venerdì 16 ottobre 2015

The '2001' spacecraft art of Simon Atkinson

Now that Taschen's "The Making Of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey" is out in a more affordable version, many more fans have had the chance to access the superb work of Piers Bizony. They will surely remember that there was another book from Piers that had set the bar for the  most authoritative and complete source of information on 2001, and it was 2001: Filming The Future, that first came out in 1994.

The book featured some accurate artworks of the main spacecraft featured in 2001, made by Simon Atkinson, a professional illustrator who rendered the landmark ships seen in the movie with previously unseen accuracy and clarity. Here's how Piers Bizony remembers Simon's work:

“When Simon and I first began researching the hardware of 2001: A Space Odyssey in the early 1990’s, computer graphics tools were not yet widely available outside major film and media industries. Many brilliant artists have taken on the challenge of recreating 2001’s spacecraft using the very best digital techniques, and as often as not, the results are stunning. Yet almost without exception these modern practitioners cite the importance of Simon Atkinson’s painstaking traditional analogue work as an inspiration. 2001 was put together very much by hand. So were Simon’s wonderful renderings of the spacecraft. In fact I would challenge any CGI system to recapture the tone and feel that Simon accomplished.

Simon presented one of the original pod illustrations he produced for Filming The Future to Arthur C. Clarke during a 2001-related event in 1992 (Piers Bizony is on the right of the photo).

Simon and Piers during a recent event at the Museum Of Science in London. Behind them, a LEM mockup.

Simon recalls the thrilling experience of producing those artworks and his meetings with Harry Lange (NASA designer and technical consultant to 2001) and Arthur C. Clarke in this page of his website - an exciting account on its own that I suggest all the 2001 fans to read. What's more exciting is that Simon has recently rediscovered the original large format transparencies of his illustrations that were used for printing purposes, and has painstakingly restored his artworks to a level where they can now be reproduced as large scale prints very close in size to his original paintings with much greater detail and clarity than previously seen. Simon's artworks are now about to be released as a signed limited edition fine art print collection.

The prints will be produced using the Giclée process and printed on 260 gsm satin art paper; a Giclée print is high-quality art paper printed with super-fine ink spray dots and it's almost indistinguishable from an actual painting - it is indeed the same high-quality method used to produce Oliver Rennert's fabulous Discovery cut-out illustration I proudly own and that I previously reviewed here.

Here's Simon Atkinson holding a print of his Aries 1B side elevation illustration from 2001: Filming The Future (airbrush/coloured pencils on CS10 artboard, 1990). The original artwork of the Aries  is now in the collection of Tom Hanks, a keen 2001 fan and collector; the limited edition prints will be very close in size to the originals.

Simon's prints will be available to purchase from 30th October 2015; as the print run will be limited (only 250 for each artwork), Simon is currently inviting expressions of interest. You may contact him from the the contact page of his website,

Actual print sizes

(remember: the images of the various prints seen here 
are not in proportion with their actual sizes)

ARIES 1B : Overall print size 20” x 22” (510mm x 555 mm); image size 13 ¼” x 14” (336mm x 360 mm)

DISCOVERY 1 : Overall print size 38 ¼” x 6 ½”  (975mm x 257mm); image size 32” x 4” (828mm x 104mm)

ORION III : Overall print size 32” x 24” (830mm x 610mm); image size 25 ¾” x 15 ½” (658mm x 396mm)

POD SIDE: Overall print size 17 ¾” x 19 ¼” (452mm x 490mm); image size 11 ¾” x 10 “ (300mm x 250mm)

POD FRONT: Overall print size 17 ¾” x 19 ¼” (452mm x 490mm); image size 10 ¾” x 10” (277mm x 250mm)

domenica 30 agosto 2015

The most iconic movie scene ever, explained

Today, 48 years ago - August 30, 1967, on a MGM backlot in Borehamwood, near London, a young mime artist named Dan Richter smashed a few bones.... and made cinematic history. 

