follows an infantry platoon's advance on and through Hue City, decimated by the Tet Offensive. The film climaxes in a battle between Joker's platoon and a sniper hiding in the rubble, who is revealed to be a young girl. She almost kills Joker until his reporter partner shoots and severely injures her. Joker then kills her to put her out of her misery.
Filming a Vietnam War film in England was a considerable challenge for Kubrick and his production team. Much of the filming was done in the Docklands area of London, with the ruined-city set created by production designer Anton Furst. As a result, the film is visually very different from other Vietnam War films such as Platoon and Hamburger Hill, most of which were shot in the Far East. Instead of a tropical, Southeast-Asian jungle, the second half of the story unfolds in a city, illuminating the urban warfare aspect of a war generally portrayed (and thus perceived) as jungle warfare, notwithstanding significant urban skirmishes like the Tet offensive. Reviewers and commentators thought this contributed to the bleakness and seriousness of the film.
Full Metal Jacket received mixed critical reviews on release but also found a reasonably large audience, despite being overshadowed by Oliver Stone's Platoon and Clint Eastwood's Heartbreak Ridge. Like Kubrick's other films, its critical status has increased immensely since its initial release.
1990s: Eyes Wide Shut--
Kubrick's final film was Eyes Wide Shut, starring then-married actors Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a wealthy Manhattan couple on a sexual odyssey.
The story of Eyes Wide Shut is based on Arthur Schnitzler's Freudian novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story in English), although the story has been ported from Vienna in the 1920s to New York City in the 1990s. It follows Dr. William Harford's journey into the sexual underworld of New York City, after his wife, Alice, has shattered his faith in her fidelity by confessing to having fantasized about giving him and their daughter up for one night with another man. Until then, Harford had presumed women are more naturally faithful than men. This new revelation generates doubt and despair, and he begins to roam the streets of New York, acting blindly on his jealousy.
After trespassing upon the rituals of a sinister, mysterious sexual cult, Dr. Harford thinks twice before seeking sexual revenge against his wife. Upon returning home, he discovers his wife has had a dream about making love to several men at once, concerning which fantasy she has conflicted feelings. After his own dangerous escapades, Dr. Harford has no high moral ground over her. The couple begin to patch their relationship.
The film was in production for more than two years, and two of the main members of the cast, Harvey Keitel and Jennifer Jason Leigh, were replaced in the course of the filming. Although it is set in New York City, the film was mostly shot on London soundstages, with little location shooting. Shots of Manhattan itself were pickup shots filmed in New York City by a second-unit crew. Because of Kubrick's secrecy about the film, mostly inaccurate rumors abounded about its plot and content. Most especially, the story's sexual content provoked speculation, some journalists writing that it would be "the sexiest film ever made." The casting of then celebrity-actor supercouple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a husband-wife couple in the film increased the prerelease journalistic hyperbole.
Eyes Wide Shut, like Lolita and A Clockwork Orange before it, faced censorship before release. In the United States and Canada, digitally manufactured silhouette figures were strategically placed to mask explicit copulation scenes so as to secure an R rating from the MPAA. In Europe, and the rest of the world, the film has been released uncut, in its original form. The October 2007 DVD reissue contains the uncut version, making it available to North American audiences for the first time.
Kubrick infrequently discussed personal matters in interview, and rarely spoke publicly at all. Over time, the gamut of his public image in the media ranged from a reclusive genius to a megalomaniacal lunatic shut off from the world. Since his death, Kubrick's friends and family have publicly denied both of these stereotypes. It is clear that the director left behind a strong family and a circle of close friends, and many of those who worked for him have spoken in his favor.
Kubrick's famous reclusive nature is largely a myth, and may have resulted from his aversion to air travel. Despite once holding a pilot's license, Kubrick had a fear of flying and refused to take airplane trips. As a result, he rarely left England in the last forty years of his life. In addition, Kubrick shunned the Hollywood system and its publicity machine, resulting in little media coverage of him as a personality. Upon purchasing the Childwickbury Manor in Hertfordshire, England, Kubrick set up his life so that family and business were one. He purchased top-of-the-line film editing equipment and owned a number of cameras, which he sometimes used on his own movies. Children and animals would frequently come in and out of the room as he worked on a script or met with an actor. His appearance was not well-known in his later years, to the extent that a British man named Alan Conway successfully impersonated Kubrick in order to meet several well-known actors and get into fancy clubs. Conway is the subject of the film Colour Me Kubrick (2005), written by Kubrick's assistant Anthony Frewin and directed by Brian Cook, Kubrick's First Assistant Director for 25 years.
Despite his aversion to international travel, Kubrick was constantly in contact with family members and business associates, often by telephone, and contacted his collaborators at all hours of the day and night for conversations that lasted from under a minute to several hours. Many of Kubrick's admirers and friends spoke of these telephone conversations with great affection and nostalgia after his death, especially Michael Herr and Steven Spielberg. In his memoir of Kubrick, Herr stated that dozens of people have claimed to have spoken to Kubrick on the day of his death and remarked that "I believe all of them." Kubrick also frequently invited people to his house, ranging from actors to close friends, admired film directors, writers, and intellectuals.
