sabato 12 aprile 2014

The Stanley Kubrick Meetup in New York discusses '2001'

The Stanley Kubrick Meetup in New York meets regularly in NYC to discuss Kubrick films, because anyone is just one discussion away from becoming a Kubrick fan!

They will meet tomorrow at 13.30 at the Ginger Man (11 East 36th Street, New York, map), and my blog will feature in the discussion.

It may be not too late to join them and have a nice Guinness in their company, chatting about our favourite movie (and have one to my health as well!)

Also, check out their Tumblr:

mercoledì 2 aprile 2014

A full cast list for '2001', Part 3 - On the moon

Welcome to Part 3 of our extended look at all the actors that starred in 2001. Today we'll focus on the scenes that take place on the Moon, when Floyd first discusses and later faces the actual monolyth. Once again, many thanks to the crew for their great work in identifying most of them.

1. Clavius base briefing

Shot relatively quickly in two days (January 17-18, 1966) this scene involved 13 actors. Dr. Heywood Floyd (below) was played by William Sylvester and I wrote about him in part 1 of the series.

Robert Beatty, a popular canadian film, television and radio actor since the 1930s, played Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. According to Clarke's 2001 book, Halvorsen was the Administrator of the Southern Province of the Moon, "which meant not only the base but also any exploring parties that operated from it".

Two publicity shots of Robert Beatty (source:

Stanley Kubrick, Robert Beatty and William Sylvester take a cigarette break during the shooting of the Clavius Briefing scene (early 1966; source:

Chief Scientist Dr. Bill Michaels, "a grizzled little geophysicist" according to Clarke's book, was played by Sean Sullivan, another seasoned canadian actor. Called 'Bill' by Floyd, Michaels' first name in Clarke's book is Roy.

Sullivan had to appear in Kubrick's Lolita (1960), when he came down with a raging temperature during the first day of filming, literally collapsing at Kubrick's feet. Rushed to hospital for an emergency operation, he never appeared in the movie.

Subject of internet mockery for decades because of his suit, Burnell Tucker played the unnamed photographer during the Clavius briefing and at Tycho.

A publicity shot of Burnell Tucker (source: ...

...and a model wearing a strikingly similar suit during the Hardy Amies Fall-winter 2013-14 collection unveiling. It comes as no surprise, as Amies was 2001's costume designer.

Another member of the canadian pack in 2001, Tucker appeared in many famous movies (curiously, often wearing headphones of some sorts): Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Superman, Superman II, Flash Gordon are only the most popular.

 Burnell Tucker in Flash Gordon (1980) and Star Wars (1977)

Tucker also appeared in Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (he was one of the aides of Colonel Mandrake) and also The Shining (as a policeman in a scene cut from the final edit).

The other identified extras in the briefing room are:

From left to right: Colin McKenzie; Roy Lansford, unidentified lady (possibly Wendy Gerrard?); Harold Coyne..., Coyne with fellow military officer Lewis Hooper.

... on the other side of the table, from left to right, Tony Snell (left) and Ron Watkins. Unfortunately, the other two on the right are still John (and Jane) Doe (again, the lady could be Wendy Gerrard).

Watkins was apparently left on the Moon for later assignements, as he also was a stand-in for actor Barry Morse in Space: 1999.

You may have wondered, by now, what a stand-in is or exactly does. I bring in the great site for help, here's their succint though clear explanation.

Before the actors start a scene, the lighting cameraman and director must prepare the camera and lights. This can be a lengthy process, and the actor may still be in make up or wardrobe. So a member of the crew acts as a "stand-in", literally standing in the position of the actor. The stand in must be a similar height and build to the actor, and wear clothes of a similar colour, so the lighting will also match the actor in costume. Stand ins are not necessarily actors, but may sometimes appear as extras on screen.

2. The moonbus trip

In the scene aboard the moonbus (filmed January 12-14, 1966) we meet once again the trio of officials in charge at Clavius: Floyd (William Sylvester), Michaels (Sean Sullivan) and Halvorsen (Robert Beatty).

We also manage to get a glimpse of the two pilots:


Though it is difficult to tell, we know from the continuity reports that they are, from left to right, Burnell Tucker (the briefing photographer) and John Swindells.

  John Swindells in Sidestreet (1975)

   John Swindells in Z-Cars (1973)

Swindells, an experienced TV and movie actor from Liverpool, recalled his experience on 2001 and with Kubrick in a 2005 interview:
''And all of a sudden, this owl-like man came around the corner with this beard and these bulging eyes. My impressions of him [Stanley Kubrick] were of a very intense man, obviously with a hell of a lot on his mind.''

Swindells said Kubrick instructed him and another actor to get their hair cut very short. He did as he was told but not the other actor. ''And Kubrick said to him: I told you to get your hair cut. You obviously did not hear me. You are off this movie? The lesson from this is always do what a director tells you!''

While Kubrick was demanding, Swindells said they enjoyed a good relationship. ''He knew what he wanted and he was considerate, professional and utterly brilliant. And he was a gentleman.''

Swindells said Kubrick also picked exceptional actors to star in his films. These included: Kirk Douglas, Peter Ustinov, Peter Sellers, James Mason, Leonard Rossiter, Malcolm McDowell and Jack Nicholson. ''I think he liked actors who had been in the theatre, he wanted voices, people who could be innovative and inventive,'' he said.

