Kubrick on Creative Problem Solving

Since all creativity is problem solving, it is enlightening to examine what Stanley Kubrick says about: filmmaking as problem solving in some of his interviews.

Below are transcripts of some of his interviews… Note also, the sections I have bolded. (Usually it’s around: problem-solving.)

Transcript of Stanley Kubrick Interview

(Interview by Jeremy Bernstein, 1966)

Interview Transcribed by: Dr J T Velikovsky Ph.D


16th August 2019


Stanley Kubrick: “Testing, 1-2-3-4… `Jeremy Bernstein Tape’… November 27, Side A… Born: July 26, 1928, New York City. My father is a doctor. One sister, Barbara – married, two children – lives in New Jersey, six years younger, her husband is a lawyer… I was taught to play chess at the age of 12, but did not play seriously until about age of 17, when I joined the Marshall Chess Club in New York – on West 10th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue.”

Jeremy Bernstein: “Did you have any particular intellectual interests as a child – do you remember, you were an avid reader, or…?”

SK: Er, no. – I had few intellectual interests as a child… I was a school misfit, and I considered – you know – reading a book, schoolwork – and I don’t think I read a book for pleasure, until after I graduated high school.

JB: Well, what were you what were you doing in your misfit [years]-

SK: Well – I had one thing, I think that perhaps – uh – helped me get over being a misfit – being a school misfit – and that is, that, um, I became interested in Photography about the same time – [at age] twelve or thirteen – and I think that if you get involved in any kind of Problem-Solving in depth on almost anything – it is surprisingly similar to Problem Solving on anything… You know – I started out, by just – you know – getting a camera, and learning how to take pictures, and learning how to print pictures, and learning how to build a darkroom, and learning how to do all the technical things and so on and so on, and then finally – trying to find out how you could sell pictures, and become a Photographer – you know – Would it be possible to be a professional photographer? – And it was a case of, over a period of from the age of 13 to 17, you might say, going through, step-by-step by myself – without anybody really helping me, the problem-solving of: Becoming a Photographer… And I found that, um, I think in looking back – that this particular thing about problem-solving, is something that schools generally don’t teach you – and that – if you can develop a kind of generalized approach to problem-solving, that it’s surprising, how it helps you in anything – you know – and that most of the deficiencies that you see around you in people – that say are, you don’t think particularly they’re doing their job right or something, is really that — I mean, assuming that they care – and – you know – a lot of people that appear to care – or may actually care, are still not going about things the right way… And when you think about it, I generally find that, it’s just that they don’t have a good generalized approach to Problem-Solving: They’re not thorough; they don’t consider all the possibilities; they don’t prepare themselves with the right information; and so forth… So, I think that Photography – though it seemed like a hobby, and – ultimately led to a professional job – Photography – might have been more valuable than – you know – doing the proper things in school.

JB: Were you sort of `the despair of your family’ at that time? – Because of your schoolwork – or did you-

SK: Well, it wasn’t a real drama. You know… I imagine so? But it was never completely apparent until I graduated [laughs] from high school, that I couldn’t go to college. Because I graduated in 1945, when all the GI’s [ex-WW2 soldiers; army Government Issue, e.g.: `GI Joe’] were now pouring back on the GI Bill, and I had a 67 average – and it turned out that, there wasn’t any college in United States – even of the lowest caliber, who would take a student with less than a 75 average in that year – so I couldn’t get in. I failed to get into college.

JB: Did you take all the `scholastic aptitude tests’ and so on?

SK: They wouldn’t even consider you – in other words, they wouldn’t even accept your application if you didn’t have a 75 average, in that particular year.

JB: Looking back – sort of in retrospect, do you think not going to college in that circumstance was a fortunate thing?

SK: Oh, tremendously! Because what happened is that – then, I had developed myself as a photographer, and prior to graduating high school, I’d actually – I had sold two picture-stories to LOOK [magazine]…

JB: What were they about?

SK: One was about a teacher in high school, named Mr. Traister, who taught English – and he used to dramatize Shakespeare… He would read the parts, and act it out, and he made it very interesting, you know? – It was one of the few courses that were interesting. You know, most of the English courses that I had, consisted of the teacher saying “You’re to read five pages of Silas Marner tonight.” And the next day the class was spent in sitting at the book – like Emil Jannings in The Blue Angel [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blue_Angel] – looking up over the book, and saying “Mr. Kubrick?” and then you’d stand up, and he’d say: “When Silas Marner walked out of the door, what did he see?” and if you didn’t know what he saw, you got a zero! [laughs] – And that was it! And as a matter of fact, I failed English once – and had to make it up in summer school.

JB: But did you show aptitude for things like mathematics, and so on?

SK: Actually – the only courses that I got good marks in were Science courses – yeah,  I think I got – I can’t remember now – but I think I got about an 87 in Physics, and… not in Mathematics though, but – Science courses I liked, and did reasonably well… But anyway – Traister was one [photo-essay sold to LOOK Magazine], and I forgot what the other one was now, but they bought these two pictures – oh, and I also sold them a picture – I sold them two picture-stories [photo-essays], and, a photograph of a News Dealer are sitting on 170th Street in The Grand Concourse, right across – two blocks away from Taft High School

JB: Is that where you went, Taft High School?

SK: Yeah. [The photo of the News Dealer] with all the headlines saying: `Roosevelt Dies’ or `FDR Dead’, and he was sitting there looking depressed, and they liked this picture – and used it in a whole series about Roosevelt – and it was sort of the final picture of the series.

JB: Were you interested in extracurricular activities, apart from photography, as a high school student? In sports, or other stuff like that, or…?

SK: Well; I used to play… But I mean, I wasn’t on any of the school teams…

JB: Football?

SK: No – uh – I used to play everything, you know – basketball in the concrete – you know – outdoor, what do they call them again… You know `the playgrounds’ – like the city playground… And, Stickball, you know, in the street… and the odd softball game in the Taft dirt, you know Gym-yard – they had a very large dirt gym yard… Things like that… Touch football, in the street.

JB: Would you would you say, the fact that that you didn’t go to college has given you a certain sense of – what one might call irreverence, for college graduates who don’t meet up to what you would consider to be your – so to speak – your intellectual standards? I mean, if you come across a college guy who’s got a lot of degrees – but doesn’t seem to radiate confidence, does it bug you? Or-

SK: No, I don’t think that I – uh – I don’t think I look at it that way… The reason I think it was an advantage for me, is that – I then backed into this, you know, fantastically good job at the age of 17 – I went, I was – I went – I can’t remember what it was, but I took some pictures down there, I was now – what had happened is, now – I could not get into college – and also my father who was an alumni of NYU Uptown, took me to see the Dean, you know – and said, you know “This is my son, and I was a student here…” and so forth – and, nothing worked… So, I started going to City College at night, under the hope that if I got a B-average for so many credits – I don’t remember now – that I could then get into day school; a Day College – but within about – I don’t know – a few weeks of this, I was down at look with some other pictures – and it was an extremely nice Picture Editor there whose name was Helen O’Brien – and the Managing Editor at the time was Jack Gunther – who was then, some time later, killed in the Bryce Canyon, Utah plane-crash – and she asked me what I was doing – and I told her, you know: Nothing, and that I was gonna try to you know, work it out – and she said something about, you know, she thought she might be able to get me a job as an Apprentice Photographer – and then, you know – so I went up to see Jack Gunther and so forth – and I got a job.

