Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick books and biography

Stanley Kubrick

Kubrick in the 1970s.
Born: July 26, 1928
Manhattan, New York City, N.Y., USA
Died: March 7, 1999
Harpenden, Hertfordshire, England, U.K.
Occupation: Film director, screenwriter and film producer

Stanley Kubrick (July 26, 1928 – March 7, 1999) was an influential and acclaimed American film director and producer. Born in The Bronx in New York City to Jewish parents of Austro-Romanian and Polish origin, he became interested in photography at a young age, and after graduating high school he obtained a job with the primarily photographic magazine Look, first working freelance and eventually becoming a full-time staff member. He made his foray into filmmaking by directing several promotional and documentary shorts for RKO Pictures, most of which were financed and made solely by Kubrick himself.


Early life

Kubrick was born on July 26, 1928 at the Lying-In Hospital in Manhattan, New York City, United States, the first child of Jacques Kubrick and his wife Gertrude (ne Perveler). His sister, Barbara, was born in 1934. Jacques, whose parents had been Jewish immigrants of Austro-Romanian and Polish origin, was a successful doctor. At Stanley's birth, the Kubricks lived in an apartment at 2160 Clinton Avenue in The Bronx.

Kubrick's father taught him chess at age twelve, and the game would remain a lifelong obsession. At thirteen Jacques Kubrick bought his son a Graflex camera, triggering Kubrick's fascination with still photography. At this time, he also became interested in jazz, and attempted a brief career as a drummer.

Stanley Kubrick grew up in the Bronx, New York City as the first child of a well-to-do family.
Stanley Kubrick grew up in the Bronx, New York City as the first child of a well-to-do family.

Kubrick attended William Howard Taft High School from 1941 to 1945. (Chanteuse Eydie Gorme was a schoolmate.) He was a poor student with a meager grade average of 67. When he graduated from high school in 1945, colleges were flooded with soldiers returning from service in the Second World War, and Kubrick's poor grades eliminated his hopes of attending a post-secondary school. Later in life, Kubrick would speak of his education and of education in general with disdain, and maintained that nothing in school interested him.

While in high school, Kubrick was chosen to be the official school photographer for a year. Eventually he sought job opportunities on his own and by the time of his graduation he had sold a series of pictures to New York's Look magazine. To supplement his income, Kubrick played "chess for quarters" in Washington Square Park and various Manhattan chess clubs. Kubrick also registered for night courses at the City College to improve his grade average. He worked as a freelancer for Look, becoming an apprentice photographer in 1946 and later a full-time staff member.

During his years at Look, Kubrick married Toba Metz and they moved to Greenwich Village. During this time Kubrick began frequenting film screenings at the Museum of Modern Art and cinemas all over New York City. He was particularly inspired by the complex and fluid camera movements of Max Ophls, whose films influenced Kubrick's later visual style.

Many of his photographs of this early period (1945-1950) have been published in the book "Drama and Shadows" (2005, Phaidon Press).

Film career and later life

Early Films

In 1951, Kubrick's friend, Alex Singer, persuaded him to start making short documentaries for the March of Time, a provider of cinema-distributed newsreels. Kubrick agreed and independently financed Day of the Fight in 1951. Although the distributor went out of business that year, Kubrick sold Day of the Fight to RKO Pictures for a profit of one hundred dollars. Kubrick quit his job at Look and began work on his second documentary short, Flying Padre (also from 1951), funded by RKO. A third film, The Seafarers (1953), Kubrick's first color film, was a 30-minute promotion short for the Seafarers' International Union. These three films, plus several other short subjects which have not survived, constitute Kubrick's only work in the documentary genre. He also served as second unit director on an episode of the television show Omnibus about the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Self-Portrait of Kubrick with a Leica III camera, at the time he was working for Look (from the book
Self-Portrait of Kubrick with a Leica III camera, at the time he was working for Look (from the book "Drama and Shadows").

Beginning with Fear and Desire in 1953, Kubrick began concentrating solely on feature-length narrative films. Fear and Desire concerns a team of soldiers trapped behind enemy lines in a fictional war. In the finale, the men realize the faces of their enemies are identical to their own (the characters are played by the same actors). Kubrick and 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 in retrospectives and other public screenings after establishing himself as a major filmmaker. The film was later released on DVD unofficially, and student filmmakers who have seen it have confirmed that it is 'encouragingly bad'.

Kubrick's marriage to his high school sweetheart Toba ended during the making of Fear and Desire. He married his second wife, Austrian dancer Ruth Sobotka, in 1954. She made a cameo appearance in Kubrick's next film, Killer's Kiss (1955). Like Fear and Desire, Killer's Kiss is a short feature film with a running time of slightly over an hour which had limited commercial and critical success. The film concerns a young welterweight boxer at the end of his career who gets mixed up with organized crime. Fear and Desire and Killer's Kiss were both privately funded by loans from Kubrick's family.

The Killing

Alex Singer introduced Kubrick to a young producer named James B. Harris, and the two became lifelong friends. Their business partnership, Harris-Kubrick Productions, financed Kubrick's next three films. Harris and Kubrick purchased the rights to a Lionel White novel called Clean Break which Kubrick and co-screenwriter Jim Thompson turned into a screenplay about a race track heist gone terribly wrong. Starring Sterling Hayden, The Killing was Kubrick's first film with a professional cast and crew. The film made impressive use of non-linear time, unusual for the 1950s, and though not a financial success, was Kubrick's first critically acclaimed film. The widespread admiration for The Killing brought Harris-Kubrick Productions to the attention of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The studio offered the pair its massive collection of copyrighted stories from which to choose their next project. They eventually chose The Burning Secret by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. Kubrick wrote a screenplay with Calder Willingham, but the deal with MGM collapsed before the film got properly underway.

Paths of Glory

Kubrick suggested an adaptation of Humphrey Cobb's novel Paths of Glory. Set in World War I, the story involves three innocent French soldiers charged with cowardice by their superiors to set an example for the other men. Kirk Douglas was cast as Colonel Dax, a humanitarian officer trying to prevent the men's execution. Harris and Kubrick created little interest in the project until a major star of Douglas' caliber was on board, when United Artists agreed to finance the film. Paths of Glory (1957) became Kubrick's first significant commercial and critical success and established him as an up and coming talent. Critics praised the film's unvarnished combat scenes and Kubrick's manipulation of the camera. A scene in which Douglas marches through his soldiers' trench in a single, unbroken reverse tracking shot has become classic and is often cited in film classes. Steven Spielberg later stated that Paths of Glory is his favorite of Kubrick's films.

