venerdì 22 novembre 2013

"As if the clouds were actually moving": Gino Pellegrini, an italian artist on the set of '2001'

Sixteen years ago, three young italian moviemakers started a foolish endeavour: The Stanley & Us Project, an indipendent documentary about Stanley Kubrick. They began shooting in 1997, and some of their amazing work is now available on Vimeo and Youtube, a really unmissable viewing, required for every Kubrick fan.

Kubrick himself was aware of their work: Julian Senior (then Vice president of publicity at Warner Bros) told him about their attempts to reach him, and he reportedly said "Let's see what happens". Despite the untimely death of the director in 1999 the final result, two years later, included interviews to more than 30 collaborators, friends and relatives, many shootings on the Kubrick’s movie locations and a huge collection of documentation material, such as photos and screenplays.

In the very same year 2001, I found out - to my surprise - that a few kilometers from my hometown there was an artist that actually worked on 2001. I immediatly passed on the info to one of the authors of Stanley & Us, Federico Greco, who managed to contact him for a short interview that I publish here in english for the first time, thanks to Federico. 

Gino Pellegrini, Painter Of Clouds

July 21, 2001 - by Federico Greco, special thanks to Simone Odino

Gino Pellegrini, art director and production designer, was born in Lugo di Vicenza (Italy) in 1941. In 1957 he moved to the States to study Architecture at UCLA and obtained, at the Art Center School of Los Angeles, a Master Degree in Fine Arts. After a spell as poster designer for the Pacific Out-Doors Advertising, Gino started working in the movie industry as sketch designer, set painter, set designer assistant, set designer, on movies such as West Side Story, The Birds, Hello Dolly, Mary Poppins. In 1966 he had the incredible privilege to be on the set of 2001. He didn't know he was working in one of the landmark of movie history; nevertheless, still today he exudes an aura of openness and humility matched only by his wisdom.

We asked for an interview for our Stanley and us Project, but he politely declined stating with kubrickian discretion that he'd rather stay in the background. He agreed to answer a few questions on the phone.

* * *

What was your role in the movie?

I worked under Harry Lange, officially credited as production designer, and the other two art directors, that where actually NASA scientists, Tony Masters e Ernie Archer. (Translator note: probably Gino is referring to Fred Ordway?). 

Some consider Tony Masters to be a real 'coauthor' of the movie, together with Kubrick, because he supervised the whole art direction and look of the movie, expecially as far as the Orion Shuttle was concerned.

What were your actual duties?

Some details of the set design: I had to paint - over and over - the clouds for the Earth model as seen from the Space Station. It was a 4 feet model. For every shot Kubrick wanted the look to be different, as if the clouds were actually moving.

 One of the paintings used to depict Earth on 2001, possibly one of those painted by Gino.
(Source: Douglas Trumbull's web site)

An example of his incredible preciseness...  

Yes. Another work I did was on the opening sequence, the Dawn of Man.

That is...?

As you know Kubrick wanted to shoot that scene with a front projection system, which means with large slides projected on a white background, depicting desertic scenes of life on Earth as it was thought to look like millions of years ago. On the set there were also a few wooden boulders which were meant to give a sense of depth. For example, in the leopard scene, the large boulder beneath the animal was a wooden prop built on purpose, in order to conceal the leash used to restrain the leopard. The leash was cancelled later optically. For that shot I also helped build some bushes.

 The glowing eyes of the leopard in 2001 (blu-ray capture)

The leopard's eyes were the only weak point of that incredible shot, made with a system called Sinar, a front projection system (the rear projection was the most used at the time) that used 8x10 inches transparencies on a 110-feet-wide screen covered by 3M reflective material. (Translator's note: That's why the eyes of the leopard glow when they are in line with the projector: a tissue in the eye of many vertebrates reflects visible light back through the retina, increasing the light available to the photoreceptors, contributing to the superior night vision of the animal.)

To understand the level of Kubrick's perfectionism, here's another example from Gino:

"Designers couldn't work fast enough. Kubrick was convinced his crew was spending most of the time drinking tea and chatting, and seriously considered the idea of installing a CCTV monitoring system in order to control them - until the most informed workers advised him against a move that would have caused an instant strike".

Gino Pellegrini lives today in Monte S.Pietro (Bologna). If you want a taste of his amazing talents as artist, and figure out how he ended up working for the most demaning director in movie history, visit the following web sites. You'll understand.

2009: once again, Gino paints the earth during a workshop in a local school
(Special Thanks to for the picture)

More works by Gino Pellegrini:

3 commenti:

  1. Un'illustrazione, un pochino dark ma suggestiva:

  2. 2001 stimola sempre la creatività di un sacco di artisti. grazie Ape. Un pò ne sto mettendo anche sul tumblr

  3. Certo che nella categoria "maniaci-paranoici" Kubrick li batteva tutti...
    Peccato però che non gli abbiano lasciato installare un po' di telecamere di controllo: pensa a quanto bel materiale inedito avremmo avuto per i documentari dei tempi a venire!