JB: And how long were you a photographer with LOOK?

SK: Well I was an Apprentice Photographer for six months, and then I became a Staff Photographer, and I was there for four years.

JB: So you were actually there until age 21…

SK: Yeah. That would have been the – you know – the period I’d have spent in college – and I think that the – you know – the things that I learned, and the practical experience in every respect – including Photography – what I learned in in that four-year period exceeded what I could have learned in school. And also getting out of school, I can’t remember what was the – the particular turning point – but – being out of school, I began to read – and within a relatively short period of time, I would imagine, caught up with where I probably should have been – had I had a modicum of interest in things in high school… Because I mean after all – you really only miss – I mean, before you’re 12 or 13, how many how many serious books can you read? So I only really `blew’ four years of part-time reading… How much time? You go to school all day; you play a certain amount of time; you’ve got to do your homework… So in retrospect,  I don’t feel that I missed reading that many books — and I thought that I caught up pretty quickly, when I became interested in… in things in general.

JB: Well, what first gave the idea of actually going into the movies – as opposed to LOOK…?

SK: Like everybody else – you know – I was always very interested in movies – and I used to go to see films… And I’d see practically every film – and I used to see all the films at the Museum of Modern Art, and Naphalia, and actually at that time – you know – when I was a teenager there were the so-called `Arthouse’ didn’t really exist, to the extent it does now, you know – it was the post-war Italian sort of, the Rossellini pictures – which brought the Arthouses into existence – so there weren’t that many good films that were ever played in, you know, the theaters around – except for the Museum. Anyway I used to see all the films, and I knew, I’d seen them all, a number of times at the Museum and a friend of mine – who subsequently has become a film director – named Alex Singer was working as an office boy at `The March Of Time’ [Newsreel Production Co.] and one day he told me that it cost $40,000 to make a March Of Time – and it was a one-reeler – and I said to him “Gee that’s a lot of money…?” I said “I can’t believe, it costs that much, to make you know eight or nine minutes of film?” So I call up Eastman-Kodak and checked on the price of film – and then I call up the laboratory, how much it cost to develop it – and I checked on how much it cost to rent 35mm movie cameras – and I checked the cost of the other facilities, Sound and Editing, and so forth – and, I forgot what it added up to, but it was – it was something like, that I could do a documentary film – with an original music score and everything, for about $3,500… So I thought “Gee, if they’re making these pictures for $40,000 – and I can make them for $3,500 – surely I must be able to sell them, and at least get my money back – and probably make a profit, you know? So, I think – we thought that we could make a considerable profit, because we assumed that if they were making them for forty thousand dollars apiece, that they must be making a profit, you know? And, so I rented a 35mm Eyemo camera, which is a spring-wound camera – produces a professional picture – and I did a documentary film about a boxer named Walter Cartier, who I had previously done a picture-story for look about, and I knew him. And it was called Day of the Fight… And, got the whole thing – I did everything, Alex helped me you know, sort of carried lights around and assisted me, and I did the whole thing – just myself and Alex – and Walter and his people that he knew… and – cut it, and another friend of mine – who subsequently has become a professional movie composer named Gerald Fried – did a film score, and got the whole thing finished for $3,900. And then when we began to take it around to the various companies, just to sell it – they all liked it, but we were offered things like $1,500 and $2,500 and so forth…

JB: And, this was – by the way – when you were still aged 21?

SK: Well, less than that – I did this about, oh I’d say, maybe nine months before I quit look – about 20+. And at one point, I said to them, you know: “Christ – uh – Why are you offering us so little for this, you know? One [film] reel – surely it’s, you know, gotta get more than forty thousand dollars-?!” And they said “Well you must be crazy?!” And I said “Why do you think that?” And so I told them about The March of Time [costing: $40k, per newsreel] and anyway they said it was, you know, was ridiculous… And shortly after that – The March of Time went out of business [laughs] for the reason – we later found out – that, they were spending approximately… [as an aside] – I mean you know, if The March of Time sues me for this – Alex somehow found out, when he was working there, that it was costing 40,000 bucks to make one of their one-reelers… So they went out of business. Well anyway I finally sold the film to RKO-Pathé – who are no longer in business, either – and sold it for about $100 less [laughs] than it cost me to make it. I knew it was a small loss, but I had the pleasure of seeing it shown, and you know, I remember I went to the Paramount Theatre, where it was playing with some Ava Gardner / Robert Mitchum picture, you know – it was very exciting seeing it on the screen – and it got a nationwide and worldwide distribution and so, um, I thought… Everybody liked it – and they thought it was good – and I thought that this would be – I’d get millions of offers… on which I got: none… to do: anything… So I made another documentary – this time, about a flying priest, called Father Schtottmuller, or something [Stadtmueller] in New Mexico, who flew a Piper Cub around to Indian parishes – I know RKO thought it was a colorful subject, and so I went there – and pretty much on my own again, made this short – and – still – you know, nothing was happening.

JB: Were they supporting you for this?

SK: No – they gave me a $1,500 – out of which I had to pay for the film and the travel – and I made nothing – I think I lost money on that, too – but I had been making a reasonably good salary at LOOK for four years, so I had a certain amount of money – and I was still working… So then I quit look because I decided that there obviously wasn’t any money in shorts (short films) – but that, I then found out how much feature films were being made for — you know – millions – and I had calculated that I could make a feature film for about ten thousand dollars –

JB: Well, how did you calculate that?

SK: Well, again – by, you know – projecting the amount of film I’d shoot; figuring that I could get actors to work for practically nothing, you know; work with – I mean, at this point, I was the whole crew: cameraman, assistant cameraman – you know – director; everything… So I had no costs. So a friend of mine in The Village [Greenwich Village] did a script –

JB: Were you living in the Village?

SK: No, I was living on 16th Street, off 6th Avenue – and he did a script – which was a terrible sort of dull – undramatic – but very, very `serious’ allegorical story, about: Four soldiers, from an unnamed country, lost behind enemy lines – trying to find their way home again… And it had [dialog] lines in it, like: “We spend our lives, running our fingers down the lists of names and addresses, looking for our real…” … No; “Running our name… our, fingers down the lists of… something-or-other, looking for our real names, and our real addresses…”? …I can’t remember what the line is – but it was that kind of a thing, you know? And of course – um – I totally failed to recognize, what I didn’t know about making films, or anything, you know – I just thought: Well, these other two things [2 short documentary films], had turned out pretty well – but they were documentaries –

JB: The second thing had turned out pretty well?

