If you’re a fan of Space, then you’re also a fan of space, which clearly means you’re big fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Between October 31 and January 25, Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition will be running at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox. In addition to amaaazing archival material from all of Kubrick’s films, there will also be film screenings and high-profile guests. For instance, 2001 stars Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood will be in attendance for that film’s screening. If for some reason you can’t make it, we’ve got the next best thing: an exclusive interview with both actors. Read on!
Space: Has anyone ever not started an interview with, “Hello, Dave”?
Keir Dullea: That’s one of the first questions. That or what was it like to work with Stanley.
Sorry for this then, but what was it like working with Stanley? There are so many different opinions.
Gary Lockwood: I really enjoyed working for Stanley. He’s the smartest director I’d ever seen, heard, or watched. It’s very hard to determine why one filmmaker is more capable than others, but his high degree of intellect and massive curiosity set him apart. When my agent told me Stanley was interested, my reaction was, “Wow, Stanley Kubrick. How much do I pay him?”
KD: My experience was wonderful, and he was so supportive. You were aware that you were in the presence of a genius. Just before doing 2001, I was in Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake is Missing, which was a horrendous experience. Going from Preminger to Kubrick was like going from hell to heaven. I had been a fan of his ever since I left drama school one afternoon to go see a war picture with Kirk Douglas, which of course was Paths of Glory. My jaw was on my lap within the first 60 seconds.
How would you say 2001 changed the science fiction genre?
KD: Up until 2001, just about every sci-fi film would be rated as a grade-B film. 2001 absolutely paved the way for Star Wars and other big budget science fiction films. That’s number one. Number two is that I do a lot of autograph sessions at various conventions, and some of them have real astronauts. I’ve met a number of astronauts who’ve told me 2001 was their reason for becoming one.
GL: 2001 was a societal game changer, but a lot of critics didn’t like it at first. I also did the pilot for Star Trek, which is on the other side of the spectrum. I’ve met Star Trek fans who didn’t care for 2001, and vice versa. Then there are people in college, med students, who dropped out and went into computers because of these.<p>
Were you surprised by the finished product?
KD: No actor knows exactly how it will come across when it’s done, because it’s made in pieces. In this case, that held true more than anything I ever worked on, because of his visual genius. For the “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinity” sequence, I was on a platform with huge lights pointed at me. Those effects hadn’t been done yet, and what I later saw was remarkable.
GL: There were certainly some things I didn’t know or see during production. I was mesmerized by the disconnection scene at the end of the film when I first saw it.
Were you aware on set that this would be such an important movie?
GL: Not only did I know that, but I was also taken to task for it by the press in Denver Colorado.
KD: I knew it would get a lot of attention. I can’t say I knew it would be this important. If you interviewed actors in Citizen Kane when it came out, would they know it would be studied in cinema classes? When 2001 was released, it had very mixed reviews. It took a lot of years for it to become so iconic.
Was it challenging giving a performance that relied so much on physicality alone?
GL: Not at all. That’s why I got the job. He thought I could do a lot with less, based on my style of acting.
KD: Stanley came up with fictional bios for our characters, like how we were chosen to be astronauts and what specific science degrees we had. We also had psychology profiles that explained why these major events seemed to affect us slightly less than the average man. Up until things go wrong, everything you see is another routine day. We’re just these awoken mimes. These guys have also probably talked forever, and don’t have much else to say. The real star of the film is Douglas Rain, who voices HAL. Interestingly, Rain backs away from discussing his role. He’s won a Tony. His point of view, so I’m told, is that he has this huge acting career, but HAL is all people want to talk about.
Is there a particular moment in the film that still blows your mind?
KD: What really blew my mind—and still does—is the “Dawn of Man” sequence, which was filmed after I was finished. Before I saw it had no idea what it would look like. My two favourite moments are when, after discovering the Monolith, the lead ape (who was played by a mime, and coached the other apes) discovers the first weapon, and his head tilts, and suddenly his motions become deliberate. My second favourite moment is the greatest jump cut of all time: when we cut from the ape’s bone weapon to a space vehicle. In the book, that wasn’t just a space vehicle, it was a nuclear weapon, which is an even stronger parallel.
GL: There’s a scene that’s always been imprinted into my pituitary. Dr. Heywood has gone to the moon, and is traversing across the planet. That whole sequence, with close ups and great distance shots, nothing could set the stage for the rest of the film better.
If you could have kept one prop from the film, what would it have been?
KD: Nobody’s ever asked me that! The monolith is kinda big for my living room. I’m going to go with my space helmet.
GL: You can lower the monolith in like that movie Alec Guinness made. In retrospect, I’d take the iPad.
Has your connection with the film changed over the years?
KD: I don’t think it’s changed a lot. When I attend screenings I don’t always sit through it. But when I do, it reawakens the wonderful memories I had making the film. My wife recently noticed that in the scene with Floyd and Russian scientists, there’s a cut, and hanging sweater that was in an earlier shot suddenly isn’t there. Of course, Stanley caught that. If you listen very carefully, you’ll hear a PA announcing that a blue sweater has been found. I just admire Stanley’s genius every time I watch it.
GL: As you get older your perspectives change, but I don’t think a human being changes a hell of a lot. Still, the movie is a bit of Rorschach. Take any one section of it, blow it up and look at it. You’ll find it’s pretty interesting to look at. That’s the cornerstone to Kubrick’s genius.