Working with Stanley Kubrick

Interviews by Michel Ciment

Excerpted from the book Kubrick, Copyright ©1982 Michel Ciment, All Rights Reserved

James B. Harris was an early collaborator, and Kubrick's first Producer/Partner.

Michel Ciment: Did your career in the movies begin when you met Kubrick?

James B. Harris: No, but that was when I made my first features. At seventeen, I had started on the distribution side. In the army, as I had already worked in the cinema, I was assigned to the film unit, where I met one of Kubrick's friends, the future director Alexander Singer. It was there that I learned how movies were made. In our spare time, Singer and I would make experimental films, and I got to know Kubrick when he came to see Alex. It was in 1953 and he had just directed Fear and Desire. He had brought his camera with him and photographed us at work. Naturally, I was impressed by someone who had already made an independent feature on his own.

When I was demobilised, I went back into distribution and got involved with the sale of films to TV; then I produced and directed a TV series on baseball combining interviews with newsreel footage. Kubrick invited me to a screening of his new film, Killer's Kiss, and also asked my help in trying to sell Killer's Kiss to TV. We began to talk together. Since he had no money, he was unable to set up any new project. After seeing Killer's Kiss, I told him he had it in him to become one of the world's best directors. But he was only twenty-five, after all, and I told him he needed someone to raise financing, find a good story, professional actors and writers; so I suggested we become partners. And that's how I became his producer; except that we had nothing to film! I would hunt through bookstores and I came across Lionel White's 'Clean Break'. After reading it, I thought it would make a first-rate movie. Stanley agreed and it turned into The Killing.

We went to Hollywood in 1955; together we made Paths of Glory in Germany and Lolita in England. I was executive administrator on these films, my role being to deal with practical problems, everything from financing to distribution, so that Kubrick could be left in peace to create. But at the same time I was learning about cinema and developing my own tastes, Stanley had an enormous influence on me. When it came to the preparation of Lolita, I was able to contribute much more to the film, to the development of the storyline. On our arrival in London, we weren't satisfied with the lengthy screenplay that Nabokov had written. We shut ourselves in one room for a month and rewrote it scene by scene. Of course, when shooting got under way, Stanley gave each scene a new dimension, as for example in a few improvised exchanges between Sellers and Mason. But I felt I had participated in the shaping of a movie and my one idea at that point was to become a director myself. I had the bug.

Then Stanley became interested in the question of nuclear weaponry which at that period really didn't interest me. He taught me a lot about the problem and we set up Dr. Strangelove. But the question had been raised: was I going to continue as a producer or shift to direction? And Stanley, after long conversations together, encouraged me to become a director. He said to me: 'You ought to be a good director, but you'll never know if you don't try. It's a lonely job. We've enjoyed working together, we've never made a bad movie, even if we could have done better; there are no money problems, since we've earned a lot. You'll never know complete satisfaction until you've tried your hand at directing.' It was the kind of encouragement I needed.

How did Kubrick influence you?

Above all, in his way of narrating a scene or a plot. He would constantly emphasize the way people behaved. He advised me to read Freud's 'Introduction to Psychoanalysis' and also Stanislavsky's works, in particular 'Stanislavsky Directs'. I found all kinds of valuable suggestions in it. Firstly, that one must sense if a scene is working or not and be prepared to correct it. There are three possible reasons:

1) The actor is not prepared;
2) The actor hasn't understood the scene;
3) The scene hasn't been written properly.

For Kubrick, technique was certainly important if you could practise it yourself -- but others could do it for you. The essential thing -- which no one else could do for you -- was to exercise your judgment and your taste. He taught me how to avoid exposition in dialogue, to make certain that characters never spell out what they're thinking, and that you have to make the public understand what they're really thinking, how to avoid the kind of tedious repetition you find in most movies, even when there are changes in sets or situations.

At the beginning, the camera held the greatest attraction for him and he tended to make it the star of the film. It was only after Spartacus that his attitude changed. He had a Technirama camera which couldn't be moved without loss in definition. I think that forced him to concentrate more on actors' movements within the frame. And he realised that he had maybe been too preoccupied with technical brilliance.