SK: Yeah. But I – I didn’t really know, what I didn’t know – and I thought: “Well, Christ – uh,  there really is – can’t be very much more to making a feature film? And I certainly couldn’t make one worse than the films that I kept seeing every day – and – but I wasn’t satisfied to just make a, you know, an interesting film – I wanted it to be a very poetic and meaningful film, and it was a little bit like, the Thurber story (`You Could Look It Up’, The Saturday Evening Post, 1941), about the midget, you know, who wouldn’t take the base on balls – and decided to swing, you know-? [laughs] And so I got the film made – and, but it was a very, very dull – and it got an Arthouse distribution – was called Fear and Desire, distributed by Joseph Burstyn – who was the, at one time – I think he was the distributor who first brought in Rossellini’s pictures… It got a few reasonably good reviews… It got a nice blurb from Mark Mandorin – and who was very kind about it – and, it had a few, you know, it had a few good moments in it – but with the exception of one or two of the actors – they were all terrible actors, and I knew nothing about [laughs] directing any actors and-

JB: How did you go about directing actors?

SK: Well I – I don’t remember, [laughs] you know, it was really, you know, just it was really just… Well; actually – from some of the so-called `professional efforts’ I’ve subsequently seen, you know, people doing – I would say – I didn’t go about it that much differently than a lot of people do, but I didn’t really know anything, you know? [About: dramatic feature filmmaking] Uh but there was some good moments in it – and as I say, it even got a  few good reviews – but it never – never returned a penny of its investment

JB: Was this your own dough you put up for this?

SK: No – I raised the money privately. And then while this picture was – it took a long time to edit the film and get all the you know – the thing done, I spent over a year on it – and oh it opened at the Guild Theater in New York – and it was pretty apparent, you know, that it was terrible, you know – and while it was still playing, I decided well, I’d better – I’d better get another script very fast, and try to promote some more money on the strength of the – just the fact that the thing was playing – because it wasn’t apparent to me how I was gonna earn a living or do anything, you know, and again – not one single offer ever, to do anything, you know – from anybody – so I, in about two weeks, knocked together another script with somebody, and this time, it was sort of a reaction to the other one – this was nothing but action sequences – and the most sort of mechanically-constructed sort of action-gangster plot…

JB: What was this was at the time you were also hustling chess?

SK: Well; I wasn’t `hustling’ chess… – but I was playing chess for quarters – I mean, I wasn’t a `hustler’ in that: I pretended not to be a good player, and then beat people… I just was playing in the park, you know, for quarters – a quarter a game –

JB: But were you actually kind of doing this for the fun of it (playing chess)?

SK: I was doing it for the fun of it – but I also did make about two or three dollars a day – which it really goes a long way, if you’re not buying anything except food.

JB: Well do you still retain a lot of a lot of acquaintances from that era?

SK: Well there’s only one person – one friend who I still see, a boy named David Miller who is an Operations Research Analyst, and who I’ve remained friendly with – I still know all the people there, you know like Duvel and Feldman – and there’s a guy named Edmund Peckover – but the regulars at the park don’t change too much…

JB: Was there kind of a fraternity of people, playing [chess] for money?

SK: Yeah there was, well I mean – they were – they were `the regulars’ – you know like the real regulars, used to be: Arthur Feldman, who was really the best player there, you – I also forgot, oh yeah – I mean all the regulars played for money – there was Arthur Feldman, I’d say who was the best player – then there was a guy named Joe Richmond who was probably the next best player, then there was a guy named Edmund Peckover – I would have put him, say, third – and another regular was a guy named Amos Kaminsky who was a physicist – he would have been next, then I would say myself and David Miller about equal, and then it was descending… I mean, I was only interested in the people who are better than I was, you know – so those are the ones that I particularly remember, because they were enjoyable to play with – there was a whole lot of potzers [inept chess players] you know, [laughs]

JB: From who you earned your living! [laughs]

SK: And semi-potzers you know – and people who put up fierce struggles but who invariably lost, you know…

JB: How many hours a day were you where you putting in down there?

SK: Well when I was waiting for things to happen – you know, waiting to get an answer on something, which went on for months, you know – sometimes… I would go there about 12 o’clock and stay there until, you know, midnight… I’d say, a good 12 hours a day, with breaks for food.

JB: You were sort of playing under the lights?

SK: Oh yeah, in the summer it was marvelous you know? – You, yeah – in the daytime, you’d get a table in the shade – and at night you’d get a table by the light – and if you made this switch the right way, you had a good table all the time, you know? There are those two end tables, where the light is, by the fountain –

JB: Yeah.

SK: that have the best light at night and those were always the tables at night that you were trying to get…

JB: Did you have a set of regular clientele of guys – who would play, and come back?

SK: Well I used to play of course a lot, with the better players – because they’d give me odds, and because that, you know, they were – they couldn’t get a game really… For instance: Feldman used to give me: a pawn and move, and, with a pawn and move, – I never really kept track, but – it was pretty even – I mean – Feldman didn’t make his living off me, you know – but, when there was no sort of real potzers around – then the other, then the better players would play each other – and would give you fair odds – so there would be a pretty good game – but there was some players that would just give you `Always white’ which was a small advantage, but it was an advantage. Pawn and move of courses is – well the smallest advantage would be `white’ then a next advantage would be two moves you know, and then the next one would be: a pawn and move.

JB: How did you stack up in the Marshall Chess Club?

SK: I won the B-tournament, and I played in one A-tournament – and finished around in the middle – but I would like to point out to you, that the A-tournament though, is not the top tournament – the top tournament is The Club Championship [laughs] – so uh, you know – that’s that – you can figure out where I stood –

JB: But you are you think you could you would give Duvall a pawn and move… Is that a serious appraisal?

SK: Oh absolutely yeah.

JB: That’s kinda depressing… And – when did get launched after this after this point into the movie business?

SK: Well I as I say, when Fear and Desire was  still playing the Guild Theater, I spent about two weeks lashing together this `all-action’ script – and… let’s see now, what is he in relation to the family…? Well – the guy’s name was Mo Bousel – and he has two drugstores in the Bronx… Mo Bousel co-produced and put up the money, to make Killers Kiss. His name is Morris Bousel… [laughs] – That was not a great financial success! I was at that time that I was playing chess for quarters in the park… You were Speaking of Jimmy Harris.

JB: So there was a guy in the Village – who was making films by himself – I mean just doing everything – and that then he thought that you and he should get together and introduced you – and then Jimmy suggested that – this is the impression I got – Jimmy suggested that, he could take the producing burden of the films – and finance the film?

SK: Yeah well I had made Killer’s Kiss – the second feature film – and substantially that’s what happened. Well first you mean, I made The Killing

JB: And you made that by yourself?

