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Stan, the man
As ACMI launches a major exhibition devoted to the life and work of Stanley Kubrick, Stephanie Bunbury meets his widow Christiane and tries to uncover the man behind the myth.
The house where Stanley Kubrick lived lies at the end of a long drive in the hunting-and-shooting country outside London. It is a rambling rural estate with endless rooms; think the great country houses of Barry Lyndon but think, also, of the labyrinthine hideaway in The Shining. Stanley bought it after he had made 2001: A Space Odyssey and realized his future was in England. He liked the house, says his widow Christiane, because the boy from the Brooklyn wanted a place where he could keep animals.
Christiane is a bundle of vitality, a painter of light, bright interiors and landscapes who wears her 70 years as if they were a huge bunch of fresh flowers. She is a big animal lover herself. An appealingly undisciplined dog scratches at the door while we talk and she gets up for it, chuckling at her hopelessness as a canine disciplinarian. Doors in this house, she says, have never been locked.
Kubrick used to imagine making films about animals, she remembers: great stories without sentimentality, of a kind never told before. "He thought he would spend his old age doing that," she says, wistfully. "So he could be the crew and director, everything, crawling around with a camera among the animals."
Few directors have been more mythologized than Stanley Kubrick, who died six years ago at the age of 70. He gave few interviews and was rarely seen in public. He didn't make many films, either, but those he made took years, apparently shot under some special dispensation from Warners, who seemingly let him do as he liked. But you only had to look at his most influential films, it was said - at Dr Strangelove, say, or 2001 or A Clockwork Orange - to see that these were not the work of an ordinary man. All work and no play, it was whispered, had clearly made Stanley a very weird boy.
It used to make Christiane mad when she read this kind of thing. That Kubrick was paranoid about germs, for example, in the style of Howard Hughes; that he insisted his car be driven at 50kmh; that he always wore the same clothes or was such a monster of manipulation that he made Svengali look like Mary Poppins. That he was a recluse.
Kubrick was hardly a recluse, she laughs; he might not have liked going out, but the house was always full of people. It certainly is today, when the appearance of lunch in the kitchen draws a small crowd from all corners of the estate.
From the sound of it, Stanley Kubrick was everywhere in his little kingdom; indeed, he is still here, buried in the grounds. When he died, Christiane realized she had never so much as made a dental appointment for herself. They had been married more than 40 years and Stanley, the supposed hermit, had dealt with the outside world. "I never had to do anything boring like that. I discovered that I didn't know how to do anything."
Even more dauntingly, she bore the weight of a great artist's unfiltered past. Kubrick had never thrown anything out; his solution to the enormous accumulation of script ideas, fan letters, legal skirmishes and everything else was to have filing boxes made to his own design. And he loved, says Christiane, the Post-it note; he was always sticking little homilies on the fridge that ranged from mundane messages about buying milk to grand observations about life. "It was a terrible habit."
He was also an exhaustive researcher, which was one reason why the gaps between films could be so long: seven years between The Shining and Full Metal Jacket; another 12 until Eyes Wide Shut was finished. I do not see it, but there is reportedly a roomful of books about Napoleon in the Kubrick homestead, a library of research for a film he had hoped at one time to make.
"I was looking at an ocean of boxes," says Christiane. "He was a filer of facts he needed for films and he was very tidy in artistic and financial matters, because that was to do with his work. The rest was chaos."
She had no idea what to do with it. "Simply throwing it away would have been like burying him again. So, looking at it, I was very tearful; I couldn't discern what was interesting." Her life was saved, she says, when the director of the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt suggested the material could be the stuff of an exhibition. Christiane is German; she met Kubrick when she auditioned for a small part in Paths of Glory. An archivist was sent and, gradually, the two of them uncovered a paper trail through Stanley Kubrick's life.
Some of the things that came out of the files were a surprise to her. "The various drawings, sticking things together, the cutting-up of photographs, the distances of various lenses. It looks all so sad. Little notebooks with angry little lines crossed out: 'No, this doesn't work'. You see that process you so disrespect in yourself. And what they say is, 'No, this is legitimate. I'm allowed to make angry little drawings. I'm allowed to do things that don't work'."
The exhibition even includes some of the Post-it notes, blown up to fill the wall. It was rather a shock, she admits, when she first saw the mounted exhibition featuring her husband's handwriting to the power of 10. "The first thing my daughters and I thought was, 'Oh, God, we're being shouted at! He's back!' That was a very strange sensation." She laughs.
When Stanley died, she says, she was so sad she could not speak. Now she loves to talk about him, but she is conscious of maintaining the privacy he so enjoyed. "We always felt he was looking over our shoulder and we wanted him to approve and be interesting and personal without being indiscreet. I feel it's Stanley speaking, not the widow. Yuck! If you've lost anyone in your family, you know you keep saying, 'Remember how he did that?' You gush out these adorable stories. But it would be absolutely vomit-inducing if I did that, so I feel my best stories have to stay in my pocket."
