Interview with Paul Joyce

by Faisal A. Qureshi

The following are edited extracts from a interview by the author with Paul Joyce, Producer/Director of "Stanley Kubrick: The Invisible Man" for an article on Kubrick for the Leeds Student Newspaper.

Faisal A. Qureshi: What attracted you on doing a documentary on Kubrick?

Paul Joyce: Well he's probably one of the greatest living directors, is the first answer to that. I grew up with his work and he shifted shifted from genre to genre with such ease and his films are in a sense (even though can call them genre pieces), really unquantifiable in a certain level. Obviously, The Shining as a horror movie, but its very other things beyond that and I think its that and the extraordinary ability to take on genre pieces, as indeed in the case of 2001, and make something which isn't a science fiction movie. So I think that's a long answer but its a complicated decision in a sense to see who your going to do. There's a limited number of great directors, in the case of Kubrick. Channel 4 at that point were putting together a season of his films, so one was able to match the documentary to the season, so that was a additional reason to do him.

Is there any particular Kubrick film that you like?

I like them all actually, in their own way. The Killing is one of my favorites, given the strictures of budget and time. But its clear that he was a young man who was really pushing the boundary of his own ability in a really exciting way, which went on to the next film, Paths Of Glory, which similarly is a young man's film. When you think about the great war, the subject he was dealing with, there were mainly young men involved in that, and that's a young man's film about young men in war, and I think if he moves on, the work becomes more mature and more considered, as he gets older. But theirs something highly energized all those movies which appeals to me.

So how did you contact Mr. Kubrick for agreeing to do the documentary?

He didn't agree.

He didn't?

PJ: I mean he didn't agree and he didn't disagree. He did co-operate. I communicated with him by fax and via his personal assistant.

Leon Vitali?

Yes, and who was a contact. I never received a reply from my faxes or letters to Kubrick, but I know that he saw them, so I kept him informed about the people I was intending or hoping to interview, and he never raised any objection. There was more a fear on the part of the participants, for example, I subsequently did a film on Robert Altman, to which Shelly Duvall contributed. Well she did a big interview at the time on Kubrick, which I never included in my film on Kubrick, because it was too explosive, the material. And she asked me to be very careful about using it. But at some point there is an additional sequence put in, which is Shelly Duvall talking about Stanley.

I remember seeing clips from Vivian Kubrick's documentary which showed Shelly and Kubrick not getting along very well together.

I think they got on quite well personally. I think they respected each other at a certain point. I think in that sequence which we extracted in our documentary (which Kubrick allowed us to do, which was very nice of him) I think he was playing up for the camera at that point frankly. He wanted to make a point and in fact, the worse exchange at the doorway, during the false snowstorm, he switches very cleverly from one point he's making to another, to really wrong foot her. Which is, if you look at it two or three times very clever, but its below the belt. I don't think she deserved that treatment.

Were you anyway hoping to take a fly on the wall approach of Kubrick working on a film in the initial planning stages of the documentary?

He wasn't a making a film then, though he has done one now. Basically, he won't allow anything recorded which doesn't have his full authority. He hasn't been filmed for thirty years. Have you seen the programme I've done on him?

I've seen it around five or six times.

Well, I mean Ken Adam talks about driving him to a press conference on Strangelove and he had to stop by the side of the road so that Kubrick could vomit, out of fear, and that was the last time he's done it. He's terribly, terribly, nervous at public encounters. He won't do it. He's like an actor with stage fright, he's a great actor but he can't go on stage....

I'm sure that would have upset Kubrick that I included [Fear and Desire] because he wanted to suppress the movie. But under the copyright laws of this country, you are able to extract for the purposes of criticism and review, extracts without the copyrights holders permission, and that's the route I took, and the channel have quite a history of that. Off course they fought one action against Warner Brothers on just that.

That was the documentary on ACO?

Indeed, and it went to a judicial review. And it was a majority decision in favour of the channel and Warner Brothers decided not to press it too the high court. Which was very wise, because they would have lost that.

I know Barraclough Carey got into trouble as well when they inserted scenes from ACO in their programme on censorship. Did you get away the same reason there?

Yes. That wasn't shown in the season for Channel 4, because it wasn't acquired for Television and he doesn't want it shown here. You can get it on laserdisc in the states and its shown in France regularly, so its a bit of a nonsense really. So as it not being a season film, we were covered. The Channel 4 lawyers, thought we were covered. It's how you use the clips. You cannot use them for illustration. You can't say "Kubrick's a great director" and you use a clip of something demonstrating how great he is. You can't do that. If somebody says, the sequence in Spartacus where Kirk Douglas is painted in different colours, to show the most vulnerable spots on the human body to aim for in mortal combat, and makes a point about that, you know that was a particular clever way to express Kirk Douglas' fear or whatever, if you then show that clip having described it in some detail, than that is some permissible use. But it has to be a very, very specific commentary on a specific sequence.

But of course, as one gets older and longer in the tooth on doing these things, it becomes easier to make sure you adhere to the context.

Are there any interviews that had to be cut out from the final film?

Well Shelly Duvall wasn't included for reasons that I've said, although it was really rather that Kubrick was finished by the time I got to Duvall. I would have had to have recut Kubrick, by which time it had been transmitted already. But for the sake of history, it might be worth doing that, if one could get the money. The only person who expressed some concern really, was Malcolm McDowell, who thought that this must have Kubrick's blessing and therefore his editorial control, this programme of mine.

Now, when I convinced him that Kubrick had nothing to do with it, and what I want to include in my film was entirely what I wanted to include --I didn't need to get Kubrick's permission --Malcolm was happy to do it. He'd never done that before, talked about ACO in that detail. So he was rather fearful that Kubrick would censor it or may censor it.

Did you try and obtain interviews with members of Kubrick's families or friends, i.e. Vivian Kubrick or Alex Singer?

I got to James B. Harris, which I thought was pretty close for that. Vivian was in America and untraceable at that point. She seems to have left the Kubrick household now and is traveling somewhere and doesn't seem to have made another film. It would have been interesting to talk to her but I couldn't trace her. We put out some calls, but nothing came back.

Alex Singer is a director I admire, but we felt that we were pretty well covered on that early stuff. Even though it became, or it can be construed that Kubrick feels that its more personal, than professional some of the comments in there. There's certain points where you go into to examine a mans creative genius and if they want talk about what a shit he is, I can't do much about it.

So you haven't heard anything about Kubrick's reaction to the documentary.

The only reaction I've had is from Warner Brothers, who I've talked too about other projects, and they say its still a sensitive matter with Stanley. So I would assume that he was not well pleased.

What are your latest projects now?

Well Cinefile was canceled last year....So I've been watching with my mouth falling open with horror as cinema related things the channel are doing, particularly film night, which I think is bollocks, and your quite welcome to quote me on that.

Have to agree there....

I think its terrible, and it shows the channel has gone downmarket really. The justification for Cinefile was to coincide with seasons that Michael McDonnald had put together, and I think we helped each other, and it allowed us to make very intelligent programmes about cinema.

Now its just basically a American chat show with two people. They've stolen that format. Theirs a new controller, Stuart Cosgrove, and their all chasing a youth audience. I don't think a youth audience is going to watch at 11:45pm anyway. There going to be doing something more interesting anyway, what's the fuck that all about. It doesn't make sense to me. You chase the youth audience at 11:45, really, your ratings are off the graph at that point anyway. So what are they doing it for?