It was little-known by the public during Kubrick's life that he was also an animal lover. He owned many dogs and cats, and showed an extraordinary affection for them.[clarification needed Kubrick's widow, Christiane, in her book version of Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures, wrote that Kubrick brought his cats onto film sets and editing rooms with him in order to spend more time with them. Matthew Modine remembers Kubrick's being deeply upset when a family of rabbits was accidentally killed during the making of Full Metal Jacket. Kubrick was so beside himself that he canceled shooting for the rest of the day. Philip Kaplan, one of Kubrick's lawyers and friends, told the story that Stanley once canceled, at the last moment, a meeting with him and another lawyer who had flown to London from the United States because he had sat up all night with a dying cat and was in no shape to participate. Also, according to Kaplan, the huge kitchen table at Kubrick's home in Harpenden (Hertfordshire, United Kingdom) was supported by an undulating base with interior spaces, and housed within each curved space was a dog, most of whom were of no recognizable breed, and some not notably friendly to strangers.
Kubrick had a reputation for being tactless and rude to those he worked with. Some of Kubrick's collaborators complained that his personality was cold and that he lacked sympathy for the feelings of other people. Although Kubrick became close friends with Clockwork Orange star Malcolm McDowell during filming, Kubrick abruptly terminated the friendship soon after the film was complete. McDowell was deeply hurt by this, and the schism between the two men lasted until Kubrick's death. Science fiction writer Brian Aldiss was fired from Kubrick's never-completed project A.I. for vacationing with his family in violation of his contract, even though Kubrick had put the project on hold at the time. James Earl Jones, despite his admiration for Kubrick on an artistic level, spoke negatively of his experience on Dr. Strangelove, saying that Kubrick was disrespectful to actors, using them as instruments in a grand design rather than allowing them to be creative artists in their own right.ge C. Scott, who admired Kubrick in retrospect for reportedly being one of the few people who could routinely beat him in chess, famously resented Kubrick's using Scott's most over-the-top performances for the final cut of Dr. Strangelove after being promised by Kubrick that they were warmups and would not actually be in the movie. Kubr employees and crew members have stated that he was notorious for not complimenting anyone, and rarely showed admiration for his coworkers for fear it would make them complacent. Kubrick complimented them on their work only after the movie was finished, unless he felt their work was "genius." The only actors that Kubrick called "genius" were Peter Sellers, James Mason, and Malcolm McDowell.
Michael Herr, in his otherwise positive memoir of his friendship with Kubrick, complained that Kubrick was extremely cheap and very greedy about money. He stated that Kubrick was a "terrible man to do business with" and that the director was upset until the day he died that Jack Nicholson made more money from The Shining than he did. Kirk Douglas often commented on Kubrick's unwillingness to compromise, his out-of-control ego, and his ruthless determination to make a film his own distinct work of art instead of a group effort. However, Douglas has acknowledged that a large part of his dislike for Kubrick was caused by the director's consistently negative statements about Spartacus.
Many of those who worked with Kubrick have spoken kindly of him since his death, including coworkers and friends Jack Nicholson, Diane Johnson, Tom Cruise, Joe Turkel, Con Pederson, Carl Solomon, Ryan O'Neal, Anthony Frewin, Ian Watson, John Milius, Jocelyn Pook, Sydney Pollack, R. Lee Ermey, and others. Michael Herr's memoir of Kubrick, and Matthew Modine's book Full Metal Jacket Diary show a much kinder, saner, and warmer version of Kubrick than the conventional view of him as cold, demanding, and impersonal. In a series of interviews found on the DVD of Eyes Wide Shut, a teary-eyed Tom Cruise remembers Kubrick with great affection; Nicole Kidman shares his sentiments. Shelley Winters, when asked what she thought of him, answered: "A gift." Shelley Duvall, who played Wendy in The Shining, had a rocky relationship with Kubrick, but said in retrospect that it was a great experience that made her smarter—though she'd never want to do it again. Malcolm McDowell acknowledged in retrospect that some of his statements about Kubrick were "unfair" and were a "cry out" to Kubrick to reconnect with him.
Stanley Kubrick was of Polish Jewish descent, but his family did not practice religion at all. Indeed though his father's real name was Jacob, he went by Jacques or Jack as a move towards American assimilation. When asked by Michel Ciment in an interview if he had a religious upbringing, Kubrick replied: "No, not at all."
Kubrick is often said to have been an atheist. This may or may not be true. In Kubrick's interview with Craig McGregor, he said:
2001 would give a little insight into my metaphysical interests", he explains. "I'd be very surprised if the universe wasn't full of an intelligence of an order that to us would seem God-like. I find it very exciting to have a semi-logical belief that there's a great deal to the universe we don't understand, and that there is an intelligence of an incredible magnitude outside the Earth. It's something I've become more and more interested in. I find it a very exciting and satisfying hope.
