giovedì 17 dicembre 2015

The first day of production of '2001', fifty years ago

It was Friday, December 17th, 1965: Fifty years ago today, at nine o' clock in the morning, a young woman entered stage 1 of the MGM Borehamwood studios, near London.

Judy Keirn was a young american actress that had moved to London a few years earlier; in Brodway she had taken part in a few musicals, the most famous being Bye Bye, Birdie (1960). While in London she went through a few auditions, and one was for the small role of a 'passport girl' in an ambitious sci-fi flick that was already causing a sensation in the local actors' community: produced and directed by the young and ambitious Stanley Kubrick, it was set in outer space, and a shroud of mystery had engulfed its production ever since.

On that fateful Friday Judy, who possessed the right american accent that allowed her to beat the competion of Maggie London (later chosen for the 'elevator hostess' role), showed up at half past seven for make-up and costume fitting. Kubrick appeared a bit later, never an early riser, busy with other things to attend; Judy delivered the few lines she was given with no particular issues, but she could never imagine that she had just appeared in the first day of production of '2001: A Space Odyssey'.

A recent picture of Judy Keirn with a photo of herself as Linda in Bye Bye, Birdie

It was usually thought that the first actual shooting of '2001' happened on December 29 for the TMA-1 excavation site, as Arthur C. Clarke famousy recalled in his book "The Lost Worlds of 2001". But if you look close at the call sheet he enclosed in the book, you'll see No.4 (a) up on the right:

Additionally, the Stanley Kubrick Archive catalogue states very clearly that the production started on December 17 with call sheet n.1, that also appeared in the DVD extras of the book "2001: The Lost Science". Also, some of the sequences that appeared in the "stargate" section of the movie had been shot as early as 1964, in an abandoned corset factory in Manhattan on the corner of Broadway and 72nd street in New York, while Kubrick and his team were experimenting with some early special effects tecniques.

Judy Keirn completed her shooting session on Saturday, December 18th; a bit of her lines were cut from the final scene that appeared in the movie but surfaced on the book by Arthur C. Clarke.

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."

venerdì 5 giugno 2015

Più che un'estate, un'Odissea!

Ottime notizie per quest'estate 2015! Saranno tante le occasioni per vedere il nostro film preferito nei cinema e nelle piazze italiane.

Cominciamo con il Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino che organizza – dal 3 al 30 giugno 2015 al Cinema Massimo – una retrospettiva quasi integrale dedicata a Kubrick.

"2001: Odissea nello spazio" verrà proiettato Sabato 13 giugno alle 18.30; Domenica 21 giugno alle 18.15 e Venerdì 26 giugno alle 21.00. (Maggiori info: e

Venerdì 26 giugno alle ore 21,45, a Milano, proiezione di '2001' in 70 mm. presso il Cinema Arianteo all'aperto (presso il Mercato Metropolitano in zona Porta Genova in via Valenza n.2)- info:

E chiudiamo in bellezza con la mia città, Bologna: Sabato 4 luglio, alle ore 21 in Piazza Maggiore,  proiezione di '2001' in 70 mm. in occasione della rassegna Il cinema Ritrovato.

 Dopo, possiamo anche andare al mare.

venerdì 13 marzo 2015

" of the most incredible pieces of iconic motion picture memorabilia ever offered"

The original model for the Aries 1B lunar shuttle from '2001' has been put on sale on - and the starting price is a 'mere' $10,000. It comes from an English collector who originally obtained this remarkable treasure in 1975. It was long believed that the most of the models had been destroyed...

The model is approx 32" high, 27" wide, 28" deep (81 cm. x 68 cm. x 71 cm.) and a diameter of 94" (238 cm.) It includes the original special effects side bars that fitted into two of the secondary thruster slots, and lowered the craft to the platform for landing, and was matted out in post production.

The hydraulics and tubes that created the billowing moon dust from the engines and the mechanics to operate the landing gear have been removed.

You can can browse a large collection of making-of stills, including pictures of the Aries 1B, on Douglas Trumbull's website

sabato 21 febbraio 2015

Today, fifty years ago, '2001' was officially announced for the first time

Today, fifty years ago, the movie that became '2001: A Space Odyssey' was announced for the first time. The New York Times, with a two-day advance on the release of the February 23, 1965 official press statement from MGM, revealed in an article titled "Beyond the Blue Horizon" that Stanley Kubrick was preparing to delve into the future with a movie to be called "Journey Beyond The Stars". 

The Variety press release (from the February 22, 1965 issue)

As Peter Kramer points out in his great 2001 book from BFI, MGM's press released announced, (somewhat misleadingly as it turned out), that the film would have "a cast of international importance", and "be filmed in Switzerland and Germany" among the other settings.

As I wrote in my previous article about the many tentative titles of 2001, a 15-minute 70 mm. space documentary called Journey to the stars had already been shown at the Seattle World Fair in 1962; there is ample evidence, in the Kubrick Archive in London, showing that the director was aware of it and was interested in the camera techniques used to depict space and project it on a large screen.

The original press statement from February 23, 1965 appeared on Piers Bizony's "Filming The Future" and is now available here.

UPDATE Thanks to the blog Kubrick En Castellano, here are the scans of the Bizony book (pp.10 & 11) with the original MGM press release.

giovedì 29 gennaio 2015

The leopard watches us all

Do you remember my old post - How did they shoot the leopard scenes in '2001'? Here's the perfect poster for it, courtesy of Tony Stella.

Tony Stella is an illustrator that lives in Milan and Berlin. Working in a variety of media and styles. His work is informed by a long tradition of designers in his family. For commission enquiries please use the contact link or

sabato 24 gennaio 2015

'2001' in 70mm. al Cinema Arcadia di Melzo

Non capita tanto spesso di potere vedere il proprio film preferito su uno degli schermi più grandi d'Europa, nel formato migliore possibile. Capiterà di nuovo sabato 14 febbraio alle 17.00. Ci vediamo lì!

venerdì 2 gennaio 2015

A New Blog: the 2010 Odyssey Archive

My friend and fellow blogger Jens, who maintains the great 2010 Odyssey Two Picture Archive, just launched another great site: the 2010 Odyssey Two Archive. The site collects and publishes articles, pictures, and related material about the 1984 movie 2010: The Year We Make Contact (the sequel to 2001) by director Peter Hyams.

As Jens seems to share the same obsession I have with 2001 - only, he has it with 2010 - his articles are very, very interesting, deep and thorough. If you, like me, feel that 2010 was a very good movie on its own, you'll find a lot of great stuff there.