Paths of Glory was shot in Munich, Bavaria. During production, Kubrick met and became romantically involved with a young German actress named Christiane Harlan (who was credited under the stage name of "Susanne Christian"), who played the only female speaking part in the film. Christiane (born in 1932) was four years his junior and was born in Germany into a theatrical family. She trained as a dancer and actress. The two married within a year. The marriage was Kubrick's third and last, ending with his death in 1999. In addition to raising Christiane's young daughter Katharina (born 1953) from her previous marriage, the couple had two daughters: Anya (b. 1958) and Vivian (b. 1960). Christiane's brother, Jan Harlan acted as Kubrick's Executive Producer from 1975 forward.


After returning to the United States, Kubrick worked for six months on the Marlon Brando vehicle One-Eyed Jacks (1961). Kubrick later claimed he was forced off the film because Brando wanted to direct it himself, which he later did. Kubrick languished working on screenplays which never reached production until Kirk Douglas requested that he take over the director's chair on Spartacus (1960) from Anthony Mann who, two weeks into shooting, was fired by the studio because of his lack of leadership (or, more likely, due to creative disagreements with Kirk Douglas). Based on the true story of a doomed uprising of Roman slaves, Spartacus established Kubrick once and for all as a major director. The production, however, was not a happy one. Creative differences arose between Kubrick and Douglas, who was both star and producer of the film. Kubrick was frustrated by his lack of creative control, and later largely disowned the film. The battle for control between Douglas and Kubrick, who developed a good relationship during Paths of Glory, caused a falling-out between them. In later years Douglas referred to Kubrick as "a talented shit." Spartacus proved a major commercial success and was well-received by critics, but the battles waged over the film convinced Kubrick to find ways to work with the financial resources of Hollywood while remaining independent of its production system. This was part of the reasoning behind Kubrick's relocation to England in 1962. Kubrick later referred to Hollywood film-making as "film by fiat, film by frenzy."


In 1962, Kubrick moved to England to make Lolita and resided there for the rest of his life. Not surprisingly, Lolita caused Kubrick's first major controversy. The book, which deals with a love affair between a middle-aged man and a twelve year old girl, was already notorious when Kubrick embarked on the project; the difficulty of the subject matter was eventually mocked in the film's tagline "How did they ever make a film of Lolita?". Vladimir Nabokov, the book's author, produced a three-hundred page screenplay which Kubrick abandoned. The final screenplay was reportedly penned by Kubrick himself. Despite changing Lolita's age from twelve to a more acceptable fourteen, several scenes in the final film had to be re-edited for the film to be released. The result was a film that toned down what were considered the more perverse aspects of the novel, sometimes leaving much to the audience's imagination. Kubrick later commented that, had he realized how severe the censorship limitations would be, he probably would not have made the film. However, he always spoke highly of James Mason, who played the pedophile/ephebophile Humbert Humbert in the film, later identifying him as one of the actors with whom he most enjoyed working. Lolita was also the first time Kubrick worked with British comic Peter Sellers, a collaboration which proved one of the most successful of his early career.

Dr. Strangelove

Kubrick's next project was the cult classic Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Based on the novel Red Alert by ex-RAF flight lieutenant Peter George (writing as Peter Bryant), and co-written for the screen by Kubrick and George in collaboration with American satirist Terry Southern, Strangelove is considered a masterpiece of black humor. While Red Alert was a deadly-serious cautionary tale for the Cold War era, Strangelove would evolve, almost accidentally, into what Kubrick called a "nightmare comedy".

Kubrick originally intended to make the film a straight-ahead thriller, but found that the actual conditions of nuclear war were so absurd that the screenplay soon became darkly funny rather than suspenseful. Kubrick proceeded to reconceive the film as a comedy and recruited Terry Southern to help provide the anarchistic irony the subject required.

Peter Sellers, who had played a memorable role in Lolita, was hired to play four roles simultaneously in Strangelove. Sellers eventually played three of them, partially due to a leg injury, and partially due to the difficulty of mastering bomber pilot Major "King" Kong's Texas accent. Kubrick later called Sellers "amazing," but lamented that his energy level rarely went beyond two or three takes. In response, Kubrick set up two cameras to film Sellers and let the comedian improvise. Strangelove is often cited as one of Sellers' best films and proof of his genius as a comic actor.

Kubrick's decision to film a Cold War thriller as a jet-black comedy was a daring risk, but paid off for both himself and Columbia Pictures. The same studio coincidentally released the nuclear war thriller Fail-Safe, which bore major similarities to Strangelove, the same year. Kubrick considered legal action against the film, but eventually decided against it.

The film portrays an "accidental" nuclear war between Russia and the United States, which is set off by the paranoid actions of the mad General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden). The film cuts between Burpleson Air Force Base, where RAF Group Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers) tries to stop General Ripper, and the War Room, where the President (also Sellers), General Turgidson (George C. Scott) and the mad German scientist Dr. Strangelove (again Sellers) try to stop (or, in some cases, not stop) the B-52 bombers going to drop nuclear weapons on Russia, as well as Major Kong's (Slim Pickens) renegade bomber plane. Ken Adam designed the sets for the film, and the War Room set is considered a classic of production design.

By belittling the sacrosanct norms of the political culture as the squabbling of intellectual children, Strangelove foreshadowed the cultural upheavals of the late 1960s and proved an enormous success with the nascent counterculture. Strangelove earned four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, and the New York Film Critics' Best Director award. Kubrick's success with Strangelove persuaded the studios that he was an auteur who could be trusted to deliver popular films despite his unusual ideas.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Kubrick spent five years developing his next film, 1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey (photographed in Super Panavision 70). Kubrick wrote the screenplay with science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke, expanding on Clarke's short story "The Sentinel". The screenplay was written simultaneously with the novel which was released in tandem with the film, though the finished novel is credited only to Clarke and the film deviates substantially from its screenplay in several ways. Both Clarke and Kubrick later spoke very highly of one another.