SK: No we – uh – well we formed the company which was called Harris-Kubrick Pictures Corporation and after looking for a story, we bought a book called A Clean Break by Lionel White and this, um, was the story that we made into The Killing for United Artists… United Artists had bought Killer’s Kiss – well first of all United Artists’ function was: only to finance and distribute the film – so it was up to us to hire the people and make the film – and I presume that United Artists thought that if the Killer’s Kiss could be made you know on the semi-professional basis it was, that with an adequate amount of money which was fairly minimal anyway – that you know, we could make a film… Jimmy had to guarantee completion of the movie – which means that, if the movie ran over the budget, he had to put up all the extra money – which is a great safeguard, and especially since, financially he was responsible to make this kind of a guarantee, it wasn’t that much of a risk on the part of United Artists… Well, we had a very good cast – but none of the people were `big stars’ in the sense that they were extremely choosy about what they were in – and I would say that, all of them had probably been in worse films than they might have – even at the beginning – thought this one might turn out to be…

JB: Wasn’t Marilyn Monroe in it?

SK: The principal cast was: Sterling Hayden, Colleen Grey, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr., Joe Sawyer, Ted de Corsia … Vince Edwards – who became `Dr. Kildare’…

JB: I saw that film so long ago – I’m just trying to remember – was it the one where Sterling Hayden dies in the end?

SK: No – he gives up… The money blows away at the airport, and he gives up. …You probably haven’t seen the picture-?

JB: No, I remember Sterling Hayden very clearly, but I can’t-

SK: -You’re thinking of The Asphalt Jungle… That’s why you thought a Marilyn Monroe was in it… [laughs] He dies at the end of The Asphalt Jungle, in a field with a horse!

JB: Oh that’s right – yeah.

SK: You’re thinking in the wrong picture – you never saw The Killing

JB: Maybe – maybe that’s so.

SK: If you want to see it, there’s a print at The Museum of Modern Art. So anyway, we made The Killing and, um – somehow, Dore Schary [Isadore “Dore” Schary at MGM] saw it – and he liked it, and he was the first one who really showed any interest in us – you know, to the extent of offering us any sort of a deal to make another picture – and so we went to MGM, and looked through – the deal was, that we could look through all their backlog of Story Properties – and you know, if we found one that they liked, we could do it – and I think I told you this – we came up with this – Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig – and I did the screenplay with Calder Willingham, about which time Dore Schary was you know taken out of his job – and the project came to an end… Sort of before it – you know, just about the time the script was finished.

JB: And it was it was at that point that you ran across the old war story?

SK: Well it was really sort of concurrent with this, that I remembered reading Paths of Glory as one of the few books that I did read.

JB: Is it a fair description of Jimmy (B. Harris) to say, he’s independently wealthy?

SK: Yes.


…You have to have patience, because if you don’t – your own frustrations prove to be too much of a distraction. It is a slow – you know, it’s like: those games where you jiggle all the balls into place – sometimes, there’s more balls you’re jiggling than others – but it’s largely that. And if you allow yourself to become irritated, then it’s just another distraction…

JB: Well, how do you keep yourself – so speak – `amused’, when there are all kinds of minor delays – when something breaks and you gotta go sit down…

SK: Because I keep thinking – about the next thing that I’m doing, you know – I just – I try to use all the time… That’s why I’ve found, for instance – when all these people were there [on set] – I’ve found myself in a slightly `up in the air’ feeling – luckily this stuff was quite simple [on: 2001]- but I usually – I would imagine, to anyone sort of looking at me, I have a sort of vague, withdrawn look on my face – because what I’m just doing is: thinking about what I’m about to do – or what, other scenes – I just use the time to think – it’s like sitting in the park, playing chess [laughs].

JB: So I mean, do you think about how to manipulate the actors, and that sort of thing?

SK: Well I think about: Whatever problems are problems… I mean, sometimes manipulating the actors aren’t the problem – sometimes the Problem is: the story – or the schedule – or a set that isn’t a complete design, or something – but whatever it is, I always have plenty to think about.

JB: Well how close do you permit yourself to get to the actors, as friends? I mean is it bad to be friends with the guys who are working for you?

SK: No – I mean if you can – I mean in other words – it’s bad, if you don’t like somebody, to have a bad social situation occur – like, an attempt at friendliness which turns out to be sour – or, you know, his wife goes away saying how terrible you are, or something like that… But I mean – if you like the people, it helps to know them – and it’s enjoyable to deal with them

JB: Yeah; it’s not awkward, to apply discipline or anything?

SK: Well it isn’t discipline away – because unless the actor – it’s so rare, that you that you would ever get to the point where you’d say to the actor “Look this is my picture – and you’re working for me and you do it the way I want or go home!” because, what you really want him to do is to feel confident and enjoy what he’s doing – otherwise he’s not gonna be able to do it very well – so somehow, you have to be clever enough to… or persuasive enough… to – although `persuasive’ isn’t even the right word, because I tend to believe that, if you’re right – people realize it [laughs].

JB: Are you usually right, Stanley?

SK: [Laughs] Well I try to be… No, but I have found that when I am right, you know, when it’s when – in retrospect – it turned out to be always right – and in doing it, it seemed right – that you do not usually find difficulties arising, if you’re right. – Unless the actor is incapable of doing what you’re asking him to do, through limitations of his talent, or his emotional range or something – and he gets insecure and thinks of a lot of reasons why you’re wrong, but really what he’s trying to do is avoid failing, you know – but then really you should try to figure out what the limitations of the actors are and never put them in a spot like that.


SK: After leaving MGM, and The Burning Secret, prior to this Jimmy and I had bought Paths of Glory, I did a screenplay with Jim Thompson and Calder Willingham – and nobody wanted to do it – it was turned down by every company, until our agent Ronnie Lubin interested Kirk Douglas in the project and through Kirk’s interest, United Artists put up the money on the basis of it being done for a very low budget in Europe. The picture was a moderate success – but it was nothing to create opportunities for us because of big grosses or profits. The reviews on it were very good. Many reviews were superlative – and from that point of view, was an enormous success. The greatest virtue of the film was that I met my wife Christiana, who was an actress. I was watching a television broadcast looking for an actress – actually watching someone else, and saw her – and got in touch with her agent, she came into the studio, we met – I began dating her – and we subsequently got married a year later. She is a marvelous actress. She had done a lot of work in Germany. I would like her to act, but she has no interest in doing dull, routine acting things – and is more interested in painting. If I ever have a decent part for a woman – which for some reason, I never seem to write into my films – she would certainly do it. This was followed by about six months spent working on a script for Kirk Douglas – which he didn’t like – and was abandoned. And some more months working on something which Gregory Peck was supposed to do for us, which was also abandoned because it wasn’t liked. And followed by, the offer from Marlon Brando to direct his Western [One Eyed Jacks] which resulted in six months of work – again, abandoned as far as I was concerned, because I left the project two weeks before it started [shooting]. This was followed by [laughs] a script called The German Lieutenant which again no one liked – and followed by Kirk Douglas’ offer [for me] to take over Spartacus after a week of shooting, which I did –

JB: Did you find yourself-

SK: Yes! [Laughs] …My narrative criticisms – which were at first, so enthusiastically received – began to grow pale as time went on, due to the counter-pressures of the writer Dalton Trumbo and Kirk’s producer Eddie Lewis, who did not see eye to eye with me, on the story. Between the shooting and the editing of Spartacus, two children were born to me – to Christina – Anya and Vivian. I was on the picture almost two years. …Children’s names: Vivian Vanessa, age five; Anya Renata age six; Katherine Susana (Katherine, spelled K and an e at the end) age eleven; only – of about eight weeks –  were spent in Spain doing the battles, and the big march-bys – the whole picture was done on the back lot at Universal (Studios).

