Writing and Rewriting Kubrick: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Kubrickian Memoirs and Love Emilio D’Alessandro.

Immediately after Stanley Kubrick’s death in March 1999, as if a veto had been lifted, many people began sharing their experiences with the famously reclusive director: writers Sara Maitland, Candia McWilliam, Brian Aldiss and Ian Watson penned individual pieces; [1] studio executives’ and actors’ reminiscences were edited in collated articles, [2] and collaborators were interviewed worldwide [3] in a media frenzy that included even Kubrick’s former housekeeper. [4]

The customary peak of interest after the death of someone of reputation was in Kubrick’s case particularly noticeable, since in the previous fifteen years the director had had no contact with the press and, from the 1970s onward, he had not been much of a public figure, limiting his appearances in photographs only and only when a film of his was about to open. [5] Reports from his associates had also been quite rare and the ones that had appeared were authorised or opposed by Kubrick. [6] Until that moment, the general impression was that Kubrick had controlled his persona as much as he had controlled his films.

The seemingly uncontrolled outpouring of testimonies was so striking, in fact, that at some point it would not have been too unlikely for anybody to claim personal knowledge of Stanley Kubrick – something that was mocked to perfection in a brilliant piece in The New Yorker, titled “Stanley Kubrick was my friend, too”. [7]

Even Malcolm McDowell, certainly not one of the most laudatory witnesses, [8] admitted: “I’ve felt lots of disgust since his death. People talking about Stanley Kubrick who are not even qualified to talk about a black pudding”. [9] Obituaries had run wild with the “usual Kubrick anecdotes” – as the director himself once described how the media used to portray him [10] – and the recycled array of stereotypical adjectives: reclusive, alienated, misanthropic, phobic, paranoid, obsessive … Even the articles that did mention Kubrick’s body of work, and acknowledged his stature as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, could not help addressing his gloomy, bizarre character. “He had chosen to keep silence, in a society that is deafeningly noisy. Now he is being punished for it”, aptly wrote Candia McWilliam, “uncomfortably aware that [in the media storm] a piece like mine is, strictly, part of the indecorum”. [11]

In reality, most of the people who spoke or wrote about Kubrick back then had a much nobler intent than showing off their privilege of access to the great, far-off director, or than revealing some cheap stories: colleagues of the film business finally seemed more than willing to break their silence, both as a way to honour Kubrick as a filmmaker and to counterbalance the most bitter remarks about his personality.

Two things interfered with the establishment of a more truthful, balanced and lasting picture of the man and the artist. First, there were uncertainties around Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999), left after Kubrick’s death at an unclear stage of completion. Allegations from the press, statements by Warner Bros. executives, comments by actors, insiders and anonymous sources created a pandemonium of doubts, contradictory reports, innuendos, and plain falsities that dominated the media debate for months and swallowed whole any chance of appraising Kubrick’s career.

The second event that added turmoil to the chaos was the publication of Frederic Raphael’s memoir Eyes Wide Open (1999), which chronicled his work on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut. The book in itself was an ambivalent report of an exciting, frustrating, irritating, boring, worthwhile (in that order) professional experience with the director, but its timing and tone overshadowed its content.

Eyes Wide Open was announced on June 16, 1999, by an advance review in The New York Post. The unfortunate editorial choice for its headline, “Stanley Kubrick, Self-Hating Jew” – a phrase nowhere to be found in the article or in the book – caused an uproar of reactions by shocked Hollywood personalities, such as Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise, [12] who lambasted Raphael for something he had not actually said. The book’s untimely – or shrewdly timed – publication date of June 30, a mere three months after Kubrick’s death and two weeks before the opening of Eyes Wide Shut, was strongly exploitative and, when the book finally appeared on the shelves, it revealed an unpleasant self-serving tone: “I have little fear that he is intellectually beyond my reach; I am not even sure how bright he is” [13] is one of the many instances that were perhaps intended to show the inner turmult of an established writer struggling to find a way to endure his vexations, but on the whole were read more as a perplexing need on the part of Raphael to assert his credentials.

It did not help the book’s reputation either when the Kubrick family weighed in on it as soon as they recovered from their grief. The second message that widow Christiane Kubrick wrote on her just launched website was as follows: “Mr. Raphael through his literary agent conveyed the false impression to at least one (and perhaps more) prospective publisher that his book was both authorised and welcomed by Stanley’s family and friends” to ease and secure a publication under such a tight schedule. [14]

Years later, it remains difficult not to consider Eyes Wide Open as an exercise in poor taste, and unfortunately it has never been regarded as a reliable source for Kubrick scholarship.