When asked by Eric Nordern in Kubrick's interview with Playboy if 2001: A Space Odyssey was a religious film, Kubrick elaborated:
I will say that the God concept is at the heart of 2001 but not any traditional, anthropomorphic image of God. I don't believe in any of Earth's monotheistic religions, but I do believe that one can construct an intriguing scientific definition of God, once you accept the fact that there are approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone, that each star is a life-giving sun and that there are approximately 100 billion galaxies in just the visible universe. Given a planet in a stable orbit, not too hot and not too cold, and given a few billion years of chance chemical reactions created by the interaction of a sun's energy on the planet's chemicals, it's fairly certain that life in one form or another will eventually emerge. It's reasonable to assume that there must be, in fact, countless billions of such planets where biological life has arisen, and the odds of some proportion of such life developing intelligence are high. Now, the sun is by no means an old star, and its planets are mere children in cosmic age, so it seems likely that there are billions of planets in the universe not only where intelligent life is on a lower scale than man but other billions where it is approximately equal and others still where it is hundreds of thousands of millions of years in advance of us. When you think of the giant technological strides that man has made in a few millennia—less than a microsecond in the chronology of the universe—can you imagine the evolutionary development that much older life forms have taken? They may have progressed from biological species, which are fragile shells for the mind at best, into immortal machine entities—and then, over innumerable eons, they could emerge from the chrysalis of matter transformed into beings of pure energy and spirit. Their potentialities would be limitless and their intelligence ungraspable by humans.
In the same interview, he also blames the poor critical reaction to 2001 as follows:
Perhaps there is a certain element of the lumpen literati that is so dogmatically atheist and materialist and Earth-bound that it finds the grandeur of space and the myriad mysteries of cosmic intelligence anathema.
In an interview with William Kloman of The New York Times, when asked why there is hardly any dialogue in 2001, Kubrick explained:
I don't have the slightest doubt that to tell a story like this, you couldn't do it with words. There are only 46 minutes of dialogue scenes in the film, and 113 of non-dialogue. There are certain areas of feeling and reality—or unreality or innermost yearning, whatever you want to call it—which are notably inaccessible to words. Music can get into these areas. Painting can get into them. Non-verbal forms of expression can. But words are a terrible straitjacket. It's interesting how many prisoners of that straitjacket resent its being loosened or taken off. There's a side to the human personality that somehow senses that wherever the cosmic truth may lie, it doesn't lie in A, B, C, D. It lies somewhere in the mysterious, unknowable aspects of thought and life and experience. Man has always responded to it. Religion, mythology, allegories—it's always been one of the most responsive chords in man. With rationalism, modern man has tried to eliminate it, and successfully dealt some pretty jarring blows to religion. In a sense, what's happening now in films and in popular music is a reaction to the stifling limitations of rationalism. One wants to break out of the clearly arguable, demonstrable things which really are not very meaningful, or very useful or inspiring, nor does one even sense any enormous truth in them.
Stephen King recalled Kubrick calling him late at night while he was filming The Shining and Kubrick asked him, "Do you believe in God?" King said that he had answered, "Yes", but has had three different versions of what happened next. One time, he said that Kubrick simply hung up on him. On other occasions, he claimed Kubrick said, "I knew it", and then hung up on him. On yet another occasion, King claimed that Kubrick said, before hanging up, "No, I don't think there is a God." In more recent interviews, King has had yet another version of the "God" story, in which Kubrick calls King and asks him if he thinks ghost stories are optimistic because they all suggest there is life after death. King replies, "What about hell?" There is a pause and Kubrick says, "I do not believe in hell."
Finally, Katharina Kubrick Hobbs was asked by alt.movies.kubrick if Stanley Kubrick believed in God. Here is her response:
Hmm, tricky. I think he believed in something, if you understand my meaning. He was a bit of a fatalist actually, but he was also very superstitious. Truly a mixture of nature and nurture. I don't know exactly what he believed, he probably would have said that no-one can really ever know for sure, and that it would be rather arrogant to assume that one could know. I asked him once after The Shining, if he believed in ghosts. He said that it would be nice if there "were" ghosts, as that would imply that there is something after death. In fact, I think he said, "Gee I hope so."...He did not have a religious funeral service. He's not buried in consecrated ground. We always celebrated Christmas and had huge Christmas trees.
In Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, Jack Nicholson recalls that Kubrick said The Shining is an overall optimistic story because "anything that says there's anything after death is ultimately an optimistic story."
In 1999—four days after screening a final cut of Eyes Wide Shut for his family, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Warner Brothers executives—70-year-old Kubrick died of a heart attack in his sleep. He was buried next to his favorite tree in Childwickbury Manor, Hertfordshire, England, U.K.