JB: Did you get any sense of intellectual satisfaction out of Spartacus at all?

SK: No – but it was, you know, again – an opportunity to work – and it was interesting to, from a purely as an exercise, you know, to try to do scenes that you thought weren’t very good – and to try to make them interesting. I thought the first 45 minutes of the film – of the life in the gladiatorial school, which was simple, turned out quite well as far as I’m concerned, but then the rest the story from the slave rebellion on to the end, I thought seemed a bit… silly.

JB: And then what happened?

SK: Well – during the making of Spartacus, we bought Lolita [the film rights, to the novel]. Jimmy and I – and… Now: nobody wanted to make Lolita – actually the history of all the films privately that I’ve done is – that no one ever wanted to particularly make them, and we just sort of – running out the clock – managed to put the picture together someplace, you know. Well nobody particularly wanted to make Lolita – and finally Seven Arts – (company name Seven Arts) – put up the money and we made it – it was made in England.

JB: Did you yourself do the rewriting of the book?

SK: Yes well, Nabokov and I – I believe got along very well – and I know he liked the film very much when he saw it.

JB: Is there anything is particularly striking about the making of that film that you remember?

SK: Ah well – uh – no. You mean: anecdotes? Not really. I think the only thing that is regrettable about the film is that, due to the incredible pressure against making the film – and put on by the carload, by all sorts of groups – although I think the film was faithful – psychologically – to all the characters and captured I think, the sense of them – I think that the total lack of eroticism in the story in this film presentation of it – spoil some of the pleasure of it… You know, you can imply all the eroticism you want, but there’s nothing like delivering some, to help understand a little more the enslavement you know, that Humbert Humbert was under… I think that I would consider that a criticism of the film – but the could film could not have been made you know – nobody would have made it at all – and it would never been distributed… There was some criticism by some people that said that she looked too old – but I never thought that was a valid criticism because it was one of those books where nobody bothered to really read the description that Humbert Humbert gave of Lolita, and they got this – that somehow the readers – it was a rather interesting example of sort of mass delusion, because inevitably, people imagined her as being about nine years old, and looking about 9 or 10 years old…? And yet there’s a very clear description in the book of Annabelle his childhood sweetheart, and he says in the narrative that: were not for Annabelle they would never been Lolita, and then when he sees Lolita he says that she was a perfect reincarnation of Annabelle. And Annabelle is described as a, you know, a pretty sexy twelve-and-a-half… I forgot – actually I don’t exactly remember Annabelle’s age – but I know that Lolita was something like twelve years and three months, when he meets her – and then the story progresses through quite a few years… Well Sue Lyon was actually just thirteen when we made the picture – and I thought, this this criticism was not valid – but many of the people who wrote it, I think – well, I know – didn’t bother to really read what he [Nabokov], how old he said she was – and what she looked like – and there was this peculiar example of a lot of people imagining her as being about 10 years old.

JB: Dr Strangelove is the first film you made, where you proceeded really from an intellectual premise, rather than from a story – or from an intellectual situation – rather than from a specific story. Curiosity, about the possible outcomes of nuclear strategy… How did that come about (after Lolita)?

SK: Well, I was interested in whether or not I was going to get blown up by an H-bomb prior to Lolita, but my interest intensified itself, sort of concurrently with that… I believe that the Berlin Crisis (of 1961) took place during [the filmmaking of] Lolita – and about that time I became keenly interested, and started reading up on all the you know, literature… of which, there is a terrific extent – you know, a tremendous-a-lot – (…boy, am I getting fucked up on that…) …“A tremendous-a-lot”-! [Laughs at himself.] And, you know, I read – I would say, I pretty much read, the spectrum… I began finding after a while, that I wasn’t reading anything new – and I decided I knew the whole thing, you know? And it was then that I began to – the thing that struck me most of all about it was that, at first when you read the brilliant analyses, and the Games Theories and Herman Kahn, you – you’re very reassured, because you start off by thinking: “Gee, you know, you know – God – there are these bombs…!” and you get an image vaguely of sort of a World War 2 mentality… And then when you read the literature in the field, your first reaction, superficially, is – you’re very encouraged because you suddenly realize there’s this whole body of thought that’s gone into the whole thing, and you think “I, yes – well now I know.” And then as you read on and on – and become more involved, then you begin to realize that all these things lead to very paradoxical outcomes… And in reviewing the whole thing, every line in it leads to a paradoxical point – and I suppose this was the most thematically-obvious thing about Dr. Strangelove was the paradoxical outcome of any particular line of thought.

JB: Well, if it really is true in the real world – and every line does lead to a paradoxical outcome – what hope is there for anyone?

SK: Well personally, I think that the hope is basically just: luck! The situation is simply – for just luck reasons – is never really put to any particularly great strain… A lot of course has, you know, a lot has been done – a lot keeps being done, about trying to improve the situation against accidental war, and better Command and Control – and more sophisticated threat-technique, of trying to graduate threats into as many steps as you can, to leave as many alternatives and back-away points, but the depressing thing is that – at every at every period of history, the people always thought that they had – I mean the power-structure, and the leaders – always looked back on the previous period of history and thought that they had learned something… And I think that, you know, the old thing about – the only thing you can learn about history is that you can’t learn from history, is probably true – and that this illusion that you get, that you’re much more sophisticated, and that you can never – it can never happen that way again – may be true, but the thing you don’t realize is, that it’ll happen a different way. You know, I mean – now that everybody’s very convinced that they’ll never have another 1914-type situation, you know, well – they may have a 1985-type situation – that they’re not prepared for!