Raphael’s portrayal of Kubrick caused a quick backlash [15] that included most notably a lengthy piece [16] by writer and co-scenarist of Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987) Michael Herr, an eulogy written for Vanity Fair as a substitute piece for an interview with the director that was planned to coincide with the opening of Eyes Wide Shut had Kubrick not died. This was later expanded and formed the text for his memoir, simply titled Kubrick and published in June 2000. [17]

Sometimes the book’s responsive nature becomes so evident that one wonders if Herr would have written it at all if it were not for Raphael’s provocation. Herr’s descriptions of Kubrick’s “small fine hands that he rarely used when he talked, with slender white fingers”, [18] or that he “dressed like a cottager”, [19] or how “he photographed some women beautifully”, [20] all either mirror or challenge Raphael’s memories of the “small white elegance of his delicate hands, the fingers often splayed to their limit as he gestures with them”, [21] that he looked like “a minor employee of the French railways”, [22] and that “Stanley’s sacred cows were all masculine”. [23]

As beautifully written as it is, with its intimate, melancholic tone of utmost sincerity that renders it a prolonged lament, Herr’s book inevitably has a tone of defence by proxy. Herr himself acknowledges it when, addressing “the deformed perception of [Kubrick]” and its impact on the man, he writes “he was a sensitive guy” and then admits, in a slightly awkward parenthesis, “I can hardly believe that I feel the need to say this, and so explicitly”. [24]

As a result, Herr’s portrait focused strictly on Kubrick’s personality and mostly on its good side – his charm, wit, intelligence, seductiveness, his fraternal temperament, his hunger for information (but not fastidiously so, naturally). The only clearly unfavourable aspect that Herr mentioned was Kubrick’s cheapness in business affairs.

Eyes Wide Open’s loud appearance caused such a polarisation in the debate around Kubrick that ultimately what it achieved was nothing but sterility – something that Raphael himself has later addressed, calling Kubrick a “museum piece”: [25] untouchable, venerated by hagiographical studies, virtually a saint.

And yet, the hagiography did not really succeed in taking the place of the stereotypical image that Kubrick had before he died, which is still largely predominant in the common perception of the director. I agree with Raphael that, back in 1999, the opportunity for a thorough debate was missed, but I have reservations about it being possible in the immediate aftermath of his death and with an allegedly unfinished, strongly hyped film about to premiere. Furthermore, the sheer quantity of new sources that appeared within the span of one single year was simply too much to digest, and I would suggest that none of them had a strong, durable impact.

In the subsequent years, pieces about Kubrick were mostly written by actors, either in extended memoirs, or in biographies with dedicated chapters, adding to the autobiographies that were already published during Kubrick’s life by James Mason, Shelley Winters, Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas and Paul Mazursky. [26] Thus far, we have been able to read reminiscences from Gary Lockwood and Dan Richter about the filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Marisa Berenson on Barry Lyndon (1975), Steven Berkoff in connection with A Clockwork Orange (1971) and again Barry Lyndon, Miriam Karlin on A Clockwork Orange, Rade Serbedzija about Eyes Wide Shut, and Matthew Modine, whose Full Metal Jacket Diary (2005) is to date the most extensive memoir by a Kubrick actor. [27] Alas, most of these sources are somewhat anodyne and their portraits of Kubrick are accurate though colourless. Even Full Metal Jacket Diary, with its strict present tense perspective and a rather gimmicky film script format, is curiously shallower than one would expect, and certainly than the interviews Modine has given since the film opened. [28] The most revealing of all is the chapter about Eyes Wide Shut included in Serbedzija’s autobiography. In just eight pages the actor – who also writes poetry and it shows – gives an insightful, surprising account of how Kubrick directed his actors in his later years; the term mind game is not inappropriate.

Other people who met Kubrick for diverse reasons and published their memories include writers Anthony Burgess, Diane Johnson and John le Carré, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, actor’s coach Bob Brady, journalists Ian Johnstone and Alexander Walker, art designer Ken Adam, publicist Mike Kaplan, and marketing executive Bill O’Hare. [29]

Taken together, these sources produce a mosaic portrait of Kubrick as seen through their eyes: a multifaceted profile of the director, who is by turns mysterious, cooperative, straight-laced, focused, inquisitive, sardonic, shy, chatty, remote, uncomplicated, affectionate, determinate, impossible, single-minded, motivating, inexplicable. Some tiles are more colourful than others, some are dull, some are too sharp. What is certain, is that there are now many offerings. Kubrick is one of the most written about filmmakers; undoubtedly because he made a series of acclaimed, successful and culturally relevant films, but also as a consequence of his mystique.

In October 2005 I found myself in a curious position. I was contacted by Emilio D’Alessandro, an elderly man living near Cassino, South Italy. I knew who Emilio was because I had read an interview [30] with him in an Italian magazine in which he remembered his work as an assistant to Stanley Kubrick from 1971 to 1999. Emilio had also played cameo roles in Herr’s and Modine’s memoirs and had played a rather conspicuous part in Ian Watson’s Playboy piece, guiding the writer with unperturbed practicality through Kubrick’s labyrinthine mansion and mind. Emilio asked me to assist him in writing his memories. Yet another Kubrickian memoir … Was it worthwhile to add the nth tile to the mosaic?