Stanley believed that you shouldn't be inhibited by what people are going to think of you, whether they're going to like you or not. For him, every single detail was extremely important and he was ready to give himself up totally to his goal -- which was the movie -- for you have to live with your work to the end of your life. That's why he preferred to be thought of as a tyrant, as a pain in the neck and to make life difficult for himself, even if it would have been more pleasant to stay on good terms with everyone. For once the movie is finished, everyone else leaves and you are left alone with your footage -- forever. I also learned that people would listen to Stanley that much more attentively and work that much harder out of respect for him. Even if he was hard with people, he knew how to get the most out of them.

Do you share his tastes in cinema?

I learned everything from him. I knew only Hollywood movies. Through him I discovered Ophuls, Bunuel, Renoir, Carol Reed's Odd Man Out. He's much more of a film buff than I am and sees movie after movie.

Cannes, May 1973

Ken Adam was the production designer on "Dr. Strangelove" and "Barry Lyndon".

The two films on which you worked with Kubrick are in a sense diametrically opposed: one, a historical film (Barry Lyndon), was shot on location; the other, a futuristic film (Dr. Strangelove), was made in the studio.

Ken Adam: Personally, I prefer Strangelove because I was given the possibility of creating an imaginary decor, 'another' reality and, of course, a studio is more suited to that purpose. Especially as the American Army had refused all co-operation and there was no hope of shooting inside the Pentagon.... As for Barry Lyndon, Stanley wanted it in a way to be a documentary on the eighteenth century. It seemed to him safer, if we were to avoid error as much as possible, to film the architecture of the period. My problem was creating a progression in the sets: for me, the Irish background of Barry Lyndon's youth had to be much more primitive, it had to belong to an earlier period than the scenes in England. And I was very disappointed not to be able to find Irish buildings from that period for it seemed as if they had all been destroyed by revolutions and wars. Finally, we managed to re-create pre-eighteenth-century architecture by combining three different sites: Caher Castle, Ormond House and Huntingdon. It took me a long time to discover them. Moreover, I wanted Lady Lyndon, who belonged to an old aristocratic family, also to have a house predating the eighteenth century, for if not it would have seemed nouveau riche. And I persuaded Stanley to adopt this idea. Though there exist lots of houses from the Elizabethan, Stuart and Jacobean periods, it was difficult to find one of great beauty. Added to which, we were refused permission to shoot in some of the castles. What we did was again to create a kind of composite architecture by using Wilton (Salisbury), Petworth (Sussex), Longleat (Wiltshire) and Castle Howard (York) for the exteriors. But as I say, I am much more interested in the artistic challenge of a film like Dr. Strangelove.

In the case of Barry Lyndon, did you begin work the moment the screenplay was finished?

Basically, we used the novel. Stanley didn't think it was necessary to have a new script based on Thackeray. The original text served as continuity and we worked with it. Of course, Stanley had already prepared a 'montage' in terms of the film itself. The second problem was knowing where and how were we going to shoot the film. When I arrived, Stanley had already worked with another designer. As I recall, their intention was to shoot the whole film at Picketts Manor with the house gradually being transformed. It didn't seem to me at all a practical idea; my feeling about Barry Lyndon was that it would have to be made on a larger scale. Then again, Stanley was set against the idea of shooting in the studio and even of mixing studio sets with real ones. He believed it was impossible to recreate the reality of the eighteenth century in a studio, from either a realistic or an economic point of view. As far as I'm concerned, he was wrong, and I spent a lot of time trying to persuade him otherwise. In fact, it was the location shooting that made the film so expensive -- what with transport and accommodation costs, overspending on budget, renting the castles, and general expenses.

Were you directly influenced by paintings from the period?