JS: What they say about the French army; they are perfectly prepared for the last (war)…

SK: Yeah well, most armies are, you know? You’d find the occasional exception – like Nazi Germany [laughs] – but inevitably, I think that as time goes on, the danger increases – because the thing becomes more and more remote – I mean the problem to begin with, is that: People do not react to abstractions – you know, they only react to direct experience… Very few people are even interested in abstractions, and even fewer people can become emotionally-involved or emotionally react to an abstract thing… The only reality that nuclear weapons have are: a few movie-shots of mushroom clouds, and a few documentaries that occasionally show in Arthouses about the effects of Hiroshima… But that – the atomic bomb is as much of an abstraction as you could possibly have. I mean, it’s as abstract as the fact that: you know that someday you’ll die. It’s something that you know, but you really do a very good job — you do an excellent job of denying it, psychologically. So to begin with – because of the very-effective denial, and the lack of any evidence, there’s almost no interest in the problem… I mean, I would say – in the minds of most people – it’s less interesting even than city government [laughs] …you know. And the longer the time goes on without the thing happening – this illusion is created that, somehow it’s like money in the bank, or you’re building up security… In fact, I think you’re just becoming more accustomed to it – and more liable to think that, at some point – that you’ve been taking these wonderful precautions, and that the chances are minimized and so forth – and then finally you will get confronted with a situation that you couldn’t anticipate. For instance, even now I think it surprises me that Russia and the United States could do a lot to almost completely eliminate the possibility of accidental nuclear war – without any real loss of security… both of them could allow observers, in key places, to instantly authenticate whether or not a nuclear war was in progress – you know – or it seemed to be in process of happening, and that if there were some nuclear accident – or a screwball – you know a nuclear-psychotic, you know the mad major, or the missile that gets away you could instantly authenticate that this might be true. I know that the United States – seems anyway – geared not to respond to say a single nuclear explosion any place – at least that’s what they say – that they now have, they feel, invulnerable retaliatory capabilities – and that the single city taken out would not start the nuclear war… but you know again you never know — that panic that happens, when suddenly all the lights go out, like you described in New York City you know, that indefinable something that might just make the senior decision-maker abandon all his previously beautifully worked-out graduated steps of response – you never know – and it depends on: who he is, and what his personal state of mind is, what information is available to him, and so forth… The fact that a lot of effort has been gone to, to try to work out possible accidents – I suspect that great precautions have been taken to protect against these accidents… But whether the human imagination is capable of really devising the subtle permutations and psychological variants to all those things… I doubt! The people who make up these war scenarios are not really as inventive, say, as a great writer – or as reality. I think Herman Kahn is a genius and I think that he can envision certain situations – but when you read the many of the sort of war scenario possibilities they don’t strike you as being the work of a master novelist… They don’t really seem real. You know they’re political possibilities, but they don’t have the real trappings of reality that might, you know, confuse and panic the decision-maker in the real circumstance.

JB: Were you surprised at the reaction to Strangelove, the fact that it was so widely discussed and so widely reviewed – and did you have any – did you have any feeling of what the response would be to it?

SK: Ah, well – I mean, all films are reviewed… The discussion went beyond reviews – but I know, I mean it was, quite obviously: something that might become a controversial issue.

JB: Well, when you get when you got finished with it, did you have a sense that – in some sense – that it was a winner? I mean, was it a thing that you really know?

SK: Well… I was very pleased with it… I mean when you say: `a winner’ – I mean I – I thought it was a… I was very pleased with the film… It happened to also be, a very successful film commercially.

JB: How did Terry Southern get involved?

SK: Well – Terry came to interview me for Show Magazine, shortly before I was leaving for London to make the picture (Dr Strangelove) – and I became friendly with him – I had read The Magic Christian and Flesh and Filigree – and I thought he was a terrific writer – and I came to London – and started- oh, the script was done – and it was done in its black comedy form – a fact which a certain amount of confusion has been created about in certain areas… The script was done; Peter Sellers was cast – and I was coming over here to prepare the film. And I you know, thought Terry was very talented… I never stop working on a script. I like to work with somebody else, because under the time pressures that you’re under, you can’t afford the sort of lapse of intensity that if you work by yourself you might suffer – and that Terry seem like an ideal person because the style of the script was similar, you know, to his sense of humor. And so, about six weeks before the picture started (shooting) I asked him if he wanted to come over here and work on it with me, and do some more dialogue and revision – and he came over, he worked for six weeks, and that was it. I started the picture, and he went off and did some other things.

JB: Have any of the pictures been as intellectually-complicated as the present one, I mean: 2001? Or any intellectual problems? I mean it’s a terrific undertaking, trying to create the future…

SK: Well… um – I don’t know what you mean… `Intellectually complicated’ isn’t really the right description for the thing – I mean, Strangelove was a more intellectually-complicated picture, and you know, it evolved complex arguments and quite a few, you know, abstract ideas, you know clearly or comically stated… This (2001) is not as complex a picture – it’s not as complicated a picture in terms of, you know, ideas – represented… idea, actually spoken, you know… [Pause] “…In praise of Arthur C Clarke…” [laughs] – It is true that he is, I think, the most poetic science fiction writer –

JB: Well he’s also really, the best informed…?

SK: Right – he is, scientifically, the best informed… His narrative ideas, I think, are – for my tastes – the most appealing – and he has this rather-unique poetic sense of the… a sort of nostalgia for the, you know: “The mountains that have eroded away, over millions of years – and the millions of years in the future – and – people looking back, and forward, and…” [aside to JB] – you’ll have to fix this up, because it’ll sound like real crap – but it’s very hard to you know, define it nicely – but it is true that he did-

JB: I find that every time I finish reading some story like that of Arthur C Clarke, I always feel sad… Either we made Venus contaminated – or there – he has a vision of something in the future which you know you’ll never see…

SK: Right – or something in the past, that you can never know about! Well, but that’s – I think that’s marvellous, you know. I think that, somehow – without trying to – without making it sound too pompous or precious – that he captures the hopeless but admirable human desire, to know, you know, these things that they never will – you know – can never really know, and to reach for things that they can never, you know, really reach – or reach back, and you know – it’s very hard to say it exactly, but the sense of sadness – and this poetic sense of time passing – and the sort of loneliness of you know: Worlds… I mean, he manages – I tell you what he also manages to do – he can take a star – a sun, say – in that one story – I forgot the name of it, where the sort of Sun-creatures come towards Mercury… [NB – `Out of the Sun’ Clarke, 1958 – JTV] – He can take an inanimate object – like a star, or a world, or even a galaxy – and somehow make it into a very poignant thing, which almost seems alive… He has a way of writing about, you know, mountains and planets and worlds, with the same poignancy that people write about children, or love affairs, and… Also although you haven’t read the script – and you shouldn’t really try to refer to the story – there is the – without underlining it – there is a contrast in the story between giant orbiting bombs, which you might say is the negative use of nuclear energy – and this particular spaceship which leads to great, fantastic accomplishments, which is also another – good – the good use of nuclear energy…

JB: Yeah… But I think one can, you know, one can talk about The Orion – it’s something I wanted to do for a long time – in fact I have a set of notes somewhere at home, which I once took down for just writing a piece on The Orion – and showing why showing, sort of logically speaking why it is the only propulsion system that’s worth considering, if you talk really about interplanetary missions – there’s nothing else that makes any sense –