The film's special effects, overseen by Kubrick and engineered by legendary effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull (Silent Running, Blade Runner), were groundbreaking and inspired many of the special effects driven films which followed. 2001 is considered one of the few films of its era whose special effects remain believable to today's viewer. A host of manufacturing companies were consulted as to what the designs of both special and everyday objects would look like in the year 2001. At the time of the movie's release, speaking to journalists at a talk hosted by MGM, Clarke commented on the look of the film, predicting that a generation of engineers would design working spacecraft based on the fictional depictions in the movie, "even if it isn't the best way to do it." Despite numerous nominations in the categories of directing, writing, and producing, the only Academy Award Kubrick ever received was for his supervision on the special effects for 2001.

The film was also notable for its use of classical music such as Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra and Johann Strauss' The Blue Danube. Even more notable is Kubrick's use — albeit unauthorized — of music from the contemporary avant-garde Hungarian composer, Gyrgy Ligeti. The director's use of Ligeti's music — including Atmospeheres, Lux Aeterna, and the Requiem — marked the first major exposure of Ligeti's work, and helped to establish his public persona and identity as one of Europe's most important composers in the latter quarter of the 20th century. Kubrick's use of music in 2001 was unusual for its time, in that the music is an essential part of the film and not simply a commentary on or enhancement of the action.

2001: A Space Odyssey represented a radical departure from Kubrick's previous films and conventional film-making. Containing only forty-five minutes of dialogue, even these conversations are often superfluous to background images and music. Dialogue outlines plot points while presenting a dissociated view of mankind. Characters mainly function as extensions of the film's thematic backbones, or are displayed as anthropological archetypes. The story is obscure for most of the film's running time and the ambiguous ending continues to perplex and fascinate audiences today. Kubrick would never again push the experimental envelope quite so hard. Despite its unorthodox nature, the film was an enormous box office success and a pop cultural phenomenon. This came after an initial period of public disinterest, followed by a counterculture word-of-mouth swell. The film may not have had sufficient time in theaters to benefit from the buzz, were it not for a six week contract, as ticket sales were abysmal in the first two weeks. The film had nearly been pulled, and Jack Nicholson later would quote Kubrick as having counted two hundred and seventeen walkouts during the premiere (including the studio head). Paradoxically, Kubrick would win total creative control from Hollywood by succeeding with one of the most "difficult" films ever to win wide release.

Initial reactions from critics were negative, attacking the film's lack of dialogue and seemingly impenetrable storyline. Following the success of the movie, however, many critics later revised their opinions. Audiences embraced the film, especially the 60s counterculture, who loved the movie for its "Star Gate" sequence, a seemingly psychedelic journey into the infinite reaches of the cosmos. The cult following the film acquired in the burgeoning drug culture prompted the film's distributors to add "The Ultimate Trip" to the movie's poster.

Interpretations of 2001: A Space Odyssey are as widespread as its popularity, and though it was made in 1968 it still prompts debate today. When critic Joseph Gelmis asked Kubrick about the meaning of the film, Kubrick replied[1]:

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 may be Kubrick's most famous and influential film. Steven Spielberg has called it his generation's "Big Bang", focusing their attention on the race to space. The special effects techniques that Kubrick pioneered were later built upon by Ridley Scott and George Lucas for films such as Alien and Star Wars, respectively. 2001 is particularly notable as one of the few films in which space travel is presented in as realistic a manner as possible. For example, there is no sound in any of the space scenes, weightlessness is strictly adhered to, and sequences in which characters are wearing space suits often contain only the actor's breathing on the soundtrack. The only blemish in this regard is the series of shots inside on the moon, where gravity appears to be operating at Earth normal, despite no mention of "artificial" gravity.

Its primary themes include: the origins and meaning of life, super-intelligent computers, extraterrestrials, the search for God and a place in the universe, rebirth and evolution. Whole books have been written about interpretations of it, and even Arthur C. Clarke has gone on record of not knowing exactly what Kubrick was up to when making the film, going as far to say that 2001 was 90% Kubrick's vision.


Kubrick's next project was to be a large-scale biopic of Napoleon. He did a great deal of research, read dozens of books on the French general, and wrote a preliminary screenplay. With assistants he even created a meticulous card-catalog of the location and activity of each of Napoleon's inner circle during the operative years. Kubrick scouted locations and planned to shoot large parts of the film on the actual historical sites where the events of Napoleon's life occurred. Kubrick, in notes to his financial backers preserved in The Kubrick Archives, said that he wasn't sure how his Napoleon film would turn out, but he expected to create 'the best movie ever made.' The project, however, was ultimately cancelled in part due to the prohibitive cost of making such an ambitious film on location, the release in the west of Sergei Bondarchuk's epic film version of Tolstoy's War and Peace (1968), and the box office failure of the Napoleon-themed Waterloo (1970). The screenplay for the film has since surfaced on the Internet, and a great deal of the historical research involved would influence Kubrick's later film Barry Lyndon, which was set in the late eighteenth century, the historical period just prior to the Napoleonic Wars.

A Clockwork Orange

In place of his Napoleon, Kubrick sought a project which he could make quickly on a small budget. He found it in A Clockwork Orange (1971). The film is a dark and often shocking exploration of violence in human society, and remains one of the few non-pornographic films released with an 'X' rating in the United States, although it was later changed to an 'R'. Based on the famous novel by Anthony Burgess, the film tells the story of teenage hooligan Alex DeLarge (played by Malcolm McDowell) who gleefully murders, steals, and rapes without the slightest hint of conscience or remorse. Finally imprisoned, Alex undergoes a psychiatric treatment to be 'cured' of his violent urges. This conditions him to be physically unable to engage in violent acts, but also renders him completely helpless and incapable of moral choice, resulting in a brutal comeuppance at the hands of Alex's former victims.

Kubrick shot A Clockwork Orange very quickly and almost entirely on existing locations in and around London. Despite the comparatively low-tech nature of the film, as compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick was highly innovative within these limitations, once throwing a camera off a rooftop to achieve the desired disorienting effect. For the score, Kubrick invited electronic pioneer Wendy Carlos, creator of Switched-On Bach, to adapt famous classical works such as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to the Moog synthesizer. Carlos created a strange yet familiar-sounding score which emphasizes the dystopian fantasy of the film, while still grounding it in realism.