Stanley wanted to make direct reference to the painting. Personally, from my reading of Thackeray's book, I would have preferred to evolve my own conception of the eighteenth century -- obviously in agreement with the director -- in order to portray what the author was describing in his novel. I don't have to look at the houses or paintings of the period. Whatever book I read, I form an idea of it in my mind. If I'm unfamiliar with the period, I naturally research it, but there comes a moment when I put aside my documentation and begin to work from my own interpretation. Stanley didn't agree at all with this attitude. For him, the safest way -- and, knowing how his mind works, I understand him -- was to draw our inspiration from painters like Gainsborough, Hogarth, Reynolds, Chardin, Watteau, Zoffany, Stubbs (for the hunting costumes) and, in particular, Chadowiecki, an artist who intrigued both of us, a Pole who worked on the Continent and who was a master of drawing and water-colour, with a, marvellously simple style and a remarkable gift for composition. Stanley was also amused by certain weird pictures by Hogarth, I believe, where one could see paintings hung high up on walls and nothing underneath. For me, the research was unending, as.were our attempts to 'reproduce the results of this research -- which is not really the way I like to work. During the preparation of a film, I usually make, endless drawings, whereas for this one I practically didn't touch a piece of paper, But it was fascinating work light sources -- I could have obtained better results in the studio.

How were the scenes in Germany shot?

By the second unit. Stanley never went there. He was sent the maximum of photographic documents and slides from which he made a selection. He has a theory that you don't have to go to a place to judge the lie of the land. Of course, there are no characters in these shots. Likewise, he didn't go to Africa to photograph the landscapes for the first section of 2001. But, in fact, he is in absolute control of his films, he analyses each photograph and afterwards prefers to shoot in natural light, without any lighting. It was always a joke between us, when we went location hunting, because I would refuse to take a tripod, which is of course indispensable if you are working without a flashlight.

The first part must have given more scope to your imagination.

Yes, it was more fun. Given that we were in Ireland, Stanley, who doesn't like to travel, thought we might as well shoot the Continental sequences there. So I had somehow to find examples of Austrian and German baroque. I was lucky enough to find a spot near Dublin, called Powercourt, in which one could detect a strong German influence. It was there that we shot almost all the battle scenes. Which, up to a certain point, was perfectly acceptable. But there's a kind of contradiction there if you're making a documentary on the period. We compromised in this way until Stanley finally decided that the English scenes would have, to be shot in England.

Did you make preparatory sketches for the battle scenes?

Yes, it was practically the only occasion. The reason was that Stanley wanted to see how many soldiers we needed to fill the screen, to create the effect of an attack, and what lenses were going to be used. So we arranged and rearranged lead soldiers from every possible angle.

In the interiors, when you moved from one set to another, it must have posed problems in transition.

We used so many houses to represent that one house that it made a conglomeration that only Stanley could keep in his head. No doubt an art critic might notice the 'jerks' in decoration from one room to another, but for me it isn't very important as there's already a juxtaposition of styles in English castles. At Wilton, for example, there's both the Elizabethan and the eighteenth~century style. The rest is a simple problem of continuity.

In Dr. Strangelove, how did you conceive the War Room set?

While we were discussing it, I amused myself by scribbling, by doodling on a sheet of paper and Stanley, who was watching me, told me he found it very interesting. And I said to myself that everything people said about him -- that he was a difficult person to work with, etc. -- was false because he liked my first ideas. He told me to continue along the same lines. For three weeks I developed my ideas and one day, when we were driving to the studio and I was getting ready to have the set built, he told me that it wouldn't work, that he would have to fill the different levels which I had imagined with actors and he didn't know what he'd get them to do, etc. -- and he asked me to think of another idea. And all that after encouraging me to develop my conception! For a few hours, I was completely demoralised, because I had already built the set in my head.'That was fourteen years ago and I wasn't as flexible a designer as I am now. It took me some time to calm down; but the strang it wo the battle. And then he became the perfectionist we all know. He wanted to improve the concept. And that's very exciting for a designer. You think you've finished, but a creative director can add a whole new dimension to your work, which you wouldn't have thought possible. There's nothing more stimulating than this kind of improvement, whereas often my problem, when I've designed a set, is fighting with the director or the lighting cameraman to insure that my conception of the set gets up there on the screen, without being spoilt. With Kubrick nothing is impossible. For example, he insisted that I build a ceiling for the War Room in concrete to force the director of photography to use natural light instead of the artificial lighting which we use in studios. Before installing my circular lighting, he made tests with the actors to study the height from every possible angle, for all the characters were going to be lit from above. When I thought up that huge circular table, Stanley said to me: 'It's interesting, because it looks like a gigantic poker table. And the president and the generals are playing with the world like a game of cards.' So we developed the idea. He asked me to create a lighting system which would allow him to light the actors naturally. We sat someone down on a chair and placed a lamp above him, at a certain angle and at a certain height, until Stanley was satisfied with the lighting. And I conceived that gigantic circle of light which 'duplicates' the table and became the principal source of light for the whole set.