SK: Right…

JB: Fundamentally because its operating temperatures – it’s that, the escape-velocity that’s really the crucial moment – and so, that’d be very nice actually talk to about The Orion – and these absolutely magnificent [concept artwork] paintings, which the guys have been doing over there – and of course the other thing that strikes – if you compare making up such a fictional space mission with the real thing, the thing that amazes one is how fast everything is done – in the sense that if you make a decision, whether it’s on a costume, or a lettering, or, on the- you get the satisfaction of, seeing it created in some form, almost immediately… I mean – it isn’t that so? – I mean, if you if you say-

SK: Well it doesn’t seem almost-immediately to me – but if I was used to – yeah another time scale, compared to scientific timescale, it must seem very quick…

JB: Yeah I mean – on a scientific project – you make any suggestion like that, and maybe it’s six months! – Or I mean, take a typical experiment in Physics – a guy has a good idea for an experiment but… by the time you get an answer out – these days – typically it’s a year and a half –

SK: Wow…

JB: So, it’s a completely different order of magnitude-

SK: It’s interesting that you would feel that way, because to the average person, the timescale of a movie seems like: Time has stopped… Most people are so bored, and so astonished when they see the pace that things (move at)… somehow, they have an image in their mind, that it’s all done in a week, or something like that – and most people – I’ve found – who don’t come from your side of the fence, think that everything works incredibly slowly… [in film]

JB: Well-

SK: You know, it just depends what you’re used to-

JB: The thing that, you know, when you shipped me over to watch that television thing–

SK: [remembering] Well that’s right; you thought so too… (that it was: a slow process)

JB: Yes well – but that’s a different side of it-

SK: Oh yeah-

JB: That’s a side of – making these sort of quantile sequences – which, you work for three hours, to extract 30 seconds on everything – that would drive me off of my head – but the thing which, the technological side of it – where you get an idea, say, for a propulsion system – or Christ knows what – and within three days, well you’ve got a drawing there – and you’ve got some guy making a model – and you have a lot of thought on a different size – I mean you know like, what timescale these guys are using – Eastern Standard Time, and all that sort of stuff – well all this goes fantastically fast – I mean, the number of problems that you deal with, and solve – in a half an houris more than you would deal with in a comparable scientific project, in six months in my opinion… Because, of course – you’re just working in different medium, in the sense that, you don’t really have to worry – say in the case of a spaceship, about the structural stability you know – of these – these things, you know – I mean you might spend six months or a year, computing something out on machines, well you know – you know it’s going to – you know it’s going to work – and it can be designed, so – or you take that as a premise – and then you – you put something there, which in principle, is going to work – and then you can stop, at that point. I mean, that’s what really constitutes a difference in the — it’s interesting — I find it extremely remarkable.

SK: If these things do work that quickly – the thing that does take all the time, is to extract, say two hours and fifteen minutes of a story – and really keep distilling and distilling and distilling and distilling and distilling… I would say that, if you count the time that’s spent during the shooting day also working on the story, in rehearsal and rewriting – and so, I would say that an average of at least four hours a day, has been spent on this story… (i.e., on: 2001) Much more than that, because in the real solid writing period, it was like 8 hours a day – but let’s just say it averaged four hours a day for two years say, an average of six days a week – that’s twenty-four hours a week, times maybe a hundred weeks… I’d say there’s a good 2400 hours, spent, on two and – call it two hours and 40 minutes of story, so that’s about: a thousand to one. (1000:1)

JB: Yeah…

SK: On the story – and that’s where the real `crunch’ is put…


JB: One doesn’t get the impression that film directors can think much.

SK: You say that! They’re supposed to. [Laughter] Let’s get this quote – I think we ran out (of tape). The analogy of: using the frustrating wasted-time periods on the set, for thinking — with thinking on your opponent’s move in chess.

JB: Tell me – the thing about, the daily working – with or without Cutters (Editors)- which I didn’t completely understand… He said that, when he directs, that he has a cutter who works every day – and that you do not have a cutter who works every day – and that this is somehow a good thing?

SK: With the exception of a few directors – like David Lean, and… well let’s not say who – with the exception of a few directors – most people have their film edited by Film Editors, as they go along. And then when the film is done, they look at the film – and dictate some notes about it – and the film editor tries to do what they say, and then maybe they look at it again – and they do it again… But basically, it’s like trying to, say, redesign a city by driving through it in a car… You know. You can notice a few things – and say, you know “Put that traffic light in the middle of the street”, or, “Those buildings over there look kind of shabby” or something, but – if you really want to do it right, you must do it yourself, you know, piece by piece… – So I think that by now, I have enough sort of ability to imagine the way a scene will come out – so that I can tell, without editing the material, if I have enough film coverage, and you know, what I can do with it… And then, I edit the film with the editor myself, when the film is – when I’m all finished (shooting).

JB: But – you haven’t done any editing (on 2001), up to now…

SK: None, no – just the thing, just slinging together that thing you saw–

JB: Because I don’t see how, I mean – you have these you know, a couple of these few-minute sequences – now, I don’t see how you could edit that, really?

SK: Well – you haven’t seen the- that’s only a fraction of the material… In other words, what you’ve seen is: only the `comings and goings’ of other scenes, to just show you what the set looks like – I mean, we’ve shot about 80,000 feet of film already…

JB: What is 80,000 feet, in time?

SK: Ah – it’s about, uh – well, it’s fifty-four hundred feet an hour… [laughs] …It’s six – six times nine, yeah fifty four hundred feet an hour.

JB: How much film will you shoot, before the whole picture is done?

SK: …By the way – that isn’t a lot of film… people have shot a million feet of film, actually!

JB: You mean, in their lives-?

SK: No, I mean in a film! So, say a picture is three hours long – it would be: sixteen thousand, two hundred feet… So, what ratio is that? That’s about… fifty to one (50:1), or something…

JB: More…

SK: Fifty-something to one… Ninety percent – to one!


SK: Film directing, I think is a misnomer for anybody that seriously wants to make films – because directing the film is only – you might say – one third of the process, you know – writing the film, directing the film, and then editing the film, is you might say, the whole job… And it was really, it’s only the old `major studio’ sort of image, of how a film was made: that the producer held in his hand, on the palette, you know, the various people: the artists, the cameraman, the actors, the film editor, the director and so the director was really just sort of like a senior member of the crew. [Laughs] And that you know, he had no real integrating status in what happened – I mean there were the few exceptional characters, even in the days of – the great days of the Hollywood studios – who somehow exerted their authority over what went on… but I mean, even today, you know, you talk about directors who have the right of, what they call, the First Cut – which means they must approve the First Cut – but after then, the Producer can do whatever he wants…

JB: So, it’s a meaningless right?

SK: Virtually – and it’s a right to try to persuade someone – because I mean, if you don’t even have the right of the First Cut, you can’t even explain what you want! But I have – you know – I do the cutting myself…

JB: You have a picture of yours, at this stage – is your picture. Completely elbows them out. Is that- has it always been like that, or?