2001 a Space Odyssey was released in 1968. ''A few years after it came out, I realised, my goodness, I was part of something big.''

3. Facing the Monolyth at Tycho

The last scene set on the moon was the first actually shot, in the largest stage available at Shepperton, from December 29, 1965 to January 2, 1966.

Here the five astronauts aboard the moonbus are joined by another technician, played by John Clifford, long time actor, extra and stand-in.

John Clifford in The Prisoner episode "Many Happy returns". The Prisoner was shot at MGM's Borehamwood Studios next door to where 2001 was being filmed in 1966-67.

First from the right, Clifford as stand-in for Martin Landau in Space: 1999.

From left to right, John Swindells, John Clifford, Burnell Tucker (equipped with camera)

From left to right, John Swindells, Robert Beatty, William Sylvester, Sean Sullivan, John Clifford, Burnell Tucker.

 From left to right, John Swindells, Sean Sullivan, Stanley Kubrick, William Sylvester, John Clifford, Robert Beatty, Burnell Tucker.

This guy, barely seen in the moonbus landing 'control tower', does not look like John Clifford, so he remains unidentified.

Before leaving the Moon, a tribute to Harry Fielder - longtime film and TV extra who had the chance to walk on the moon for one day as double for one of the main actors of 2001. It was one of his first jobs in a long career in the business.

He has been recognized by the crew as one of the actors who walk on the moon while the Aries is landing; although this does not match perfectly with his memory of being only a 'double', I can't help including him in this list!

lunedì 31 marzo 2014

50 years ago, Kubrick and Clarke made their first contact

Today we celebrate another significant anniversary in the history of our favourite movie: as a result of the dinner recounted in my previous post, fifty years ago today (March 31, 1964) Stanley Kubrick sat in front of his typewriter and wrote a letter to Arthur C. Clarke. It was their first direct, personal contact.

I held the original letter in my very hands at the Kubrick Archive in London last January (here's its catalogue entry); ... if you expected a picture of it, well I'm sorry, visitors are not allowed to take pictures of items in the Archive.

Luckily we have the full text of the letter (to my knowledge, it was first published on the net in 2012 by the fine site Letters of Note, although an excerpt was already present in Taschen's 2008 book The Stanley Kubrick Archives and was published in the same year in the Daily Telegraph website).

* * *
March 31, 1964

Mr. Arthur C. Clarke
[Address redacted]
Dear Mr Clarke:
It's a very interesting coincidence that our mutual friend Caras mentioned you in a conversation we were having about a Questar telescope. I had been a great admirer of your books for quite a time and had always wanted to discuss with you the possibility of doing the proverbial "really good" science-fiction movie.

My main interest lies along these broad areas, naturally assuming great plot and character:

  1. The reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life.
  2. The impact (and perhaps even lack of impact in some quarters) such discovery would have on Earth in the near future.
  3. A space probe with a landing and exploration of the Moon and Mars.
Roger tells me you are planning to come to New York this summer. Do you have an inflexible schedule? If not, would you consider coming sooner with a view to a meeting, the purpose of which would be to determine whether an idea might exist or arise which could sufficiently interest both of us enough to want to collaborate on a screenplay?
Incidentally, "Sky & Telescope" advertise a number of scopes. If one has the room for a medium size scope on a pedestal, say the size of a camera tripod, is there any particular model in a class by itself, as the Questar is for small portable scopes?
Best regards,

Stanley Kubrick

When I first read the letter, I was amazed, but not surprised, to find yet another example of Kubrick's uncanny ability to exploit every chance to extract information from his interlocutor, whether he was a close friend, a relative, an acquaintance, or a total unknown.

The telescope thing was not a pretext to arouse the interest of Clarke: Kubrick was a hobbist astronomer but most of all he was a total 'geek' - he bought every new gadget he could, owned several tape recorders, and when computers came around he was an enthusiast early adopter.

Therefore when, after asking the well-respected author to consider a possible collaboration for a science-fiction movie, the director takes the opportunity to ask him about his latest gadget as well, we are almost led to believe that the movie was an excuse!

What was Clarke's reaction to Kubrick's letter? The sci-fi author was aware of the director's interest (he had already answered to Roger Caras' telegram, as we saw in my previous post), and, as we read in his biography Odyssey
the letter further aroused Clarke's interest in the project. [...] "Kubrick is obviously an astonishing man", he wrote to Caras. [...] "By a fortunate coincidence, I was due in New York almost immediately, to complete work on the Time-Life Science's Library Man in Space". [...] Before the trip (Clarke) searched through his published fiction for ideas that could be used in the film.
What he came up with, a short story wrote for a 1948 BBC contest that did not win or even place - The Sentinel (here it is as a pdf)- somehow set the tone for the whole project (despite the enormous differences between it and the final movie, compared by the same Clarke to the differences between an acorn to a full-grown oak tree).

Cover and first page of The Sentinel in its first published version, in the english magazine 10 Story Fantasy in 1951, under the title "Sentinel of Eternity". Source: ebay

 Arthur C Clarke with a Questar telescope, Sri Lanka, 1970s. Source:

Kubrick's Questar telescope will feature again in the 2001 story, in a purported UFO sighting event that the director and Clarke experienced while developing the plot for the movie, in the same year 1964. We'll deal about that in a future article.