Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Like most scientists and nerds, the innovative and often science-fictiony work of Stanley Kubrick holds a spot of honor in my heart. However, the man himself was an sometimes seen as an enigma, a very private person.

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Jamie Stuart, cyber-friend and fellow admirirer of all things Kubrick, gave me the heads up to an exclusive interview he did for The Reeler with longtime Kubrick assisant Leon Vitali. Vitali worked with Kubrick for nearly 25 years, spanning from 1975’s Barry Lyndon to Eyes Wide Shut, and is perhaps one of only a handful of people who knew Kubrick well, both profesionally and personally.

On what it was like to act under Kubrick…

He never used storyboards. Never used storyboards. That’s a wonderful feeling of freedom you have as an actor, and I’ve said several times that Stanley was the closest to a theater director that I ever worked with. That was the process you went through. It’s just that instead of taking six weeks to rehearse for a play scene by scene by scene, here we were taking hours and sometimes days to rehearse and shoot and rehearse and shoot. And all the time during rehearsals, he insisted: “Do it for real. Do what you think you will do.” Because the way he found his first shot, he used to walk around the set with an Arriflex tube and just change lenses, look around, down, up, move away, move around. Once he found his first shot, he knew he could build the scene from that point. But he said: “If you don’t do it properly, if you don’t do it for real, you could change the way I think about the scene. You could suddenly put a whole new accent on it.” You know, it’s such a refreshing way for an actor to work. It really is.

On the subject of Kubrick’s temperment…

For some people it was hard to deal with because if they were delivering bad news, for instance, or reporting on a failure to complete a mission, for want of a better way of putting it, his line was always: “How long have you known this? And were you waiting for the right moment to tell me — the right psychological moment to tell me?” Of course, you’d always say, “No.” But inside you were nodding away.

Check out the rest, here.


  1. #1 Bob Abu
    June 7, 2007

    I rented Barry Lyndon after watching and liking Kubricks “Paths of Glory” and “Spartacus.”

    The haunting Chieftains music, which I could at least partly hear then, was great, but I can easily say “Barry Lyndon” was one of the worst movies ever made. It starred Ryan O’Neal. He played an Anglo Irish Lord,or something. It featured some of his worst acting, which is really saying something. Think Ryan O’Neal. That’s 2 hours of my life I will never get back.

    Something to think about. “You will answer for everything, including every idle word.”

    Kubrick is still suffering in purgatory because of the after effect of this one movie and is only saved from eternal damnation because of his earlier work.

  2. #2 cld
    June 11, 2007

    Barry Lyndon is one of the great and unique things on Earth, but it moves at the pace of life, it’s not fast, it’s as if you are actually watching it.

  3. #3 Bry'n
    June 12, 2007

    If you get a chance, get a copy of “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures,” which is probably one of the better biographical accounts of both his work and personal life. A minor drawback is that it’s narrated by Tom Cruise (and thus imposes a creepiness factor), but otherwise, it’s quite satisfactory. : )

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