Jan Harlan was Kubrick's executive producer for 30 years; he is also Christiane's brother. He lives about 10 minutes away from the Kubrick estate. During filming, he says, he would leave the house at five in the morning and get home at 11pm. It was exhausting, but it was quite normal for Stanley, who always slept for just a few hours each night.
"During filming, it was totally dominating. He didn't do anything else, he worked 16 hours, went to bed when he had to and got up early," Jan says. "I told him off. I told him there is a good reason for the seventh day. And he said, 'Oh, don't give me that stuff'. He never stopped."
"Of course, that's why he died so young, says Christiane matter-of-factly. "It was just too much. He thought nothing of working round the clock. That was his motor."
Between shoots, many of these waking hours were spent reading. Books, films and photographs would pour into the house. "I didn't like it when he started picking up the Vietnam story (Full Metal Jacket)," says Christiane. "All that grisly research. 'Here we go,' I thought. It's much nicer doing something like Thackeray, when all these wonderful books arrive. When you do a war film or The Shining, you get very embarrassing literature, like porn for the soul."
Kubrick made landmark films in the '70s, when ideological politics were at their most fervent in his two home countries, without ever giving a hint of his own political position. Christiane says now that he was neither to the right nor the left; it depended on the issue. "I think all intelligent people are like that," she says, simply. Harlan testifies to Kubrick's keen mind; after three hours' chinwag with his brother-in-law, he says, he would need a little rest. "He was really interested in what other people had to say. And if they didn't have much to say, he switched off. There are lots of people who talk but they don't actually tell you anything. He couldn't stand that."
Stanley Kubrick may not have been the man either his fans or his foes liked to imagine. "They all thought he was dark and gloomy and interesting and neurotic," says Christiane. "I don't know what they would have thought of his jollity." But the picture that emerges from the people who loved him most, tantalizingly, is perhaps more enigmatic. An intellectual of restless curiosity who could scarcely bear to leave his own house; a workaholic who produced so few works; a lifelong New Yorker who read The New York Times every day but chose to live in England's green and pleasant land. Kubrick, rebuffing interviews, would say that everything he had to say was in the films. And looking back, however secretive he might have been and mysterious he remains, he still managed to say a great deal more than most of us.
Kubrick exhibition opens in Australia
By Jonathon Moran and Katelyn John 11/22/05 seven.com.au
A Clockwork Orange actor Malcolm McDowell says he once felt betrayed by the film's director Stanley Kubrick but he got over it. McDowell says he felt abandoned by the director after A Clockwork Orange had been released. "I loved him," said McDowell, in Australia to open an exhibition on Kubrick's life. "You can't give a performance like that unless you love the person that you're working with. I did it for him, really. But as soon as the film was over, he didn't want to know."
The 1971 cult film, in which McDowell plays rapist, sociopath and Beethoven fan Alex de Large, required a lot of intensive work with Kubrick. "If you see that film, there's no way I could have made it without having a very special relationship with Kubrick," said the British actor, who went on to star in more than 100 films. It was he and I sitting there trying to figure it out and trying to make these magical moments, and sometimes failing." But after the film was finished, Kubrick moved on to another project and McDowell felt let down, the actor said. "I took it personally," he said. "I felt rejected and I felt betrayed. But in truth I was a young man. In retrospect, you have to say movies are like little micro lifetimes. You have the birth, the life and then the death, and then he moved on to something else, and I was history by that time."
Kubrick died in 1999 at the age of 70 of unspecified natural causes. That was a few days after he completed his final movie, the erotic drama Eyes Wide Shut, with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. He was an intensely private man who rarely gave interviews and demanded secrecy about his films until they were released. His film credits included Lolita and 2001: A Space Odyssey. A Clockwork Orange was one of his most famous works.
Based on the book by Anthony Burgess, the film is regularly featured in film festival retrospectives around the world. "It took someone like Stanley Kubrick to translate that great book into a great film," McDowell said. "And honestly, I don't think there's another director that could have done it. He was a master of that sort of subject."
In Australia with daughter Lilly, McDowell will present an award at the If Film Awards in Sydney on Wednesday night. He is also one of the special guests attending Thursday night's opening of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image's new exhibition, Stanley Kubrick: Inside the mind of a Visionary Filmmaker. Kubrick's wife of 41 years, Christiane, will also be at the exhibition, as will the director's long time executive producer Jan Harlan.