Emilio’s Italian interview was not really encouraging either: he had spoken about his duty to drive the unnerved actors to the first meeting with Kubrick, how the director was fond of stationery, his boundless love for animals, his passion for music and chess, a few telephone calls with Fellini and his clothing and culinary habits – “his favourite dish was pasta Bolognese!” [31] Emilio had said triumphantly, causing in fact more than an eyebrow to rise for any Italian. Frankly, the chauffeur’s view seemed irrelevant after that of the housekeeper. But a passage in Emilio’s words intrigued me: “Kubrick asked me to move my family to his place. I could choose one of the cottages, or a wing of his house … He trusted only me. I had the keys to his private offices: he did not give them to his wife, he did not give them to the servants. Actually, there was no servant, there was just him and me”. [32] Maybe Emilio had more to say than a series of vignettes. After all, he had worked for Kubrick for thirty years, a time span unmatched by any of Kubrick’s collaborators. I agreed to meet him at his home – I thought I could always do an interview with him and write a piece for my website.

At the end of that day I realised how naïve I had been. Emilio had a barrage of things to say. I tossed around questions just to satisfy my curiosity, and he would always reply with very precise and revealing answers that often disputed what had been written before. Clearly, the limited space of a magazine article had not been enough to do justice to his experience.

Emilio spoke a lot about work – hard work, long working hours, being tired after a day’s work but happy and fulfilled. He started working when A Clockwork Orange was being cut, and never stopped for a moment until Kubrick died, serving the director with an increasing set of tasks and responsibilities, on location, inside the studios, in offices and in his house, meeting writers, actors, art directors, editors, marketing executives. His was a story of thirty years of backbreaking toil. I liked it, it was a good, sensible perspective on life, and to me hard work was one of the keys to understanding Kubrick: naturally, I love his films but mostly I have admired the independent producer who used the majors’ money to make his own personal films, challenging the studio system; the visionary who assembled a crew of talented artists and pushed them to their limit to achieve perfection. Didn’t I read somewhere that genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration? [33]

In fact, I had especially liked a passage in a brief, perceptive memoir published in 1999 by journalist and writer Riccardo Aragno, who was the translator of Kubrick’s films for the Italian market from the 1970s onwards. In Kubrick: Storia di un’amicizia, Aragno explains how Kubrick’s idea of producing a film was:

similar to those of painters, sculptors, poets, novelists, musicians. He wanted to do everything by himself … all the work that, in the standard structure of movie making business, is done by a studio … To distinguish this idea from the Hollywood film industry, we used to adopt – half jokingly and half seriously –an English term: ‘a Cottage Industry’. [34]

Perhaps Emilio could lead me inside Kubrick’s cottage and let us all experience the daily routine of that small but extremely efficient production machine. Slowly, I convinced myself that not only could I use Emilio’s memories to detail the making of the films, I might also try and expand Aragno’s view and fully describe Kubrick for the first time not as the filmmaking genius of the twentieth century, but as a hard-working artisan.

I immediately asked Emilio to tell me how Kubrick had organised Abbots Mead, the house in which he lived in the 1970s: I knew from several reports that it was not a mere family home but, during A Clockwork Orange, it also served as production headquarters. [35] Emilio explained that Kubrick redesigned his property in order to have all he needed at his hand: a projection room had been installed in one of the ground floor living rooms, the garage served as editing room and the Lodge, a nearby small two-storey cottage hosted several offices. When production began on Barry Lyndon, the warehouse in front of the house was converted into a laboratory for cinematographer John Alcott and production designer Ken Adam. When work increased and his house was not big enough to accommodate the large production that Barry Lyndon was proving to be, instead of using costly stages in one of the nearby film studios, Kubrick rented the abandoned hangars at Radlett Airfield, a disused airport that was successfully turned into a costume shop and makeup department: “It was perfect. It cost less than a studio, it was enormous, and there were no opening or closing times”, Emilio remarked. [36] I have learned from other reports how Kubrick appreciated every single one of these features.

I was fascinated to hear how Kubrick managed to save money: for Barry Lyndon, he bought 32 Volkswagen Type 2 vans, “That way he could be sure that there were always a couple free at any time, so nobody would have to wait for one to become available before leaving on a job”. [37] At the end of the production, the vans were sold at a special price to the people who had used them. The same happened with the hotel furniture used in The Shining (1980):

wardrobes, fridges, paintings, lamps, even the utensils from the huge kitchen: everything was put on sale. So as not to waste anything, Stanley had devised a system that kept everybody happy. Whoever bought the props got good value for money: they were cheap and in good condition. At the same time, the production company recovered part of its investment and saved on the cost of having the props transferred by a removal company. [38]

This is why there are two carpets from the Colorado lounge in Emilio’s house in Cassino – something that never ceases to amaze me. For the recording sessions of Barry Lyndon’s score, again, instead of booking expensive studios, Kubrick used the Barbican Centre: “It hadn’t yet been officially opened, but the concert hall was functional. ‘Perfect!’ ordained Stanley. ‘It’s bound to be available and will be cheaper, too!’” [39]

Childwickbury, a large property with a manor house, a stable block and several cottages where the Kubricks moved in 1979, increased the director’s efficiency again. When he had to leave EMI Studios, he set up a cutting room at home and kept editing The Shining. (After cutting 2001: A Space Odyssey on board a transatlantic ship and in a train cabin, an editing suite in a converted stable must have been a luxury.) [40] The stable block also accommodated a dark room where Kubrick could safely work on location photographs without the risk of news leaking out. Only the insurance companies prevented him, very reluctantly, from developing the rushes himself.