There is a contrast between the realistic scenes at Burpelson Base and the expressionist decor of the War Room.

Stanley was aiming for absolute realism. He was fascinated by the idea of shooting those battle scenes in a newsreel style, with a hand-held camera. We used a large part of Shepperton Studios for the attack on the base. Sterling Hayden's office was designed realistically, as was the interior of the bomber, except for the two atomic bombs -- it was the period of the Cuban crisis and we didn't have the co-operation of the authorities for the film! We didn't know what shape they were. I decided to go all out for unreality, for making it larger than life, and Stanley had the brilliant idea of having Slim Pickens sit astride them. For example, this was a sequence for which I made a 'storyboard'.

Dr. Strangelove was originally to end with a custard pie battle.

It was a very brilliant sequence with a Hellzapoppin kind of craziness. Undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary custard pie battles ever filmed. The characters were hanging from chandeliers and throwing pies which ended up by covering the maps of the General Staff. Shooting lasted a week, and the sequence ended with the President of the United States and the Soviet ambassador sitting on what was left of the pies and building 'pie-castles' like children on a beach.

Did Kubrick think of you for 2001?

Yes, but the problem is that I always want to know as much as he does on the subject in hand so that I can discuss it with him on equal terms and present my viewpoint. But he had already worked for a year with experts from NASA and had done a lot of research. I had only three months of preparation at my disposal and was too far behind! Added to which, Kubrick wants everything to be intellectually justified and that would have been difficult, with all those experts around him ready to contradict me! ...

When you create a decor for Kubrick, does he offer you the most angles possible for his camera so that he will be freer when he begins to shoot?

For Stanley -- and he's right -- I have to design each set in terms of the widest possible angle. Of course, he may well ask me later how the set would look with a 40 or 50mm lens. At which point, I sketch it again with the projections he wanted. For large sets, I offer him at least eight possible angles. But normally, for an ordinary set, I know that if I have lines, movements and compositions well-designed from one angle, they will work for all the other angles. Kubrick, though, has a natural distrust of anything he can't see in life-size and I have to give him projections, models, etc. And there's always the possibility of his changing his mind right up to the start of shooting. You have to present him with the widest possible choice.

John Alcott was the co-director of photography on 2001, and the director of photography on A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon and The Shining.

How did you begin to work with Stanley Kubrick?

John Alcott: I was Geoffrey Unsworth's assistant and I was naturally brought in to work with him on 2001. Up to that point, I of course wanted to be a cinematographer, but I was trying to get some pleasure out of it without really succeeding. I would see directors of photography spending hours lighting the sets then just as much time taking their lighting down again, getting rid of mike shadows and things like that. When I arrived on the set of 2001, it was the first time I had seen a film being shot with natural lighting. What I mean by that is lighting that corresponds to the situation in which one finds oneself. In the case of a spacecraft in orbit, we used the lighting of the centrifugal machine reconstructed in the studio without adding any extra lamps. That's what Stanley wanted, and I immediately got on the same wavelength.

Geoffrey worked from December 1965 to June 1966, in particular on all the scenes with the actors. Then there was an interruption to perfect the special effects. And then my first real job was to film the opening section, 'The Dawn of Man'. We had to shoot it in the studio, as we wanted a very weak light, like that of dawn, and it would have taken months to film each shot in Africa itself. As well as finding some very wide-angle lenses, Stanley constructed a 10"x8" projector to project the background photographs on a screen measuring thirty metres by ten, the largest of its kind at the time. The transparencies were made up exclusively of photographs taken in Africa on Stanley's precise instructions. But the studio set was so large in the foreground that one really had the impression of being there.

Kubrick used to be a photographer himself To what extent does he collaborate on the photography of his films?

He knows exactly what he wants. If he were not a director, he would probably be the greatest lighting cameraman in the world. On the set, he works at the camera and you can learn a lot from working with him.

What special problems did the shooting of 2001 pose?