11/24/05 - Malcolm,
Christiane Kubrick &
Jan Harlan on the 7:30 Report
11/25/05 - Malcolm McDowell on PM Radio Australia
While the AFIs have struggled for the past few years, the
alternative film awards, the IFs, have gone from strength to strength. The IFs,
formed seven years ago as an offshoot of Inside Film magazine, are a people's
choice awards, as opposed to the AFIs, which are voted by the industry.
They are regarded as the younger and funkiest of the film-related awards on the calendar, including the Film Critics Circle, the AWGIES and the AGSC-APRA Screen Music Awards, all of which are usually held towards the end of each year. The IFs are produced by a creative team of seven including general manager and producer Angie Fielder, event director David Grant and the head of IF media Jen Peedom, who are all under 34.
The IFs will be held tonight at Sydney's Luna Park, with a relatively short ceremony broadcast live on SBS (one of 70 sponsors, including Lexus, which has the naming rights). This year, instead of a host, there will be a line-up of presenters, including A Clockwork Orange's Malcolm McDowell, Whale Rider's Keisha Castle-Hughes, Kate Beahan, Magda Szubanski and Peter Garrett.
There also will be a narrative running through the awards ceremony in the form of a short film, created specifically for the night, which will be shown in short segments to fit in with the awards. The aim, according to Fielder, is to hook viewers and keep them wanting to know what happens next. Fielder says the IFs want to keep things evolving and maintain their reputation as a relatively hip awards ceremony.
"It's definitely something that's always front of mind for us. Each year it's: 'What are we going to do now?'" she says. "But I guess through the magazine we're known for keeping in touch with what's going on in the industry."
Daughter's eyes wide shut to dad's Kubrick role
Sophie Tedmanson | The Australian 11/23/05
Malcolm McDowell's daughter Lilly didn't know he was the
star of A Clockwork Orange until she went to college and saw the famous poster
image of his face plastered on her classmates' dormitory walls. "She had no
idea, I didn't want to force-feed my career on my kids," McDowell said
Lilly, who is also an actor and whose mother is US actress Mary Steenburgen, first saw the cult film about six years ago in college. "It was amazing. I love the movie and I think I can really appreciate it as an amazing film, as a work of art. I can sort of remove my father from it - I don't see it and get freaked out that he's raping and killing." While Lilly, 24, is in Australia on holidays, McDowell is here to work.
He will open a Kubrick exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne on Thursday, and will be a special guest at tonight's IF awards in Sydney. McDowell will present the best director gong at the IFs (the people's choice film awards), something he is looking forward to "because we must encourage good directors".
McDowell recalls Kubrick fondly despite the pair falling out many years ago. "Working with Stanley was amazing. Every day there was something terrific happening, because Stanley was that way - he wouldn't turn on the camera unless, as he used to say to me, 'there's a little bit of magic'."
McDowell will be joined by Kubrick's widow, Christiane, and brother-in-law, producer Jan Harlan, at tomorrow's opening of the exhibition, which features more than 1000 items from the director's personal collection, including costumes, props and photos from his films.
"It is really, I suppose, a chance for me to say thank you to Stanley Kubrick and his family, who I am very fond of," said McDowell. While McDowell has been in more than 100 movies, he has never been able to shake off being stereotyped as a violent character actor after his role in A Clockwork Orange.
"I think it always determines which way your life is going to go. But at the end of the day I've had a pretty varied career, really. And I was in one of cinema's greatest and most influential movies, so I'm not complaining."
- Exhibition Lobby
Exclusive - Exhibition Pamphlets
Malcolm outside by the water
Malcolm and his daughter Lilly
Malcolm at the exhibition with his old Alex costume
"I mean the thing about Stanley was that at the time he was one of the very few directors who could make anything, if he wanted to do the telephone book they'd throw money at him to do it. They had that much confidence in him and you know it was right because he was a great artist that actually made money which was a rarity." Malcolm on ABC Radio11/25/05
Malcolm At Large
On November 25th at the AMCI in Melbourne, Australia Malcolm McDowell was present, giving a talk to a sold out audience the size of a large movie theater. I had approached the ticket booth in the main lobby at 7:30 to purchase 2 tickets and he told me that Malcolm's talk was sold out, that I should have booked this in advance because even he could not believe the amazing attention this exhibition bought and it was sold out some time ago. I felt so sorry for myself but I said to my best friend that was with me, Nick that I could not leave since I had hoped to see this talk for so long.
To cut a long story short, we waited outside the room Malcolm was talking in for about half an hour so I could hopefully get him to sign my screenplay book of O Lucky Man! as he walked out. Suddenly a women who worked there came out of the theater and asked if we needed any help and I told her that we were waiting for Malcolm to come out. She said that the talk would be going on for a while, Malcolm was having a really good time and there was 2 empty seats since 2 guests left for a late dinner. We told her that we would happily pay to get in and we did.