I was struck by Kubrick’s will to be more and more independent, even in his later years. After fighting against the studio system for half of his life, one would assume he had found a quiet place at Warner Bro., but Emilio made me realise that, for Kubrick, a major film studio was only one of the entities that can interfere with the production of a film. Since the National Trust prohibited erecting structures on his property, Kubrick tried “to find an area where he could build sound stages, warehouses, and offices; where he could make a film completely independently, without any restrictions in terms of time, space, resources, or personnel”. [41] In a word, the director’s dream of independence was to have his own ‘Stanley Kubrick Studios’ – something that he did come close to achieving in the mid-nineties when he spotted a large property in Leavesden, now in fact owned by Warner Bros. I wondered if Kubrick had thought of renting the place in between his productions, thus reaching complete economic independence from any external entity.

During my interviews with Emilio I naturally used the Kubrick literature as a source for questions, not as a way to necessarily prove or disprove what the books had said, but mainly to go deeper into something I found interesting. For example: Kubrick controlled everything. Wasn’t it hyperbole? If not, how did he manage? To summarise hours and hours spent on the topic with Emilio, I can say that yes, very few things – if any – escaped Kubrick’s attention and that he did manage with the help of a vast network of willing assistants. Which led me to a more stimulating observation: I noticed a change in Emilio’s account of his daily routine at the Kubrick residences. When he was talking about his time at Abbots Mead, he spoke of an organic way in which the daily tasks were organised, involving the people who worked there in a sort of relay race, whereas at Childwickbury his stories featured mostly him and Stanley alone. This change mirrored an equally distinct contrast in the experiences that the screenwriters had: those who worked with Kubrick before 1980 found the director to be challenging but cooperative; those who were summoned to Childwickbury were kept totally in the dark. [42] Emilio explained that at the end of The Shining, Andros Epaminondas, Kubrick’s assistant, had decided to leave; at the same time, Margaret Adams, Kubrick’s secretary, resigned and opted for an on-and-off employment when a film was in production. I cannot say what these events changed in Kubrick’s mind, but it is a fact that he changed the way he ran his offices. Emilio had always thought that Kubrick’s brain was compartmentalised and at Childwickbury he compartmentalised everything and greatly increased his famed secretiveness, to the extent that Emilio had very few interactions with those who had different tasks assigned to them. By comparing Emilio’s experience to those of the writers, I began to see a pattern: perhaps, from the mid 1980s, Kubrick’s method of exploring without explaining, classically associated with his work with actors, was in use with writers as well.

The change at the beginning of the 1980s was so radical that I wondered if Andros’ and Margaret’s leaving also had a role in slowing the pace of Kubrick’s output. It was certainly not the sole reason, but I found Emilio’s words to be especially perceptive when he said they:

were still always behind schedule. The new people that Stanley had hired answered the phone, posted letters, and made trips to the library, but though they could start a research project, they certainly weren’t able to finish one. There was something special about what Andros had done that Stanley himself now had to provide, and this meant it took even longer to start work on a production project. [43]

I was particularly interested in exploring these in-between periods of time. Nobody really knew what Kubrick did when he was not making a film: how did he spend his days, what was his daily work, was he reading all the time?

Predictably, Emilio did not feel the pressure of working ease when a film was not in production – after all, Margaret Adams resigned exactly because she never saw “the light at the end of the tunnel”. [44] There were meetings, people coming and going, research to be done, home-video versions to be produced and even more research.

In these “comparatively quiet periods”, [45] as Emilio called them, Kubrick played around with the daily routine. Many of the stories I heard from Emilio had a funny ring to them and made me appreciate a peculiar quality in Kubrick’s sense of humour. Those who knew him personally testified that “he had the best jokes, he had a devastating dry wit”, [46] “he would joke or kid around with you, and you know, definitely mock you”. [47] Brian Aldiss perhaps captured this quality best: “He said to me once, ‘How can I make a movie that would gross as much as Star Wars and yet allow me to retain my reputation for social responsibility?’ … He’s not serious, he’s not joking, he’s a bit of both…” [48]

This is exactly the impression I gathered from Emilio’s recollections. Kubrick “would comment on something in a dry, neutral tone of voice to see how one reacted”. He would say preposterous things but completely seriously, then he would look at you and see your face. Emilio realised “He liked to put his listeners in a difficult position, to see if they ended up really believing the unlikely things he was saying”. [49]

Matthew Modine’s book features several of these sardonic, puzzling comments, but the actor – then relatively young, inexperienced, and above all quite in awe for Kubrick – did not have the necessary detachment and self-assurance to realise they were intended to be funny. And I suspect a similar thing happened, although for different reasons, with Frederic Raphael, who made Kubrick appear a bit salacious when he had him say, about Nicole Kidman agreeing to do nude scenes for Eyes Wide Shut, “I guess we’ll close the set. Might be a good day to happen to drop by the studio, if you wanted to”. [50] Now I think this was just one of Kubrick’s jokes, and Raphael was not on his wavelength.