Here's how he told the story of that scene to Justin Bozung, author of a long and extremely interesting interview with the apeman we know as Moonwatcher.

"It took us weeks to do that scene. The page of the script said something like, “Moon-Watcher picks up a bone, he now has the power..and he will kill” or what not. All Stanley told me was, “Go over there and pick up the bone. Hit the skull and break it.” That’s all he told me!"

"The whole film was shot on a sound stage, except the end of that scene. We did it outside of the studio. In fact, there were buses driving behind me as we were doing it. So I’m sitting there on this platform up in the air and I’m looking out at the camera, and I noticed the type of lens Stanley was shooting with and the angle in which I was being filmed. I noticed he was shooting with a portrait lens. And I knew we were shooting in Cinerama. So I knew that I was going to be gigantic on the screen. I had to show visually that “Moon-Watcher” had this idea that was put into his head by these aliens. I had to show that somehow. 

So I thought about it. Then I thought it would be good if I just cocked my head slightly. So I had to protect the entire moment by not doing much. I decided to move very slowly forward, and look very carefully down at the bones. I wanted to make it so that it filled the screen, so that the moment where I cocked my head would signify this change in the script, like a beat."

"In fact, the whole time I was doing that scene, I was talking to Stanley through the mask. We’re shooting it “MOS” (mitt-out sound, meaning that a film segment has no synchronous audio track; the sound for The Dawn of Men was recorded later in post-production), so I was saying to Stanley “OK, I’m going to move to the left a bit”, and Stanley would say, “OK, that’s good. Just reach over.”

So, when it came time to pick the bone up, I was playing with the idea of hitting things, because remember he had never picked anything up before, never held anything in his hands, never knew how to wrap his hand around anything. Everything was totally new to him. I took the time to feel the weight of it in my hand. Then I started probing things with it. Then at that moment, I hit one of the little bones, and it spun up into the air. I said to Stanley, “Oh, I screwed up Stanley.” He said, “No, no I like it keep going.” So we started to grow the scene from that. We set it up again, so that all of the bones would flip into the air as I hit them."

And here's a short excerpt from Dan Richter's excellent book Moonwatcher's Memoir:

"I let Moonwatcher play with the bones. He gets the feel of a bone in his hand. He has never held a bone in his hand before; he has never used a weapon. This is not only the first time for him, but it is the first time any creature has ever picked up a weapon."

"He feels it, smells it and lets it fall against the other bones. He begins to sense the weight in his hand, the power, the release from an eternity of fear and groveling in the dirt for food.


I give it all I have as I move forward into film history."

lunedì 8 giugno 2015

Towards a oral history of '2001': The Justin Bozung interviews

How is it possible to learn new stuff about a movie produced fifty years ago? It's easy: stop worrying and go ask directly the people who actually made it!

Enter Justin Bozung, an Atlanta, Georgia based researcher/writer/part-time archivist that has written for a plethora of movie-related publications and web sites such as Fangoria, Whoa, Paracinema, Bijou, HorrorHound, Phantom Of The Movies' Videoscope and Shock Cinema.

Most relevant for our interest here, Bozung has contributed to two books on Stanley Kubrick: 2001: The Lost Science for Canadian publisher Apogee Prime, that I reviewed here, and Studies In The Horror Film: Stanley Kubrick's The Shining for Colorado publishers Centipede Press, for which he conducted almost 30 new, in-depth interviews with the cast and crew from the film. 

Justin is at his best when it comes to interviews. He really is a master in the art - first of all, he knows the topic he's talking about with his hosts inside out, and he seems to be able to extract from them even the most obscure - and interesting, details even when dealing with people who has been interviewed dozens of times already.