The film was extremely controversial due to its explicit depictions of teenage gangs committing acts of rape and violence. Released the same year as Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs and Don Siegel's Dirty Harry, the three films sparked a ferocious debate in the media over the effect of cinematic violence on society. The controversy was exacerbated when copycat acts of violence were committed in England by criminals wearing the same costumes as characters in A Clockwork Orange. (This language includes many anglicized Russian words: the gang members refer to each other as "droogies," which is taken from the Russian word for "friend.") When he and his family received death threats as a result of the controversy, he took the unusual step of removing the film from circulation in Britain. The film did not appear again in the United Kingdom until its re-release in 2000, a year after Kubrick's death. Imposing a ban on the film in Britain showed the unprecedented power Kubrick had over his distributor, Warner Brothers. For the remainder of his career he had total control over all aspects of his films, including marketing and advertising; such was the faith Warner Brothers had in his projects.

Anthony Burgess had mixed feelings over Kubrick's film. Though Kubrick's film has a different ending from Burgess's original novel, Burgess blamed his American publisher for this, and not Kubrick. Kubrick based his screenplay on the American version of the novel, from which the final chapter had been removed. In the book's original ending, Alex, the anti-hero of the story, chooses to give up his criminal ways and lead a peaceful and productive life. Kubrick did not read the final chapter until well into production and decided that it was out of keeping with the tone of his film. Burgess eventually dedicated his book Napoleon Symphony to Kubrick, who had given him some of the ideas that Burgess used in the novel. In fact, according to the online Kubrick FAQ, Napoleon Symphony was considered by Kubrick as the starting point for the cancelled Napoleon film he once wished to make. According to Burgess's autobiography You've Had Your Time and his 1986 introduction to A Clockwork Orange, Burgess was irritated that Kubrick, according to Burgess, ignored the controversy surrounding the film adaptation and left Burgess alone to defend a work of art that was not his own. Another likely reason for Burgess's ambivalence regarding the film is that he considered the novel to be one of his lesser works and wanted to be remembered for the books he considered superior. In large part due to the movie's success, however, A Clockwork Orange has become Burgess's best known work. It remains perhaps Kubrick's most notorious and controversial film.

Barry Lyndon

Kubrick's next film was an adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's The Luck of Barry Lyndon, also known as Barry Lyndon, a picaresque novel about an 18th century gambler and social climber who slowly insinuates himself into high society. It would be Kubrick's least appreciated post-Strangelove film, despite the strong performances of Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson and Irish actress Marie Kean, as well as Kubrick's innovative cinematography and attention to period detail. While a box-office failure in the United States, the film found a large audience in Europe, particularly in France.

Barry Lyndon (1975) was considered by some critics, especially one of Kubrick's greatest detractors Pauline Kael, to be cold, slow-moving, and lifeless. The film's length — over three hours — and measured pace put off many critics and US audiences. However, the film also received many rave reviews in the United States with such noted critics as Rex Reed and Richard Schickel praising it. A Time Magazine cover story on the film was published and Kubrick was nominated for an Oscar. As with most of Kubrick's films, Barry Lyndon's reputation has grown over the years, particularly among other filmmakers. Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese cited it as his favorite Kubrick film. Steven Spielberg has praised its "impeccable technique," though when younger he famously described it as "like going through the Prado without lunch."

As in his other films, Kubrick used innovative camera and lighting techniques. Most famously, many interior scenes were shot with a specially adapted high-speed still camera lens originally invented for the NASA space program. This allowed many scenes to be lit only with candlelight and created an almost two-dimensional diffused image reminiscent of 18th century paintings. Kubrick's blending of music, mise en scene, costume and action set standards for period dramas that few other films have matched. The film won four Academy Awards, more than any other Kubrick film. Despite this, Barry Lyndon was not the box office success some of Kubrick's previous films were, and he was reportedly deeply discouraged by its poor reception.

The Shining

Main article: The Shining (film)

Kubrick's pace slowed considerably after Barry Lyndon, and he would not make another film until The Shining. Released in 1980, the film was an adaptation of Stephen King's popular horror novel. The film starred Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in the story of an aspiring writer who takes a job as the off-season caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, a high-class resort deep in the mountains of Colorado. The job demands that he, his wife and child spend the winter alone in the hotel, isolated. His child, Danny, is gifted with telepathy called "shining," and glimpses visions of the past and future. The hotel begins displaying increasingly horrifying and phantasmagoric images to Danny, most famously the apparition of two little girls murdered years before by their father, the former caretaker. Jack is slowly driven mad by the haunted Overlook Hotel until he collapses into a homicidal psychosis, and tries to kill his family with an axe.

The film was shot mostly at Elstree and Pinewood Studios near London, where the sets were built in their entirety, however the exterior of the Overlook Hotel is Timberline Lodge, a ski resort on Mount Hood, Oregon. Kubrick extensively used the newly-invented Steadicam, a spring-mounted camera support which allowed smooth movement in enclosed spaces, to convey the claustrophobic oppression of the haunted hotel.

The Shining, more than any other film, gave birth to the legend of Kubrick as a megalomanic perfectionist. He reportedly demanded hundreds of takes of certain scenes (about 1.3 million feet of film was used), particularly plaguing actress Shelley Duvall. Kubrick's daughter, Vivian Kubrick, shot a short documentary film during production. It is available on the DVD release of the film and is one of the few documents of Kubrick in action during the latter half of his career.

The film opened to mostly negative reviews but did very well with audiences and made Warner Brothers a considerable profit. Like most of Kubrick's films, subsequent critical reaction sees the film in a more favorable light. Stephen King was dissatisfied with the movie, calling Kubrick "a man who thinks too much and feels too little." King later collaborated with Mick Garris to create a made-for-television miniseries version of the novel in 1997. Since then, King has spoken with less hostility toward Kubrick and his film. It has been said that part of the reason for King's dislike of the film was that Kubrick pestered the author with constant phone calls during production. Kubrick reportedly once woke King at 3 a.m. to ask "Do you believe in God?"