It is no mystery that every report tells as much about its writer as about its subject. We learn about Kubrick, in addition to learning about Raphael, Herr, Maitland, Watson, etc. Emilio’s mosaic tile reflects his own personality and is shaped by his back-story – that of an unschooled expatriate with £5 in his bank account and a desperate need for supporting his family.

This may be a peculiar point of view from which to observe an artist, but it is exactly what sets Emilio’s account apart. His past was not in the movie business, he did not know anything about Stanley Kubrick, he had never seen any of his films, he had never even heard his name. All the other observers had expectations or preconceived notions about Kubrick: they had seen his films and read the books, they were aware of his stature, his reputation, even his mystique. Inevitably, this shaped their experience with him. All had accepted the job because he was Kubrick. Being chosen by him was “the culmination of a youthful dream” (Raphael), [51] “fucking awesome” (Modine), [52] “a damn miracle” (Cruise). [53] Even being summoned to Kubrick’s house was thrilling: when Herr was invited for dinner and a screening of The Shining, he “was not just a subscriber to the Stanley legend, I was frankly susceptible to it”. [54]

When he was offered the job, Emilio’s sole hope was that this Kubrick, who so much wanted his services as a driver, would be a good employer. His subsequent experience was shaped by what happened day by day at Abbots Mead, on location, in the studios, at Childwickbury. Emilio had complete impartiality: he was not in awe, he could not be surprised, or disappointed; he looked through virgin eyes. He got acquainted with the director gradually, and when eventually he realised who Stanley Kubrick was – which happened due to the concurrent IRA scare during Barry Lyndon and the death threats Kubrick received for A Clockwork Orange – Emilio did not stay on because he wanted to work with Kubrick, he stayed because he liked to work with Stanley. Fame, prestige or privilege had nothing to do with Emilio’s decisions and relationship with the director.

Naturally, since Emilio was not there to provide anything artistic, Kubrick did not have to direct him: nothing was left unspoken, no withholding of motives and intentions, no mind games. Their relationship could be transparent. I am not implying that Emilio had a better perspective on Kubrick than all the others, or that he finally can tell us who the ‘real’ Stanley Kubrick was. Nobody can claim such a thing and not only because we are discussing Kubrick. I believe it is impossible for anyone to define who anybody really is; we can only achieve approximations and add some adjectives to describe our object (or, again, mosaic fragments). But Emilio and Stanley’s relationship was definitely more candid.

By comparing the varied views of Kubrick, I began to think that he behaved quite differently in and out of his directorial work. When he was developing a story with a writer, or setting up a budget with the financiers, or testing the actors, or directing his crew – then he indulged in whatever strategy he felt was needed for achieving the desired result. I believe this might account for a feeling of aloofness and bewilderment in some of the memoirs. The single-mindedness of ‘Kubrick’ was disconcerting to many who saw ‘Stanley’ at home or during breaks. It surely must have been difficult, in the relatively short amount of time spent with him during the preparation or the making of a film, to compact these two radically different impressions of him into one coherent portrayal.

For Emilio, whose job’s nature never, or very rarely, subjected him to the directorial attitude – he just had a sense of it by being around – Stanley Kubrick has always been the same person: a demanding, loyal, open, charming, caring employer.

In truth, what struck me most was how much Kubrick trusted Emilio: he had said their working relationship was unique, but I was shocked to hear that, during the two years Emilio spent in a short-term retirement in Italy, not a single person was allowed to enter the director’s offices and private rooms, not even the housekeepers to clean them.

I sometimes had the impression that Kubrick felt safe only around Emilio, which was at first unbelievable, considering his history. But, on second thoughts, it could make sense. Against the show business backdrop of phoniness and aggressiveness, it must have been a relief for Kubrick, who valued independence and privacy most, to be able to count on someone so unrelated. As Julian Senior wrote to me, “I truly do think that [Emilio] took much of the weight off Kubrick’s mind in many areas”. [55] Very much so, I would add, to the extent that Kubrick never worried about Emilio signing a contract of employment with the infamous anti-disclosure clause, “the vow of silence so rigorously enforced on all his helpers”. [56]

A number of stories I heard involved a degree of intimacy that was startling. I really had no idea I could come so close to someone generally perceived as the most remote personality in the cinema. Gradually, what emerged from Emilio’s experience exceeded not only my expectations but also my intention. I lost interest in comparing his words with those of other people, or in delving into Kubrick’s cinematic secrets. I just found myself captivated by Emilio’s remarkable life story and the amazing relationship that he and Kubrick had developed. How did it happen that the legendary, extrasolar director trusted an Italian countryman with the keys to his inner sanctum? This was the topic to explore and hopefully what could give unusual substance to a Kubrick memoir. It could also provide the opportunity to paint an emotional portrait of Stanley Kubrick, something that had never been attempted before.