Justin started interviewing individuals connected to 2001 few years ago, and considering that he makes his living writing about movies and interviewing folks, it was very generous of him to release interviews for free over the internet - first on his website, and then in the lengthy series The 2001: a space odyssey interviews series on He also has been very generous with me in the years of our acquaintance, granting me details and contacts for people and informations related to 2001

It's therefore with a unjustifiable delay that I'm presenting, in this article, all the interviews Justin ever conducted related to 2001 extracting a few bits and pieces here and there just as an appetizer for the main course. Justin is currently editing a volume on the films of Norman Mailer as well as writing the biography of filmmaker Frank Perry. If you're interested in his work, get in contact with him at and consider seriously buying one of his books or the magazines he currently writes on - you won't regret it.

In alphabetical order:

Andrew Birkin

Screenwriter Andrew Birkin (The Name Of The Rose, Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about getting his start working with Stanley Kubrick on 2001, Napoleon as well as with The Beatles. Barkin was involved, among the other things, with the creation of the "Dawn Of Man" sequence which opens the film and shooting the footage for the Star Gate sequence.

"It was around this time, I think around November 1965, that I got a call from an old friend-- Robert Watts--who has since gone on to work as a Line Producer. He called me and said, "How'd you like to work on the new film that Stanley Kubrick is doing?" I had seen Dr. Strangelove (1964). I said, "Well, what's the new one about?" He said, "Well I can't really tell you that much, but it's something to do with space. Do you want the job or not? It doesn't pay very much, only like six pounds a week..." 

Read the full interview here:part 1:
part 2:
part 3:

Jill Caras

Jill Caras: Widow of Kubrick publicity man Roger Caras talks with TV STORE ONLINE about Stanley Kubrick and the making of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). There are those that suggest that 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY may not have come to fruition had it not been for a conversation Kubrick and Caras shared over a lunch one afternoon in New York City about telescopes.

"When Stanley and Christiane came back to The United States when 2001 was set to be released they rented a house on Sands Point, Long Island. I remember one day Christiane called me and said, "Here I am. I feel like Scarlett O'Hara, I have no help here. The girls are driving me just crazy. I'm trying to get everything settled here." Roger said to me, "Well, why don't we take the girls for the weekend?" [...] Stanley was quite neurotic when it came to his daughters. He had been gone and when he got home and found out that his daughters were gone for the weekend he got quite upset. (Laughing) So, he kept calling us in East Hampton. He'd call our house every-hour-on-the-hour. Finally at 1 O'clock in the morning Roger picked up the phone and said, "Don't call again. They're all dead!" (Laughing)"

Read the full interview here:

Brian Johnson

Academy Award Winning Special Effects Supervisor Brian Johnson (Alien, The Empire Strikes Back, The Never Ending Story) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his work on 2001, working with Stanley Kubrick and why Kubrick refused to fly. 

What was your first impression of Stanley when you met him?"I knew I had to be out at his office at MGM at a certain time, and when I got there his secretary told me, "Stanley is out on such-and-such stage today..." So I went walking around and ended up on the big stage at MGM. There was a painter in the corner, fiddling around doing a few bits. I went up to him and said, "I was told that Stanley Kubrick would be on this stage." The man turned around and he said, "Yes, that's me." That was how I met him. He smiled at me and we started to talk. He was wearing that old blue jacket that he liked so much. And an old pair of blue trousers. He had like four or five of those same jackets in his collection and they made him look like he was a painter."

Read the full interview here:

Herb Lightman

Former Filmmaker and Editor of American Cinematographer Magazine Herb Lightman talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his experiences covering the making of 2001 with Stanley Kubrick. Lightman's writings on 2001 are the most quoted and referenced text works on the film since its 1968 theatrical release.

"There was something that had seemed off-kilter with the ending of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY to me when I had seen it the first time. I said, "The ending of 2001..." I was careful how I worded my question as to not insult Stanley. I said, "There's something [Starchild] that took off at the end of the film...What was that?" Stanley said, "You're absolutely right. But I'm not going to answer that question simply because everyone is going to read this..." I then asked him what his objective was with the ending of the film and his response was, "We went off the rails there because we wanted to provide a ending that would allow everyone in the audience their own interpretation of the story."