I remember the sequence in which William Sylvester goes towards the space station. At the beginning we used an f8 exposure and we ended by fixing it between f2.8 and f4. And the film's brilliant, clear, white light is due to that range. I suppose it's less noticeable today because all science-fiction films have adopted the same principle. The brightness extended even to the setting and corresponded to the feeling you're supposed to have in space.

How did you shoot the last sequence, in the eighteenth-century room?

The scene was lit exclusively from beneath. the reflectors were squares with sides of sixty centimetres and they had to be five centimetres thick so that we could walk on them. The heat underneath tended to deform the plastic. We also discovered that the lights generally used in the cinema gave off too much heat. We had to use photographers' lamps, of the 'mushroom' type, which are very simple and much less expensive. There's another example of Stanley's aptitude for always coming up with new ideas.

Did you work on his Napoleon project?

Yes, but not much, because he spends a lot of time preparing a film. You might say that, because ot his research, he could tell you virtually where Napoleon was every day of his life, as well as everybody in his entourage. Our discussions on the photography dealt principally with lighting by candles at a period when we didn't yet have the technical equipment which enabled us later to shoot Barry Lyndon. I remember we wanted to use reversal stock.

You then worked on A Clockwork Orange.

Yes, after giving up Napoleon, he immediately set to work on A Clockwork Orange, which was made with a small budget. In the main, we shot it on location with a crew of twenty. It was the opposite of 2001. Once again, he did a lot of research -- to find Malcolm McDowell's apartment, for example. He decided on a block of flats near Borehamwood Studios, but first he preferred to sound out every other possibility to see if there was really nothing better.

The visual style of the film was very eclectic.

The photographic styles were very different -- even the opposite of each other. We reverted to 35mm after using 65mm for 2001. This was obviously for practical reasons, as inside the houses we needed equipment that was more mobile and took up less space. The Arriflex seemed to us best adapted for such shooting conditions, especially for hand-held camerawork. We also used wide-angle lenses a lot and a French lens, the Angenieux, whose minimum aperture is f4. You have to recreate natural lighting on location for if you have only two or three days left to shoot in a particular place, the changes in the weather constantly modify the lighting.

How did you film the speeded-up orgy with the two girls?

There again we experimented. We shot for about twenty minutes, at two images a second. This is the kind of thing Stanley and I discuss before the shooting begins. And it's how every film should be prepared. Most of the time, with other directors, problems arise the moment you start shooting a scene and it's too late to solve them because time costs money on a set. But Stanley foresees every eventuality a week or two before to eliminate the risk of error. He's prepared even to make tests. But he also likes to keep his options open. Sometimes we'll discuss the placing of the following day's shots the morning before because it could well be too late by the evening, if we have to envisage technical solutions to the problem. But it is, of course, the evening before that we do most of our preparation.

Stanley makes endless notes which he gives to the technicians every morning. He has a good memory, which I haven't, and yet it's he who gets everything down on paper. And that's something else that he taught me: if you want to remember something, note it down. He will always ask you to come back to him in the evening with your answers to his questions, and you can't get out of it. I remember that on other films there were people with wonderful ideas but, when shooting began, they had evaporated, or else no one had thought of the material problems which they would create and which made them impossible to put into effect. With the way Stanley prepares a film, he makes shooting it very easy.

Is he actively involved in setting up a shot?

Yes, particularly for shots filmed with a hand-held camera, because he can see for himself what there is in the frame. He even discovered a simpler, easier way of holding the Arriflex which made it a kind of Steadicam. He's the only person I know who has managed to give it such a degree of stability. That comes yet again from the fact that he is, in his heart of hearts, a photographer, and he likes getting the best possible effects out of a camera. As early as in Paths of Glory, you can see those extraordinary tracking shots along the trenches, obtained with a dolly which, because of the angle chosen and the general movement of the scene, appears extremely stable.

Does he demand many takes?

Yes, quite often. All the same, he doesn't 'cover' himself, he knows exactly the angle he wants once he has placed the actors in the set. If he requires several takes, it's in order to get the most out of the actors, but the visual composition is also very important to him. On The Shining there was a video camera attached to the cameraman which enabled him at every moment to see the frame on the television screen. That enabled him to concentrate wholly on the actors. In The Shining there were scenes that were very different from a technical point of view and from a performance point of view; the actors had to invest their performances with a great deal of intensity, the shots were sometimes very long and, as always, Stanley was aiming for nothing less than perfection.