Among horror fans, The Shining became a cult classic, often appearing alongside The Exorcist at the top of lists of the best horror films. Some of its images, such as an antique elevator disgorging a tidal wave of blood, became among the most recognizable and widely known images from any Kubrick film. The Shining renewed Warner Brothers faith in Kubrick's ability to make both artistically satisfying and successful films after the commercial failure of Barry Lyndon in the United States. As a pop culture phenomenon, the film has been the object of countless parodies, from The Simpsons and MAD Magazine to recent films such as Seed Of Chucky.

Full Metal Jacket

Main article: Full Metal Jacket

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 Pyle. The film begins at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, where GySgt Hartman ruthlessly pushes his new men through punishing recruit training to release their repressed killing instincts and transform them from "maggots" to Marines. Pvt Pyle, an overweight, mentally challenged conscript subjected to relentless physical and verbal abuse by GySgt Hartman, slowly cracks under the strain. As a result, Pvt Pyle shoots and kills GySgt Hartman before taking his own life as he repeats the then familiar Marine mantra: "This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine..." This scene concludes the boot-camp portion of the film.

The second half of the film follows Joker, since been promoted to Sergeant as he tries to stay sane in Vietnam. As a reporter for the United States Military's newspaper the Stars and Stripes, Joker occupies a middle ground in the conflict, using wit and sarcasm to detach himself from the absurd nature of war. While an American and a member of the United States Marine Corps, he is also a reporter and compelled to abide by the ethics of that profession. The film then follows a platoon's advance on Hue City, decimated by the major urban warfare during the Tet Offensive. The film ends in a climactic battle between Joker's platoon and a lone sniper among the rubble of Hue City and Joker's first kill.

Filming a Vietnam War film in England presented considerable challenges for Kubrick and his team. Much of the filming took place in the Docklands area of London, with the ruined city set created by production designer Anton Furst. This helped to make the film very different visually from contemporary Vietnam films such as Platoon or Hamburger Hill. Instead of being set in the pervasive tropical jungle of South-East Asia, the second half of the movie unfolds in a city, bringing the element of urban warfare to an otherwise jungle war. Kubrick said to Gene Siskel that his attraction to Hasford's book was because it was "neither anti-war or pro-war" and had "no moral or political position" and was primarily concerned with "the way things are."

Full Metal Jacket opened to mixed reviews but found a reasonably large audience, despite being overshadowed by Oliver Stone's Platoon. This was one reason for Kubrick not making Aryan Papers, in fear that its publicity would be stolen by Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List.

Eyes Wide Shut

Main article: Eyes Wide Shut

Kubrick's presence in Hollywood remained mute for over ten years following Full Metal Jacket, and speculation arose that he had essentially retired from filmmaking. While rumors surfaced from time to time regarding possible new Kubrick projects, including Aryan Papers and the posthumously produced A.I., Kubrick's final film would be Eyes Wide Shut, starring then-married Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as an upper middle class Manhattan couple caught up in a sexual odyssey. The story, based on Arthur Schnitzler's novella Traumnovelle, known in English as Dream Story, follows Dr. William Harford on a journey into the sexual underworld after his wife, Alice, shatters his faith in her fidelity when she confesses to nearly giving him and their daughter up for just one night with another man. After trespassing on to the rituals of a sinister and mysterious cult, Dr. Harford thinks twice before seeking revenge against his wife and learns he and his family might be in danger. In 1999, days after screening a final cut of Eyes Wide Shut for his family, lead actors Cruise and Kidman, and Warner Bros. executives, Kubrick died of a massive heart attack in his sleep at the age of 70. He was interred next to his favorite tree in Childwickbury Manor, Hertfordshire, England.

The film was in production for over two years and two of the main cast members, Harvey Keitel and Jennifer Jason Leigh, had to be replaced during the course of filming. While set in New York, the film was shot entirely on London soundstages with only a few locations. Shots of Manhattan itself were pick-up shots filmed in New York by a second-unit crew. Due to Kubrick's secrecy about the film, rumors flew about the plot and content of the film, most of it highly inaccurate. Most especially, the film's sexual content caused a firestorm of speculation, with some journalists speculating that it would be "the sexiest film ever made." The participation of celebrity couple Cruise and Kidman did little to control the pre-release hype.

The film opened to smash box-office business which slowed down considerably in the weeks following the film's release. Far from an erotic thriller, Eyes Wide Shut proved to be a slow, mysterious, dreamlike meditation on the themes of marriage, fidelity, betrayal and the illusion versus the reality of sex. Critics were mostly negative in their reaction to the film, attacking its slow pace and what they perceived as emotional inertia. Kubrick's defenders have speculated that the mixed critical and box-office response to the movie was deeply affected by pre-release misconceptions of the film. The movie was disliked, they claimed, because it frustrated audience expectations. Like most of Kubrick's films, Eyes Wide Shut has improved its reputation with critics and audiences over time.[citation needed] According to some of his friends and family, Eyes Wide Shut was Kubrick's personal favorite of his own films. Contrary to that, however, in 2006 R. Lee Ermey went on record as saying Kubrick told him over the phone, shortly before his death, that Eyes Wide Shut was "a piece of shit" and that the critics would "have him for lunch". [2] However, Todd Field the director of In the Bedroom and Little Children who acted for Kubrick refutes Ermey's claims. "Stanley was absolutely thrilled with the film. He was still working on the film when he died. And he probably died because he finally relaxed. It was one of the happiest weekends of his life, he had just shown the first cut to Terry, Tom and Nicole. He would have kept working on it, like he did on all of his films. But I know he was over the moon about the film, as I was told this from people who were with him daily throughout post-production. My production partner was Stanley’s assistant for thirty years." Field stated that Kubrick advised him to stay away from the Texas Chainsaw actor: " I’d originally thought about R. Lee Ermey for In the Bedroom, and I talked to Stanley a lot about that film, and all I can say is Stanley was adamant that I not work with Ermey for all kinds of reasons that I won't get into because there is no reason to do that to anyone, even if that person is saying slanderous things about Stanley that I know for a fact are completely untrue."[3]

Eyes Wide Shut, like Lolita before it, faced a certain amount of censorship before being released. In the United States and Canada, digitally manufactured figures were strategically placed in order to mask some of the explicit sex scenes. This was done to secure an "R" rating from the MPAA. In Europe and the rest of the world, the film has been released in its uncut, original form.