I am not in a position to tell if Stanley Kubrick And Me will succeed in counterbalancing Kubrick’s image and challenging popular perception, or how exactly Emilio’s tile would fit in the Kubrick mosaic. What I am certain of is that I was presented with a good story that was worth telling: a compelling tale of human bonds between two very different individuals who realised they were kindred spirits. One of them just happened to be Stanley Kubrick.

[1] Sara Maitland, “My year with Stanley”, The Independent (11 March 1999), [http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/arts-my-year-with-stanley-1079966.html]; Candia McWilliam, “There was an atmosphere nicely poised between a seance and a chess game”, The Guardian (13 March 1999), [https://www.theguardian.com/books/1999/mar/13/books.guardianreview1]; Brian Aldiss, “Meet the man behind the myth”, Screen – The Observer (14 March 1999); Brian Aldiss, “Though we often rocked with laughter while working, we made no progress”, The Guardian (17 July 1999), [https://www.theguardian.com/film/1999/jul/16/3]; Ian Watson, “My adventures with Stanley Kubrick”, Playboy (August 1999), [expanded version: http://www.ianwatson.info/plumbing-stanley-kubrick/]. Less extensive articles were published by a number of actors; see, for example: Philip Stone, “We got on because I wasn’t frightened of him”, The Sunday Independent (14 March 1999); Jackie Sawiris, “Eye opener”, The Scotsman, (25 June 25).
[2] Peter Bogdanovich, “What they say about Stanley Kubrick”, The New York Times Magazine (4 July 1999), pp. 18-25, 40, 47-48, [http://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/04/magazine/what-they-say-about-stanley-kubrick.html]; Jill Bernstein, Glenn Kenny, Alex Lewin, Jason Matloff, Mark Salisbury, Sean M. Smith, and Anne Thompson, “Stanley Kubrick: a Cinematic Odyssey”, Premiere (August 1999), pp. 84-93, 98-100.
[3] There are so many interviews in worldwide media with people who worked briefly or extensively with Kubrick they are impossible to be listed here. Substantial, or highly repeated, contributions include producer James B. Harris, actor Sydney Pollack, Warner Bros. publicity manager Julian Senior, directors Steven Spielberg and Albert Brooks.
[4] Angela Levin, “Kubrick: His secret world”, Daily Mail, (29 March 1999).
[5] The last live appearance of Kubrick was at the 2001: A Space Odyssey premiere in April 1968. In the subsequent years, Kubrick allowed his daughter Vivian to film him during the making of The Shining for a BBC documentary. A similar documentary about Full Metal Jacket was shot but not completed. Kubrick also sent a video speech when he was awarded with a Lifetime Achievement by the Directors Guild of America, though a video that was not intended to be made public.
[6] Before 1999, virtually nobody had spoken to the press about Kubrick if not as a promotional piece for a newly released Kubrick picture. Arthur C. Clarke, The Lost Worlds of 2001 (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1972) was the only sweeping report on a writer’s work with Kubrick that was published while the director was alive. Chapters in actors’ biographies were short, factual, and not revealing. Paul Joyce’s The Invisible Man (London: Lucida Productions, 1996) was the only documentary shot during Kubrick’s life, and its director admitted his career suffered for it. See: Federico Greco, Mauro di Flaviano, and Stefano Landini, Stanley and Us, pilot episode (Torino: Lindau, 2001). There have also been reports of a few attempted studies that were obstructed by Kubrick, namely  a documentary film by Mark Carducci, as reported in his “In search of Stanley K.”, Millimeter (December 1975), pp. 32-37, 49-53; and David Austen and Neil Hornick’s project, as reported in John Baxter, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1997), p. 298.
[7] Alex Ross, “Stanley Kubrick was my friend, too”, The New Yorker (2 August 1999). Earlier, the surge of articles in the British press was satirized by Craig Brown, “When Stanley met Melvyn and Anita”, The Daily Telegraph (27 March 1999), a mere twenty days after Kubrick’s death, with a review of fake reports by English writers (and a couple of politicians) engaged in working with the difficult-to-please director.
[8] In Joyce, The Invisible Man, McDowell disputed Kubrick’s reputation as a genius because of “his lack of humanity … What was he like as a human being? I think that’s probably the test that he doesn’t do well at”.
[9] Malcolm McDowell, “He was my teacher and tormentor,” Screen – The Observer (14 March 1999).
[10] Jay Cocks, “Kubrick: Degrees of Madness”, Time (20 December 1971), pp. 80, 85.
[11] McWilliam, “There was an atmosphere”.