For Barry Lyndon, did you use booster lights?

Yes, because we shot it mainly in winter and we could only shoot between nine in the morning and three in the afternoon. When there was sun, I used it as natural light. I put tracing paper on the windows and installed lamps so that, the moment the sun went down, we could switch to artificial lighting and continue shooting. But that lighting (six floodlamps or mini-brutes) was still based on natural light.

What kinds of filters did you use?

In the main, low-contrast filters of degree 3, except for the wedding scene when we combined them with a veil to create the kind of pictorial radiance that one associates with happiness. It was when we went to Ireland at the start of shooting that we wanted to lessen the contrasts as the light there is dazzling. So we tried to make it more diffuse. Of course, with the candlelit scenes, we didn't have to do that because the light was naturally soft and the special Zeiss lenses which we used for them had less precise definition.

While shooting A Clockwork Orange, Stanley had bought a Mitchell camera for certain scenes as the Arriflex at that time couldn't film more than 100m a take while the Mitchell went up to 300m -- which is to say, ten minutes.

And he had the idea of adapting the Zeiss photo lens to his Mitchell while keeping the Arriflex for the daylight scenes. It was Ed di Giulio who adapted the Mitchell so that it would take a lens with such a large aperture. That's the kind of challenge Stanley enjoys and there are few film-makers willing to pose such questions and take the time necessary to solve them. For example, it took three months to perfect the new lens. The problem with the Mitchell is that there's no reflex and you have to depend on the viewfinder at the side of the camera, so that it's more difficult to obtain an exact composition.

What lens did you use for Barry Lyndon?

A 25mm one for most of the interiors. We rarely used the 18mm as we often did for The Shining, On the other hand, we used the zoom a great deal Each time, it became an image in itself and not, as is usually the case, a means of moving from one point in space to another. So each shot was a composition, like the zoom which moved out from the pistol during the duel at the river's edge. The zoom also meant that we did not depend too much on editing and so gave the whole film a kind of softness and fluidity.

Did you use the video system when shooting Barry Lyndon?

We had already done so in the scenes with the wheel in 2001. No one but the cameraman and his assistant could get inside; and on a television screen Stanley watched the image transmitted by a television camera which would give him more or less the same angle. Video makes for better technical coordination between the camera, the actors' movements and the sets. For The Shining, however, video was used as a means of judging the performances and the composition of the image.

Did Kubrick have a large crew on The Shining?

I would say that the official technical crew was undoubtedly smaller than for A Clockwork Orange. But there was of course a large special effects team, in particular for the scenes in the snow. For the principal set, there were five enormous windows, each three metres wide, on a thirty-metre-long facade; and when there was a tracking shot in the room, we needed a lot of technicians outside to make the snow fall. But apart from these special cases, there were no more than ten of us in the basic filming area.

What lenses did you choose for The Shining?

Faster lenses even than for Barry Lyndon. We used the whole range of the Zeiss lenses, from 18mm to 85mm. On the other hand, we didn't use the zoom much. The set of the hotel and the labyrinth took up almost the whole of Elstree Studios.

How did you envisage colour for The Shining?

In two ways. For the beginning of the film, which takes place in autumn, we wanted, with natural light, to obtain a warm light. Then, with the approach of winter, we switched to one that was colder. I put blue filters on the outside windows and used artificial lighting inside in relation to that blue.

You've worked with Kubrick for more than ten years. How has he evolved during that period?

I think that he has a much wider technical experience now but that his working methods have remained basically the same, which is a very positive thing for those of us who regularly work with him because we know what's expected of us, how we have to adapt and think ahead. I think it would be very difficult for someone starting at the beginning today in an important job for Stanley. With him there can be no excuses and no tricks because he is on to them immediately. It's sometimes happened that I've found myself in a situation with no way out or in which I've made a mistake; and in these cases, it's better simply to tell him, for he'll understand the problem. But don't try to hide it from him!