Unrealized projects

An exacting perfectionist who often worked for years on pre-production planning and research, Kubrick had a number of unrealized projects during his career. All but one were never completed as films, but are of some interest to fans of the director.

Most famously, he never filmed his much-researched biopic of Napoleon (Bonaparte) I of France, which was originally to star Jack Nicholson as Napoleon after Kubrick saw him in Easy Rider. Kubrick and Nicholson eventually worked together on The Shining. After years of preproduction, the movie was set aside indefinitely in favor of more economically feasible projects. As late as 1987, Kubrick stated that he had not given up on the project, mentioning that he had read almost 500 books on the historical figure. He was convinced that a film worthy of the subject had not yet appeared.

In the early 1990s, Kubrick almost went into production on a film of Louis Begley's Wartime Lies, the story of a boy and his mother in hiding during the Holocaust. The first draft screenplay, titled "Aryan Papers", had been penned by Kubrick himself. Kubrick chose not to make the film due to the release of Steven Spielberg's Holocaust-themed Schindler's List in 1993. In addition, according to Kubrick's wife, Christiane, the subject itself had become too depressing and difficult for the director. Kubrick eventually concluded that an accurate film about the Holocaust was beyond the capacity of cinema.

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence — posthumous completion

One Kubrick project was eventually completed by another director, Steven Spielberg. Throughout the 1980s and early 90s, Kubrick collaborated with various writers (including Brian Aldiss, Sara Maitland and Ian Watson) on a project called by various names, including "Pinocchio" and "Artificial Intelligence."

Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law in a scene of A.I.
Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law in a scene of A.I.

The film was developed expanding on Aldiss' short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long," which Kubrick and his writers turned into a feature-length film in three acts. It was a futuristic fairy tale about a robot which resembles and behaves as a child, who is sold as a temporary surrogate to a family whose only son is in a coma. The robot, however, learns of this, and out of sympathy is left abandoned in the woods by his owners instead of being returned to the factory for destruction. The rest of the story concerns the robot's programmed efforts to understand how he differs from humans, and whether it is worth remaining functional in a world on the brink of self-destruction.

Kubrick reportedly held long telephone discussions with Steven Spielberg regarding the film, and, according to Spielberg, at one point stated that the subject matter was closer to Spielberg's sensibilities than his. In 2001, following Kubrick's death, Spielberg took the various drafts and notes left by Kubrick and his writers, and composed a new screenplay, and in association with what remained of Kubrick's production unit, made the movie A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, starring Haley Joel Osment.

The film contains a posthumous producing credit for Stanley Kubrick at the beginning, and the brief dedication "For Stanley" at the end. The film contains many recurrent Kubrick motifs, such as an omniscient narrator, an extreme form of the three act structure, the themes of humanity and inhumanity, and a sardonic view of Freudian psychology.

A.I. was not a major box office or critical success, and the unorthodox combination of two vastly different directorial visions was considered by some critics a confusing failure unappealing to fans of both Spielberg and Kubrick. However, the film has a cult following among science-fiction fans and is considered by some to be one of Spielberg's finest films.

Lunatic at Large

On November 1, 2006, Philip Hobbs, Kubrick's son-in-law, announced that they will be shepherding a film treatment of Lunatic at Large, which was commissioned by film director Stanley Kubrick for treatment from noir pulp novelist Jim Thompson in the 1950s, but it had become lost until Kubrick's 1999 death.[1]


Kubrick was often unwilling to discuss personal matters publicly, or to speak publicly at all. Over time, his image in the media has ranged anywhere from being a reclusive genius to a megalomaniacal lunatic shut off from the world. Since his death, Kubrick's friends and family have denied this. Kubrick clearly left behind a strong family and many close friends. Many of those who worked for him speak highly in his favor. The rumor regarding his reclusiveness is largely a myth, and may have resulted from his aversion to travel once installed at St. Albans. Kubrick was afraid of flying and refused to take airplane trips, so he rarely left England over the last forty years of his life. Kubrick once told a friend that he went to London (about 40 minutes by car) four to five times a year solely for appointments with his dentist. Kubrick also shunned the Hollywood system and its publicity machine. His appearance was not well known in his later years, and a British man by the name of Alan Conway successfully pretended he was Kubrick 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.

Kubrick was constantly in contact with family members and business associates, often by telephone, and contacted collaborators at all hours for conversations lasting 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, most especially Michael Herr and Steven Spielberg. In his memoir of Kubrick, Herr said that dozens of people claim to have spoken to Kubrick on the day of his death and remarked "I believe all of them." Kubrick also frequently invited various people to his house, ranging from actors to close friends, admired film directors, writers, and intellectuals. Kubrick was also an animal lover. He owned many dogs and cats throughout his life and showed an extraordinary affection for them. Christiane, Kubrick's widow, said in her book version of Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures that Kubrick brought his cats to the editing room to spend time with them that was lost while he was shooting his films. Matthew Modine remembers Kubrick being deeply upset when a family of rabbits was accidentally killed during the making of Full Metal Jacket. Kubrick was so upset that he cancelled shooting for the rest of the day. Philip Kaplan, one of Kubrick's lawyers and friends, reports that Stanley once cancelled a meeting with him and another lawyer who had flown to London from the United States for the meeting, at the last moment, because he sat up all night with a dying cat and was in no shape to participate. Kaplan also reports that the huge kitchen table at St. Albans was supported by an undulating base and that within each curved space was a dog, most of no recognizable breed and some not notably friendly to strangers.

Kubrick had a reputation of being tactless and rude to many people he worked with. Some of Kubrick's collaborators have complained of a coldness or lack of sympathy for the feelings of others on his part. 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. Michael Herr, in his otherwise positive memoir to Kubrick, complains that Kubrick was extremely cheap and very greedy about money. He states 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. Science-fiction writer Brian Aldiss was fired from Kubrick's never completed project AI for vacationing with his family in violation of his contract, even though Kubrick had put the project on hold at the time. Kubrick brought in other writers to help write the AI script, but fired them because he felt they were useless. Kirk Douglas often commented on Kubrick's unwillingness to compromise, his out of control ego and ruthless pursuit to make a film his own distinct work of art instead of a group effort (it must be noted, however, that in interviews Kubrick often acknowledged and admired the effort of his team, especially those who made the special effects for 2001 possible). However, Douglas has acknowledged that a large part of his dislike for Kubrick was caused by Kubrick's consistently negative statements about Spartacus. 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. George C. Scott, who admired Kubrick in retrospect, famously resented Kubrick using his most over-the-top performances for the final cut of Dr. Strangelove, after promising they would not be seen by audiences. Kubrick's crew has stated that he was notorious for not complimenting anyone and rarely showed admiration for his co-workers 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.

