venerdì 25 aprile 2014

A full cast list for '2001', Part 5: "The Discovery Channel"

Welcome to Part 5 of our extended look at all the actors that starred in '2001'As the title suggest, today we'll focus on the actors appeared in the scenes in which Bowman and Poole watch T.V. footage on portable or fixed screens aboard Discovery.

Kenneth Kendall (Mr.Holland, 'The World Tonight' announcer)

The host of The World Tonight, the BBC-12 TV show Bowman and Poole watch while eating (the character name is reported in the continuity reports as Mr.Holland) was played by Kenneth Kendall, a real BBC newsreader.

Kendall began as a radio announcer in 1948 before moving to TV in 1954, and made history on September 4, 1955, by becoming the first BBC newsreader to appear on TV. He left BBC in 1981 and became well known again for hosting Channel 4's Treasure Hunt

His role in 2001 (obviously a 'cameo' role for the british audience, who surely must have found odd that a presenter who debuted on national TV in 1955 would look almost unchanged in 2001!) was not his only sci-fi appearance in those years: he played a TV presenter also in a couple of Doctor Who episodes in 1966 and in the movie They Came From Beyond Space (1967).

A nice interview with the late Kendall, who passed away in 2012, can be read here (no 2001-related content, though it is stated that he was "enormously proud" of having appeared in it).

Mike Lovell (Martin Amer, BBC reporter)


Ah, Martin Amer, one of my favourite obsessions. He is the reporter of BBC-12's The World Tonight  and the name of the actor who portraits him never appeared in the 'official cast lists'. Nothing is known about him, no interviews, no details - nothing! Considering that he utters a not insignificant number of words, in a movie famous to be very short of it, it always seemed odd.

The 'official cast lists' reported that the name of the actor was the same Martin Amer, though the obvious cameo nature of the role made this look suspicious - according to IMDB and, 'Martin Amer' he only played that role in his entire carrier. He sounded and looked like a professional actor, to me.

At last, in my January visit to the Kubrick Archive I was able to read the continuity sheets regarding those scenes. Along with the names of Kendall, Poole and Bowman, right besides the transcription of the lines spoken by Amer (by the way, this is the correct spelling, not Amor!), it appears the name of the actor: Mike Lovell.

Now, this seems legit, as a Mike Lovell DID appear in the 'official cast lists', but he was referred to as an 'astronaut'. This is a double confirmation and I'm locking this name, as far as I'm concerned. Unfortunately, Mike Lovell's appearance in 2001 seems to be his only foray in the world of movie-making, so we're somehow back where to square one; well, at least we know his real name.

Franklin W. Miller (Mission Control)

Agel's book The Making of Kubrick's 2001 is the only source of information about the actor who played Mission Controller, Franklin W. Miller:
Kubrick tested dozens of military ground-control landing officers, hiring — over strenuous British Actors Equity objection — Chief Warrant Officer Franklin W. Miller, U.S. Air Force traffic controller stationed in England. Actors did not sound like the familiar mission control voice.
Miller remembers working with Kubrick: "He saw that every little detail of personal comfort was at my disposal. I had aspirins if I had a headache, and even lotion when lights offered too much glare. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble. He always put me at my ease. Without realizing it, I once was tapping my foot — a nervous habit — which no one could see beneath the console where I was sitting, but it produced quite a thump on the tape. Instead of asking me to stop tapping, Kubrick got me a blanket, put it under my feet, and I tapped all I wanted to." 
Miller was transferred to Bangkok after his "perfectly marvelous experience."
... I really don't think IMDB got it right with their claim that a forty-something officer could suddenly turn into an award winning musical actor! (Well, as long as someone comes up with pictures of the musical, that's my official position on the issue).

Alan Gifford and Ann Gillis (Poole's parents)

Alan Gifford, who played the unnamed father of Frank Poole, was an american character actor born in 1911 in Taunton, Massachusetts. Despite having been a long-time resident in Britain, he never lost is american accent, featuring in many roles where since his movie debut in 1950 he mostly played military men and other various officials. He passed away in Scotland in 1989.

Ann Gillis, who played Poole's mother, was born in 1927, in Little Rock, Arkansas. A child and teen star in the Thirties & Forties, she was Bambi's wife and mother's voice in the Disney classic. Gillis  retired very early from cinema, in 1947, and then moved to London, where she did some TV appearances.

Mrs. Gillis gave a significant interview to Rusty White in the very year 2001. In this rather amusing snippet we learn how she got the role in 2001 and how she got along with Kubrick (hint: not very well).
RW: You came out of retirement after 20 years and did a bit part in "2001: A Space Odyssey." How did that come about and what was it like to work for Kubrick?" 
AG: There was a casting call for American actress in London. I was living there with my husband at the time, so I said why not. 
RW: You played one of the astronauts parents during the interstellar phone call scene, correct? 
AG: Yes. Well, Kubrick was a real jerk. It shows you what can happen when a director is given a blank check. He hired two sets of "parents." I was the back up actress. The part wasn't scripted, so he told the two actors to go write their part over lunch and come back. They did. The actress playing the part read the lines she wrote. Kubrick fired her and said "I like the 'other one' better. 
RW: The 'other one' being you? 
AG: The 'other one' being me. That's how I was referred to. Well, we took the lines and started rehearsing and then filming. It was difficult because we were sitting side by side and saying lines to which no one was responding. Also, my conversation and the other actor's conversation were not related. We were saying all these disjointed lines and Kubrick keeps changing them. Then the other actor joins in by saying he had an idea for some dialogue. Kubrick lets him run with it. I was thinking, "Keep your ideas to yourself." We did 21 takes. Kubrick prints them all. In the old days a director never printed every take. Kubrick prints all 21 takes for this one little scene which lasts just a few seconds. He was set to keep going and I said, "You've got enough, I quit." I left. 21 takes, ridiculous.

Bonus: William Sylvester

Let's go back to William Sylvester and focus to the pre-recorded message played right after Hal’s death (where the name of Floyd is spelled “Haywood” instead of Heywood). This, and William Sylvester’s slightly different hair style, is a sign of re-shoot that took place later in the summer (July 4): all the Sylvester scenes aboard the shuttles, the space station and the Moon had been already completed by January.

Now that Hal was dismissed, the audience (and Bowman) needed to know, at last, was the true purpose of the mission was, in order to set up the final part of the movie. In early script versions this was meant to be revealed by other characters from Mission Control in a more elaborate message played to Bowman in the centrifuge after Hal's demise. The scene remains, in a similar form, in Arthur C. Clarke's novel; here Floyd is joined by a Dr. Simonson (a character that had to feature in the movie as well but was later cancelled) that explains to Bowman the reasons behind Hal's murderous behavior: Hal was 'created innocent', and had a reaction very similar to a human 'nervous breakdown' because of the lie he lived in, having to conceal the true purpose of Discovery's mission to Jupiter.

Kubrick decided otherwise, possibly to speed up the pace of the movie, and maybe also in order to not waste the emotional pathos of the confrontation between Hal and Bowman. This shorter version, in fact, surely contributed to the relative obscurity of the plot in the final edit.

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