He's capable of becoming an expert in every field. I remember that during the making of 2001 a technician was amusing himself by throwing a knife at a piece of wood. Within five minutes Stanley, who had probably never played at that in his life, hit the target dead. centre. What is also exciting is the fact that he never ceases to renew himself, he never repeats himself. And he imbues you with so much inner energy that you don't feel time passing. When you're shooting a film with him, it's eight o'clock in the evening before you know it. The fact that he's so intensely involved in his own work explains why he has little time for meeting people from the outside. When he does it, however, he's both very open and very concentrated, very eloquent. He gives himself up totally to the person visiting him. But, as soon as he can, he gets back to his own concerns. Really, working for him is like going to school and being paid for it.

London, February 1980.

Julian Senior explains who he is in his first answer...

What is your exact position?

Julian Senior: Officially, I'm in charge of publicity for Warner films in Europe. I met Kubrick for the first time in 1968 when he had finished 2001 and I was working for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He asked me if I would help Roger Caras, who was then managing Hawk Films, Kubrick's company, Caras had already worked on Dr. Strangelove and had such a remarkable gift for organization that it satisfied even Stanley. After 2001 he launched out into production; Stanley signed a three-film contract with Warner and I joined up with him when he finished shooting A Clockwork Orange and was preparing to market the film.

Kubrick knows that his name will appear on the credit titles for ever and that it's in his interest to ensure that the film will be viewed in the best conditions, since it's just as easy to do something well as badly. Stanley's association with Warner Bros. coincided with the takeover of the company by Warner Communications and the arrival of Ted Ashley, John Calley and Frank Wells. They were very aware of the problems of production and wanted the company's policy to be aimed at giving directors the kind of creative freedom they need. This was the spirit of the new triumvirate at the beginning of the 7Os: to give film directors the right to the final cut and the possibility, should the occasion arise, of having a say in publicity, sales and distribution. People as varied as Malick, Scorsese, Friedkin and Clint Eastwood also joined Warner Bros. at that period.

In November 1971, when I was working in publicity for the UK, I first made Kubrick's acquaintance. He rang me up to talk about the release of A Clockwork Orange. He immediately asked me to call him Stanley when I persisted in calling him Mr. Kubrick; and he asked, before coming to see me, if there was a car park near my office and, if so, to reserve him a space. I told him it wasn't necessary as there were always free spaces. And he replied -- it's become almost a keynote of our relationship -- that it's just when one puts one's trust in past experience that the unexpected happens. 'It's so easy,' he added, 'to reserve a space. Why not do it?'

So he came to see me, sat down opposite me and for six-and-a-half hours he studied in the most minute detail everything that he thought might be important for the release of the film -- without once giving me an order. That's the way he works. Likewise, I've never seen him lose his temper -- for him it would be a sign of impotence, a cathartic gesture that makes you feel better but solves nothing. He admitted that he didn't know a great deal about advertising techniques, so we had someone brought over from an agency to explain them: posters, newspaper ads, etc. From this first meeting it was already clear how we were going to work together for the next ten years -- taking notes, being as precise as possible (he would have made a terrific journalist), never omitting a single detail. He's a very exacting man.

He very quickly learned how publicity operates.

He believes that every essential question can be answered through logic and common sense. I recall very clearly that, at the time of A Clockwork Orange, we drew up together what we jokingly referred to as a 'memory jogger' on releasing a film: how many prints should be made, how many trailers, does every cinema possess a projector with a 1.66 mask, do the TV networks prefer video or film, etc. This 'memory jogger' amounted to about thirty pages and for me laid down the definitive guidelines on the matter. As proof of that, I might cite the fact that Stanley asked Everybody in the profession to let him know if certain questions seemed useless to them, or if others were impossible to answer -- and we didn't receive a single letter in response. According to Stanley, if you pose the question logically and try to answer it logically, there is no problem in publicity that can't be solved. So I became involved with the film's release, not only in England, but in Europe.

Does he begin to think of the film's release at an earlier stage of his work, e.g. while shooting or editing?