Upon purchasing the Childwickbury Manor in Hertforshire, England, Kubrick set up his life so that family and business were one. He purchased top-of-the-line film editing equipment and owned all of his own cameras. Children and animals would frequently come in and out of the room as he worked on a script or met with an actor.

Although Kubrick was greatly disliked by many of the people he worked with, many speak kindly of him, including co-workers and friends Jack Nicholson, Diane Johnson, Tom Cruise, Joe Turkel, Con Pederson, Sterling Hayden, Scatman Crothers, Carl Solomon, Ryan O'Neal, Anthony Frewin, Ian Watson, John Milius, Jocelyn Pook, Sydney Pollack, R. Lee Ermey, and others. Michael Herr's memoir to Kubrick and Matthew Modine's book Full Metal Jacket Diary show a different, much more kind, sane and warm 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 also shares his sentiments. Shelley Winters, when asked what she thought of him, answered, "A gift." Shelley Duvall, who played Wendy in The Shining did not always get along with Kubrick, as seen in The Making of the Shining, but has said that in retrospect it was a great experience that made her smarter — though she'd never want to do it again. Also, Malcolm McDowell in retrospect said that he felt some of his statements about Kubrick were "unfair" and were a "cry out" to Kubrick to call him. He has mused that it was because Kubrick saw some of Alex (the main character in A Clockwork Orange) in McDowell, and McDowell has commented on how much this termination of friendship personally hurt him. McDowell said that he was very sad when Kubrick died.


In his memoir of Kubrick, Michael Herr, his personal friend and co-writer of the screenplay for Full Metal Jacket, wrote:

Stanley had views on everything, but I would not exactly call them political... His views on democracy were those of most people I know, neither left or right, not exactly brimming with belief, a noble failed experiment along our evolutionary way, brought low by base instincts, money and self-interest and stupidity... He thought the best system might be under a benign despot, though he had little belief that such a man could be found. He wasn't a cynic, but he could have easily passed for one. He was certainly a capitalist. He believed himself to be a realist.

Herr also wrote that Kubrick owned guns and that he did not think war is entirely a bad thing. In the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, Herr says "...he also accepted to acknowledge that, of all the things war is, it is also very beautiful." Kubrick, according to Ian Watson, reportedly said of the pre-1997 socialist Labour Party “If the Labourites ever get in, I’ll leave the country.” Watson explains Kubrick was extremely opposed to laws on taxing the rich and welfare in general. [4] Michael Herr said of initial reactions to Full Metal Jacket "The political left will call Kubrick a fascist." [5] Despite that Full Metal Jacket is often cited as an anti-war film, in his 1987 interview with Gene Siskel called Candidly Kubrick, Kubrick has said, "Full Metal Jacket suggests there is more to say about war than it is just bad." In the same interview he said that everything serious the drill sergeant says, such as "A rifle is only a tool, it is a hard heart that kills" is completely true. Though some have said Kubrick disliked America, Michael Herr says, on the other hand, that America was all he talked about and that he often thought of moving back. It was said that Kubrick was sent VHS tapes from American friends of pro-football, Seinfeld, The Simpsons and other television shows which he could not get in the United Kingdom. Kubrick also told Siskel he was not anti-American and that he thought that America was a good country, though he did not think that Ronald Reagan was a good President. He also said he thought that people in the world did not take the nuclear threat of the time as seriously as they should and he was extremely suspicious of centralized banking systems. Some claim this evidence suggests Kubrick's views lean Right while others still say he leans Left. It is unknown, however, if Kubrick belonged to any political group.

Kubrick's works depict his own view of human nature and are critical of moral/political stances based on other views of human nature. For example, in A Clockwork Orange, the police are as violent and vulgar as the droogs, and Kubrick depicts both the subversive writer Mr. Alexander (a figure of the Left) and the authoritarian Minister of the Interior (a figure of the Right), as manipulative, hypocritical and sinister. In regard to A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick said to the New York Times,

Man isn't a noble savage, he's an ignoble savage. He is irrational, brutal, weak, silly, unable to be objective about anything where his own interests are involved — that about sums it up. I'm interested in the brutal and violent nature of man because it's a true picture of him. And any attempt to create social institutions on a false view of the nature of man is probably doomed to failure.

He also said in the same interview:

The idea that social restraints are all bad is based on a utopian and unrealistic vision of man. But in this movie you have an example of social institutions gone a bit berserk. Obviously social institutions faced with the law-and-order problem might choose to become grotesquely oppressive. The movie poses two extremes: it shows Alex in his pre-civilized state, and society committing a worse evil in attempting to cure him."

Kubrick's earlier work can be seen as more "liberal" than his later work. Colonel Dax in Paths of Glory and Spartacus in Spartacus are comparable to liberals, and the satire of government and military in Dr. Strangelove seems to point to a liberal political perspective (although the ignorant, hawk General Turgidson in the "War Room" is still more decisive than the peaceful, pacifist President Merkin Muffley). Kubrick's more mature works are more pessimistic and suspicious of the so-called innate goodness of mankind. In a letter to the New York Times in response to Fred M. Hechinger declaring A Clockwork Orange "fascist", Kubrick wrote:

It is quite true that my film's view of man is less flattering than the one Rousseau entertained in a similarly allegorical narrative — but, in order to avoid fascism, does one have to view man as a noble savage, rather than an ignoble one? Being a pessimist is not yet enough to qualify one to be regarded as a tyrant (I hope)...The age of the alibi, in which we find ourselves, began with the opening sentence of Rousseau's Emile: 'Nature made me happy and good, and if I am otherwise, it is society's fault.' It is based on two misconceptions: that man in his natural state was happy and good, and that primal man had no society...Rousseau's romantic fallacy that it is society which corrupts man, not man who corrupts society, places a flattering gauze between ourselves and reality. This view, to use Mr. Hechinger's frame of reference, is solid box office but, in the end, such a self-inflating illusion leads to despair.