[12] Army Archerd, “Just for Variety”, Daily Variety (18 June 1999); Roger Ebert, “Cruise opens up about working with Kubrick”, Rogerebert.com, last modified 15 July, 1999, [http://www.rogerebert.com/interviews/cruise-opens-up-about-working-with-kubrick].
[13] Frederic Raphael, Eyes Wide Open: A memoir of Stanley Kubrick (New York: Ballantine Books, 1999), p. 47.
[14] Christiane Kubrick website, accessed 9 August 1999, now defunct [http://www.eyeswideshut.com/ck/]. In Lewis Jones, “My Stanley was not paranoid”, The Telegraph (8 October 2002), Christiane Kubrick called Eyes Wide Open “a disgusting bit of grave-dancing”, and in her interview “Stanley Kubrick fand sich selber langweilig”, Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung (20 February 2001), she revealed that Raphael “did not come to the funeral – allegedly because he was too sad. In reality, he was too busy because he was very quickly writing his book”.
[15] In “The expert watcher watched: images of Kubrick at work”, New York Observer (18 July 1999), [http://observer.com/1999/07/the-expert-watcher-watched-images-of-kubrick-at-work/], Sara Maitland wrote she was “aware of all the frustrations and humiliations and aggravations of the job” of being Kubrick’s scribe, but she found Raphael’s achievement was “a point-scoring ego contest” with the purpose of “wreaking some petty revenge … This is the sort of book that no one would write (and no one would read) unless the supposed subject of it was both very famous and dead”. And this was one of the nicest reviews. Possibly, one of the worst was Alexander Walker’s, in “What was Kubrick like?”, Evening Standard (18 July 1999): “This is a sad little book … a vulgar dick-measuring contest”.
[16] Michael Herr, “The real Stanley Kubrick”, Vanity Fair (August 1999), [http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2010/04/kubrick-199908].
[17] The second half of Herr’s book is a reprint of Michael Herr, “Completely missing Kubrick”, Vanity Fair (April 2000), pp. 260-264, 267-272.
[18] Michael Herr, Kubrick (New York: Grove Press, 2000), p. 18.
[19] Herr, Kubrick, p. 14.
[20] Herr, Kubrick, p. 35.
[21] Raphael, Eyes Wide Open, p. 117.
[22] Raphael, Eyes Wide Open, p. 30.
[23] Raphael, Eyes Wide Open, p. 167.
[24] Herr, Kubrick, p. 74.
[25] Frederic Raphael, “Kubrick, museum piece: A wily chess player of an artist is transmuted into a flawless idol”, Commentary 135.4 (April 2013), [https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/stanley-kubrick-museum-piece/].
[26] James Mason, Before I Forget (Hamish Hamilton, 1981); Tony Curtis, The Autobiography (New York: William Morrow & Co, 1993), Shelley Winters, Shelley II: The Middle Of My Century (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989); Peter Ustinov, Dear Me (London: Heinemann. 1977); Kirk Douglas, The Ragman’s Son: An Autobiography (New York: Pocket Books, 988); Paul Mazursky, Show Me The Magic (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999).
[27] Gary Lockwood, 2001 Memories: An Actor’s Odyssey (Boca Raton: Cowboy Press, 2001); Dan Richter, Moonwatcher’s Memoir: A Diary of 2001 (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2002); Marisa Berenson, Moments Intimes (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 2009); Steven Berkoff, Tough Acts (London: Robson Books, 2003); Miriam Karlin, Some Sort Of Life (London: Oberon Books, 2007); Rade Serbedzija, Fino all’ultimo respiro (Rovereto: Zandonai, 2010); Matthew Modine, Full Metal Jacket Diary (New York: Rugged Land, 2005).
[28] See especially Caryn James, “Matthew Modine Plots the Course to Character”, The New York Times (27 September 1987), [http://www.nytimes.com/1987/09/27/movies/film-matthew-modine-plots-the-course-to-character.html]; Susan Linfield, “The Gospel According to Matthew”, American Film (October 1987).
[29] Anthony Burgess, You’ve Had Your Time: Being The Second Part Of The Confessions Of Anthony Burgess (London: Heinemann, 1990); Diane Johnson, Flyover Lives: A Memoir (New York: Viking, 2014) and Diane Johnson, “Writing The Shining”, in Geoffrey Cocks, James Diedrick, Glenn Perusek (eds.), Depth of Field (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2006); John le Carré, The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories From My Life (New York: Viking, 2016); Jules Feiffer, Backing Into Forward: A Memoir (New York: Doubleday, 2010); Susan Doukas Brady, Bob. An Actor’s Mentor (selfpublished, 2012); Ian Johnstone, Close Encounters. A Media Memoir (London: Spellbinding Media, 2014) Alexander Walker, “It’s Only a Movie, Ingrid”: Encounters On and Off Screen, (London: Headline Book Publishing, 1988) and Stanley Kubrick, Director: A Visual Analysis (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000); Crystopher Frayling, Ken Adam: The Art Of Production Design (London: Faber & Faber, 2006), Mike Kaplan, “How Stanley Kubrick Transformed the Modern Box-Office Report (By Accident)”, The Huffington Post, last updated 19 March 2014, [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-kaplan/stanley-kubrick-box-office_b_1195323.html]; Bill O’Hare, Movie Magic: A Marketing Memoir (Bloomington: iUniverse, 2016).