Read the full interview here:

Gary Lockwood

"Gary Lockwood has no problems telling you exactly what kind of guy he is. He'll tell you when you meet him for the first time that he's an asshole that was born with incredible talents, and that life and its rewards came very easy for him over the years."

Read the full interview here:

Bryan Loftus

Cinematographer Bryan Loftus (The Company Of Wolves, Siesta) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about getting his start with Stanley Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove (1964) and 2001.

"[Kubrick] had a fantastic sense of humor and memory. He remembered everything, and keep in mind we were on the film working for two years. He would come up to you and remind you of something that you had told him six months prior. You would give him an answer, and he would say, "No, No. You told me this six months ago...." He didn't like to be lied to. He would say, "If you don't know the answer, tell me that you don't know the answer." He was a great chess player and he always had a twinkle in his eye. Organizing 2001 was a wonderful chess-like construction."

Read the full interview here:

Fred Ordway

NASA consultant and 2001 technical advisor Frederick Ordway III talks with TV STORE ONLINE  on the inspiration behind Stanley Kubrick's landmark science fiction masterpiece.

"When 2001 came out....One of the most audacious things I think that anyone could do if they were associated with the film or Kubrick... You wrote a letter, that's since been published, to Stanley suggesting to him where you thought the film went wrong...I felt that there had been too many people that had seen the film that didn't understand it. Plus, it got mixed reviews. I just thought that he should amend it to include little captions or transitions here or there that would help explain it.
How did Stanley respond to your letter?He never did. I thought it was a friendly letter."

Read the full interview here: part 1: …
part 2:

Ivor Powell

Producer Ivor Powell (Alien, Blade Runner) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his first job in the film industry... Working for Stanley Kubrick on 2001... 

"Stanley put me in this big room with Con Pederson and Brian Loftus. It was called the "chart room" and the room was covered in these flip charts. I couldn't draw, so I had to find people that could draw these little pictorial representations of each special effects shot. They would draw them and then we would name them and put them up on the wall. On any given day Stanley would come in and ask about any of them. He would come in and ask me, "What's going on with Dawn Of Man 4-A?" If I didn't know or if I wasn't for certain exactly where the shot was at work wise, then I would sort of waffle in my response and he would nail me with those sort of cold black eyes of his and say, "Ivor... Answer me yes or no..." I kind of learned not to waffle in life from my time working with Stanley... (laughing)"

Read the full interview here:
part 1:
part 2:

Dan Richter

Actor and mime Dan Richter was hired by Stanley Kubrick in 1966 to play the role of “Moon-Watcher”, the now iconic ape is his landmark science fiction film masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey.

"Stanley was an incredible collaborator. Stanley expected everyone he worked with to bring something to the table all the time. People complain that Stanley drove those he worked with too hard, and he shot too many takes or whatever. But I never saw it like that. Working with Stanley on the ‘Dawn Of Man’ for example…We would do a take, and we would discover things in that take that we hadn’t thought about. I would say to Stanley, “I think I’m going to play it this way” and Stanley might give a suggestion or what not, and then we would do a take and he would say to me, “Wow…that was great… What happened there? Why don’t we try doing it a different way now.” So it wasn’t ever the same thing over and over. It was the same take, the same scene, but it evolved and grew as we went along together."

Read the full interview here:

Douglas Trumbull

Visual Effects legend Doug Trumbull talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his 1972 science fiction landmark SILENT RUNNING and its relationship with 2001.

So is there any truth to what I've read in regards to the rumor that you originally conceived of the idea for Silent Running while you were working you were working with Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey?
Yeah, I did. I just came up with the initial idea though. I think I may have seen the Tod Browning film, Freaks (1932) while I was working on 2001. I really can't remember what the exact time frame of it was now but the idea of making a robot character using a human person inside that was an amputee was an idea I really liked. It was an idea I kept in my head for quite sometime.

Read the full interview here:

Lydia Wilen

Author Lydia Wilen talks with TV STORE ONLINE about working for Stanley Kubrick as a teenager as his secretary in New York City during the pre-production of 2001...