Kubrick shares much of this view with Robert Ardrey, author of African Genesis and The Social Contract (not to be confused with Rousseau's) and author Arthur Koestler who is famous for writing The Ghost In The Machine, both of whom Kubrick quotes in his defense against Hechinger. Both authors (Koestler through psychology and Ardrey through anthropology) search for the cause of humanity's capacity for death and destruction and both, like Kubrick, are suspicious of the liberal belief in innate goodness of mankind (which Ardrey and Kubrick attribute to Rousseau, who, in Ardrey's words: "Fathered the romantic fallacy") and Behaviourism, especially what they consider "radical Behaviourism", whom they blame primarily on B.F. Skinner. (Mainstream anthropology contests Ardrey's view of man having an ancestor that was unremorsefully murderous and destructive, and mainstream psychologists' belief in innate empathy contradicts Koestler's or Kubrick's view of man as innately evil, or sadistic and unempathetic).

Reading Ardrey's African Genesis reveals he shared Kubrick's bleak view of man, and the growing concern of the juvenile delinquent, as Ardrey writes:

"Society flatters itself in thinking that it has rejected the juvenile delinquent; the delinquent has rejected society. And in the shadowed byways of his world so consummately free, this ingenious, normal adolescent human creature has created a way of life in perfect image of his animal needs."

Such a description brings to mind Alex, the delinquent thug in A Clockwork Orange. Ardrey also says society might eventually domesticate man through slavery and cure his innate urge to kill and destroy:

"We and our greater philosophers must grant, I believe, that the masters of a universal society with the aid of a captive science might just possibly succeed in producing, over a long period, a lasting answer to the problem of our animal nature: a universal human slave inherently obedient to other people's reason."

This brings to mind the Minister of the Interior and his proposal for the answer to street violence in Kubrick's film. However Ardrey also believes:

"Whether through sentimental attachment or rational choice, I find myself moved to prefer the wild creatures among who I was born to the more literal Homo sapiens that science and tyranny might produce."

Kubrick shows this in A Clockwork Orange, that a quick "cure" is not the answer to juvenile delinquency or violence, but that, as the clergyman in A Clockwork Orange, whom Kubrick has called "the moral voice of the story" says, "Goodness must come from within. Goodness must be chosen. If a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man." In fact, Kubrick said in an interview with The New York Times that his view of man was closer to the Christian view than humanistic or Jewish views, as he said, "I mean, it's essentially Christian theology anyway, that view of man." [6] In this context, Kubrick's film is neither amoral or fascist, but has a strong moral stance and is strongly anti-totalitarian. As Kubrick said in an interview with Gene Siskel:

To restrain man is not to redeem him...I think the danger is not that authority will collapse, but that, finally, in order to preserve itself, it will become very repressive...Law and order is not a phoney issue, not just an excuse for the Right to go further right.


Stanley Kubrick was born Jewish, but never much practiced this religion, as his parents were not very religious either. When asked by Michel Ciment in an interview if he had a religious upbringing, Kubrick replied:

"No, not at all."[7]

Kubrick is often said to be an atheist, but this may not be quite true. 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 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.[8]

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

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. [10]

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." Stephen King said that the primary reason why he didn't like Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining was as follows:

"I think there are two basic problems with the movie. First, Kubrick is a very cold man — pragmatic and rational — and he had great difficulty conceiving even academically, of a supernatural world...Not that religion has to be involved in horror, but a visceral skeptic such as Kubrick just couldn't grasp the sheer inhuman evil of the Overlook Hotel. So he looked, instead, for evil in the characters and made the film into a domestic tragedy with only vaguely supernatural overtones. That was the basic flaw: because he couldn't believe, he couldn't make the film believable to others."

Curiously and ironically, King's choice for directing the 1997 miniseries version of The Shining was Mick Garris, who, according to the interview with his wife found on the DVD of the Masters of Horror series episode of Chocolate, was a "confirmed atheist", who does not believe in the supernatural at all, while Kubrick was actually more open to the possibility. Also, King said that he believed H. P. Lovecraft was the greatest master of the classic horror tale (something he shared in common with Kubrick), but Lovecraft famously scoffed at the notion of a literal belief in the supernatural and was a very rational and pragmatic man himself.

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." [11]


Documentary Short Films

  • Day of the Fight (1951)
  • Flying Padre (1951)
  • The Seafarers (1953)

Feature Films

  • Fear and Desire (1953)
  • Killer's Kiss (1955)
  • The Killing (1956)
  • Paths of Glory (1957)
  • Spartacus (1960)
  • Lolita (1962)
  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • Barry Lyndon (1975)
  • The Shining (1980)
  • Full Metal Jacket (1987)
  • Eyes Wide Shut (1999)


  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3. David Hughes (2000). The Complete Kubrick. London: Virgin. ISBN 0-7535-0452-9.
  • 4. Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. Documentary film. Dir. Jan Harlan. Warner Home Video, 2001. 142 min.
  • 5. Kubrick on The Shining An interview with Michel Ciment
  • 6. The Hechinger Debacle
  • 7. Anthony Burgess, (1962, 1986). A Clockwork Orange. Norton. ISBN 0-393-31283-6.
  • 8. Stanley Kubrick, (2001). Stanley Kubrick: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1-57806-297-7.
  • 9. Jeremy Bernstein (November 1966). "A Day in the Life of Stanley Kubrick". The New Yorker.
  • 10. Lyons, V and Fitzgerald, M. (2005) ‘’Asperger syndrome: a gift or a curse?’’ New York: Nova Science Publishers. ISBN 1-59454-387-9
  • 11. Rainer Crone (text) and Stanley Kubrick (photographs) (2005). Drama and Shadows: Photographs 1945-1950. Phaidon Press. ISBN 0-7148-4438-1.
  • 12. Alison Castle (editor) and Stanley Kubrick (photographs) (2005). The Stanley Kubrick Archives. Taschen. ISBN 3-8228-2284-1.

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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