[30] Pietro Calderoni, “Io lo conoscevo bene”, Ciak (July 2000), pp. 84-89.
[31] Calderoni, “Io lo conoscevo bene”, p. 87, author’s translation.
[32] Calderoni, “Io lo conoscevo bene”, p. 89, author’s translation.
[33] The quote is attributed to Thomas Edison and, from 2001 onwards, Jan Harlan, Kubrick’s brother-in-law and former executive producer, now operating as spokesperson for the Stanley Kubrick Estate, has acknowledged Kubrick’s familiarity with this quote.
[34] Riccardo Aragno, Kubrick: Storia di un’amicizia (Torino: Schena, 1999), p. 11-13, translation mine. In David Gritten, “Kubrick is keeping mouth shut on ‘Eyes’”, Los Angeles Times (21 April 1996), [http://articles.latimes.com/1996-04-21/entertainment/ca-60889_1_eyes-wide-shut], Warner Bros.’ publicity manager Julian Senior compared Kubrick to “a medieval silversmith” who lives upstairs and work downstairs, but I find Aragno’s definition better as it takes into account that filmmaking can be personal, but is surely a collective endeavour.
[35] The previous film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, was entirely organized at the MGM Studios in Borehamwood due to the magnitude of its production and the fact that Abbots Mead was under renovation. For A Clockwork Orange Kubrick did not use studio facilities at all, except for some audio mixing and the printing of the film copies.
[36] Emilio D’Alessandro and Filippo Ulivieri, Stanley Kubrick And Me: Thirty Years At His Side (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2016), p. 38.
[37] D’Alessandro, Stanley Kubrick And Me, p. 38.
[38] D’Alessandro, Stanley Kubrick And Me, pp. 121-122.
[39] D’Alessandro, Stanley Kubrick And Me, p. 63.
[40] Piers Bizony, The Making Of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (Cologne: Taschen, 2015), p. 413; Lockwood, Memories, p. 154.
[41] D’Alessandro, Stanley Kubrick And Me, p. 216.
[42] Arthur C. Clarke famously suffered a debilitating bout of illness during the excruciating process of both developing a strong story and writing a full novel for 2001, but his memoir reveals a true collaboration between two partners, with Kubrick offering ideas and specific suggestions for scenes and themes to explore. Diane Johnson also reported on a frank, open process of co-screenwriting, with Kubrick never hiding ideas from her. On the contrary, Ian Watson wrote Kubrick “did not really know” what he wanted “and it was up to me as soothsayer and dream interpreter to guess”. See Watson, “My Adventures”, p. 90. Sara Maitland felt the director “was on the watch, so to speak, for the writer to present Kubrick’s concept in sentences or images that he could then visualize.” See Maitland, “The Expert Watcher”.
[43] D’Alessandro, Stanley Kubrick And Me, pp. 236-237.
[44] D’Alessandro, Stanley Kubrick And Me, p. 128.
[45] D’Alessandro, Stanley Kubrick And Me, p. 168.
[46] Nick James, “At home with the Kubricks”, Sight & Sound (September 1999), p. 15.
[47] Jamey DuVall, “The Kubrick Series Uncut: Don Buckley”, Movie Geeks United, podcast audio (22 May 2012), [https://gb.ivoox.com/en/the-kubrick-series-uncut-don-buckley-audios-mp3_rf_5200501_1.html]
[48] Paul Joyce, The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick And Eyes Wide Shut (London: Lucida Productions 1999).
[49] D’Alessandro, Stanley Kubrick And Me, p. 167.
[50] Raphael, Eyes Wide Open, p. 175.
[51] Frederic Raphael, “The pumpkinification of Stanley Kubrick”, in Cocks, Depth Of Field, p. 62-73.
[52] Modine, Full Metal Jacket Diary, p. 11.
[53] David Kronke, “He accepted the mission”, Los Angeles Times (12 May 1996), [http://articles.latimes.com/1996-05-12/entertainment/ca-3109_1_tom-cruise].
[54] Herr, Kubrick, p. 5.
[55] Julian Senior, e-mail message to author (15 March 2012).
[56] Raphael, “Museum piece”.

About the Author

Filippo Ulivieri

About the Author

Filippo Ulivieri

Filippo Ulivieri is an independent scholar and writer. The leading expert in Kubrick’s cinema in Italy, he is author of the biography of Emilio D’Alessandro, Stanley Kubrick And Me: Thirty Years at His Side (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2016) and co-scenarist of the documentary S Is For Stanley (Alex Infascelli, 2015).View all posts by Filippo Ulivieri →