He'd make a very good general. He's just as capable of checking the details of a trench as of mapping out a whole strategy. For example, when I was waiting for a print of Barry Lyndon to be delivered to me for the film's release, I had booked a projection room for the press for thirty or forty evenings -- having first, at Stanley's request, tested the projection quality of each available room. And every morning I had to cancel the evening screening as the film wasn't ready. Finally, the great day arrived and I was refused use of the projection room because I had already caused them to lose twenty-five evenings, Then Kubrick personally rang up the projectionist and that was enough for us to have our screening.

Everything is supervised by him. At the moment we are having a problem with photographs for the press. Stanley refuses to have a stills photographer standing beside him, taking photographs of every scene. In his opinion, the photograph which best represents a shot from the film is one enlarged from the print itself. And that's what he's done on all his films since 2001. All the important magazines, from Time and Newsweek downwards, have raised objections to this. But Stanley won't be budged, even though it creates a great deal of work for him as he has to view the film frame by frame on a Steenbeck to select the particular one he wants. But for him it's the only way to catch the precise angle and lighting of the shot itself. Naturally, this causes problems, for as long as he hasn't completed editing the film -- and he works on it right up to the last minute -- it's impossible to give any publicity material to the press.

Another example of his perfectionism: When A Clockwork Orange was about to be released in New York, he discovered that the walls and ceiling of one of the cinemas showing the film were painted in shiny white lacquer which created awkward reflections. Stanley wanted it all repainted, but the cinema manager claimed that with only a few days to the premiere it would be impossible to find a firm to do the work in the required time. After checking through the Manhattan directory, Stanley sent from London a list of firms capable of installing the scaffolding and changing the colour of the walls. A few days later, he asked what kind of black was being used. No one had realized that a gloss black would create the same problems as before, and they had to repaint it in matte black, as he wanted. That gives you some idea of his precision in technical matters.

For Barry Lyndon it was very important -- given the experiments in lighting -- for the projection equipment to be the best possible. Of course, we had neither the means nor the authority to replace them all, but what we discovered from checking all the principal cinemas in France and Germany was that two thirds of them didn't have a 1.66 mask, something that costs no more than a few pounds. The projectionists told us that the image would overlap a little on the sides. So Kubrick's assistants had all the projectors equipped for a decent screening of the film -- and at the same time for every other film!

The other problem is to make a study of each cinema in each city where the film is to be shown. Where is it situated? What sort of clientele does it have? Once you move away from the central entertainment areas, the choice of a cinema is crucial. Most cinemas have a brand image and Stanley wants to know exactly what it is. On the other hand, audience patterns change from city to city and country to country. For five months he collected figures from the cinemas of every country in the world based on their monthly percentages over several years, because the figures for one year can be misleading owing to some exceptional success.

But there are limits to this kind of logic. It's impossible to check everything. There comes a moment when one has to give up.

The only limits are those fixed by the number of hours' sleep you need. Unlike most producers, Stanley is like a medieval craftsman. He lives and works at home. When he isn't physically at work on his own films, he's viewing other people's so as to know just what's happening in the film world. And he's a great help to young directors, he recommends them to the company if he feels they have talent. In the same way, he continues to interest himself in his films long after their first release. Two-and-a-half years ago, he called me to his office to talk about Sydney in Australia and the third re-release there of 2001. He was worried, because although the film had made 58,000 dollars in its first week, the publicity budget for the second week was only 800 dollars. He asked me how much a 30cm ad in a major newspaper would cost; and, after studying the problem, he sent off a telex to MGM in Australia in which he laid out a budget for the distribution of the film. They must have said: 'He's got to be a genius to think of that kind of detail', when it was their job he was doing.

If I should call him while he is in the middle of editing a film, the first question he asks me is always 'Is it urgent? Can it wait?' If I say no, he interrupts the editing and deals with the problem. Most of us react in moments of crisis when we've got to make a quick decision. Few people know how to plan their lives as meticulously and pragmatically as Stanley.

One last anecdote: in Paris Barry Lyndon was a greater success in its second week than it had been in the first. I went to see Kubrick for breakfast at about nine o'clock and told him I had very good news concerning takings at such cinemas as the Hautefeuille, the Gaumont Champs-Elysees, the Imperial, etc. And he said to me: 'Why are you telling me that? I can't do anything if it's good news. It's only when there are problems that I can intervene.'

London, February 1980