Malcolm was in the front of the cinema with some Australian movie critic I didn't know who was asking the usual questions like "What film is your favorite film that you starred?" and so on. I unfortunately missed maybe 45 minutes of the talk, but still am glad to have seen what was left. Malcolm was making the crowd laugh in hysterics at the things he was saying such as in Caligula when John Gielgud, who played Nerva, was in the tub committing suicide. Malcolm said he looked like a dried prune from being in the water for so long, asking if anybody was on their way to lunch to grab him a bite too. In O Lucky Man! Malcolm said that Alan Price was saying how easy acting was because Malcolm was just sitting there reading the paper. He said, that's all you have to do - read the paper? (Malcolm did this in Alan's Scottish accent) When Alan's scene came in which he was to say to Patricia "Are you coming or staying?" he couldn't do it! That drew a big laugh.
The crowd was very entertained and enjoyed themselves. When it came to the audience asking questions, some were good and some were plain stupid. I didn't ask anything because I had nothing to ask him. Here's one odd question, "Was the big dildo in A Clockwork Orange heavy to carry around?" Malcolm responded with a sarcastic answer, "After me doing all this talking that question was all you could come up with? How heavy was the dildo!?" The crowd was in hysterics. One good question was "Will O Lucky Man! come out on DVD?" and according to Malcolm it will be soon and he had involvement in it by doing a commentary track.
Finally he was asked, "Have you been a lucky man?" and he responded by saying that he has been very happy with the outcome of his life. This talk really showed to me that Malcolm is very down to earth, is a true gentleman and not a typical Hollywood star that is too good for others. The crowd was mostly younger and that made me and my friend more comfortable since we are only 19 and 20. Once the talk was over people started to approach Malcolm looking for autographs, but security escorted him out. I didn't get an autograph after all but at least I was there to see him share his thoughts. It was a good show!
By Billy-Jack Demertzidis 11/27/05
This exhibit was amazing to see. Upont entering the exhibit there was a large frame of a car modified to hold camera equipment used for filming The Shining and Barry Lyndon. As you go down a large staircase, the portrait that Christiane Kubrick did of Stanley is hanging. Starting with the 2001 section, there was original helmets, hand written scripts by Kubrick and original photographs. The Spartacus section was amazing with original costumes and a hand written letter by Kirk Douglas to Kubrick. The Lolita section had three sheets posters as well as original props. There was a large section of Kubrick's early work such as Paths of Glory and Killers Kiss and there was a large section related to Kubrick camera's and projectors. The Barry Lyndon section had original costumes, lobby cards and hand written notes by Kubrick.
The most amazing parts of the exhibit were the ACO and The Shining sections. Starting with The Shining section there is the original costumes worn by the twin girls and across from it is the typewriter from the film with a large pile of the "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" papers. Then there was the original model of the maze seen in the film which was great to see and touch. There was a large amount of scripts all hand written by Kubrick, as well as promo photos and stills. Also there were the handmade axes that Jack used in the film that were much lighter than real ones. Surprisingly there was no photograph of the end scene. There was also an original one-sheet poster.
The ACO section was starts with a small hallway full of original sketches by Phillip Castle and a few portraits painted by Christiane Kubrick that were in the film. Then comes the directors chair Kubrick used, then a memorabilia wall with the 1973 MAD magazine parody, the Japanese movie program, the UK program and an the soundtrack LP. Further down there is a long glass cabinet full of the prop newspapers with headlines about Alex being freed. Directly opposite this is a wall with newspaper ads, private screening tickets, an original US X-rated one sheet poster as well as a few X-rated lobby cards. Next to this was a large projector screen showing original pictures of Malcolm McDowell in preparation for the film as well as screen test pictures of Warren Clarke and Michael Tarn. There were about 150 different pictures and I had never seen ANY of these before. Then came a little room with a black curtain draping the entrance. It is a section of the Korova Milkbar, with Vellocet and Synthemesc signs and original Lucy props used in the film! It had a screen on the far wall showing scenes from the film, and this section actually makes you feel like you are in the film. As you exit this room there is the outfit that Malcolm wore in the film, complete with boots and bowler hat. Next to this is the actual cane Alex used in the film, which looked as good as it did in the film. The last part of the section had a hand written note by Kubrick referring to ACO and the gold record Kubrick received by Warner Brothers after the soundtrack sold one million copies.
In the lobby there is the Oscar Kubrick received for 2001 and a few promo shots for his dream film, AI. Overall the exhibition was good, but I expected the ACO section to be a lot bigger More attention was paid to the 2001 section, but it was still a great and rare opportunity to see items that used in Kubrick's films.
By Billy-Jack Demertzidis 1/14/06
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