SK: Well let’s see… it was like that on Dr. Strangelove and Lolita – and I think, on Paths of Glory, I don’t remember… Subject to: Delivering the minimum censorship requirements, to playing it – and the way you make deals – the way you make that arrangement, is – you say: The picture will not be longer than a certain period of time – and that you will deliver the minimum required censorship, so that the picture can be played… I mean, in other words – if they just say “Give it to us any way you want” and you deliver a picture that it’s legally unplayable… They have to protect themselves against that…

JB: What do you feel about your pictures being shown on television?

SK: Um – well, I wish that they didn’t put the commercials in… The worst thing that they sometimes do is cut the films…

JB: You don’t retain any rights over that?

SK: Well, in some of the films I do, but then – you know, it’s terribly difficult to police it… because unless you see the film (on TV) yourself, there are very few people who are qualified to tell you what was cut – in fact, I mean, even if a friend calls up and says, you know “I saw such-and-such-a-film and it looked cut” you know, and you say: “Well, what was cut out?” and they say “Well I don’t know – but I think it was cut.” – Well it’s almost impossible to find out, what was done… It’s a peculiar problem.

JB: Preminger just lost a court case over that –

SK: I believe his case was against interruption of commercials –

JB: Well – I think and

SK: I don’t think he was the cutting issue – I don’t know; perhaps you’re right.

JB: Commercials were certainly the key thing – but Lilly Ross had a piece about that case in the New Yorker and there that’s described as the reason why he lost – which is basically that he knew what he was doing, when he signed the agreement…

SK: Well I mean, that’s it; they either have the right to do it, or they don’t.


Transcript of Stanley Kubrick Interview

(Interviews by Michel Ciment, various years)

Interviews Transcribed by: Dr J T Velikovsky Ph.D


25th August 2019

These (transcribed) interviews came from:

Stanley Kubrick and the cinema experience (France Culture, 2019, online)

And see also the re-edited, rewritten, published Ciment interviews, here. (e.g. Barry Lyndon & The Shining). In fact I recommend reading those first…

But here’s the transcription of Kubrick originally verbalizing his answers. In some cases I couldn’t figure out what Ciment was saying so have included certain of the revised re-edited rewritten published interviews. Also, in some cases, I have had to approximate what I thought was being said by both. Either way you can check and compare what I have written here by listening to the France Culture eps. Or the below Youtube version, which is also edited and compressed… In short – these raw materials are sometimes a bit tricky to navigate (and perceive/hear/comprehend), but – still, it’s a fascinating insight into a genius’s mind (Kubrick) either way. Probably.

Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket (3 x Ciment interviews)

Okay so – here’s the Transcripts. (Disclaimer: a word or a short phrase here and there may be approximate, not perfectly accurate. But I think the intention is right? Anyway Comment below if anything is wrong and I can try and correct it.)

Kubrick – The Ciment Interviews (Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket)

Transcribed by JT Velikovsky

[With some inserts of: Ciment’s Questions from the final published Interviews…]

24th Aug 02019



[Michel Ciment: “You have given almost no interviews on Barry Lyndon. Does this decision relate to this film particularly, or is it because you are reluctant to speak about your work?”] [This Ciment Q is from: the final published interviews]

Stanley Kubrick: “…I have done interviews with the American press… it was really a question of time… The picture (Barry Lyndon) was ready, only weeks before it opened – but I did see – oh, I don’t know – 9 or 10 American press… I also don’t particularly enjoy [laughs] the interviews… One always feel under the obligation to say some witty, brilliant summary of the intentions of the film, related to film style, or technique… Y’know, some critics say it very well, but even then – it isn’t really meaningful, in terms of whatever one thought oneself about the film…

Michel Ciment: “Is Barry Lyndon more difficult to talk about than your other films?”

[MC: Do you feel that Barry Lyndon is a more secret film, more difficult to talk about?]

SK: Well it’s more difficult, only in the sense that, it doesn’t involve contemporary social, topical issues one can talk around, instead of talking about the film – y’know, with Dr. Strangelove you could talk about the problems of nuclear war; 2001 you could talk about extra-terrestrial intelligence, or, future social structures… I’ve never found it meaningful – or even possible – to talk about film aesthetics, in terms of my own films…

MC: How do you explain some of the reviews of the film, where they weren’t impressed?

SK: I must say that the American reviews – most of the reviews – were very favourable – in fact, they were some of the best reviews I’ve ever gotten… There are certain critics in America that have not liked any of my films… some of them go back to Paths of Glory: Pauline Kael, John Simon, Stanley Kaufman, Andrew Sarris – the “New York Group”.

And the only – the thing I have noticed with many critics – after a certain length of time, they become committed to a view, about different directors, y’know?… And, although they could – possibly – if they were overwhelmed one way or the other, shift around – but they tend to have formulated an attitude about certain people: they either like everything they do, or don’t like it. [Laughs] The mass psychology of film critics is hard to interpret.

…It’s always been the result of all my pictures – whatever they are – that there’s always been a group that doesn’t like them. Y’know, and there’s new reasons every time – you know, it never relates to the last reason… I don’t know why it is – but I can’t – the English reaction I can’t explain, except to say: most of the English critics aren’t particularly good – and some of the ones who are, you know – who are serious – …I don’t know-?

I think the last picture where the English critics have been very positive was Doctor Strangelove. I don’t know, there obviously are cultural differences, in reactions to films… Kurosawa went absolutely crazy over the picture… Peter Brook – who I never met – sent me a note from Paris…

MC: Precisely, what led you to want to make this story?

[MC: Your last three films were set in the future. What led you to make an historical film?]

SK: Well I mean, I don’t know what led me to make any of the films really, that I’ve made… I just became interested in them, when I read them – or when I thought about the subject… Because I’m now going through the problem of trying to decide what film to make next – and I realize that my own thought processes are very hard to define, in terms of: What story do you want to make into a film? …You can say a lot of things about what it should be; you know – it should be: an interesting story; the characters should be interesting; it should offer possibilities for cinematic beauty, in terms of photography and editing; and visual settings – it should give the actors opportunities to display emotions, and in the end, it should be truthful and honest in dealing with the thematic material…

But that doesn’t really tell you why you finally choose something, you know – in the end it does become this very indefinable thing, like – you know – why do you find one particular girl attractive, or, why did you marry your wife?

MC: Since you are completely free in your choice of story material, how did you come to pick up a book by Thackeray, almost forgotten and hardly republished since the nineteenth century?

SK: I have a complete set of Thackeray, and I’ve read other Thackeray… Vanity Fair interested me at one time – but I felt that the story couldn’t be successfully compressed into a relatively short period of three hours, into a film… It just seemed – I liked it

Michel Ciment: “Is it also the fact that you wanted to make – at one moment, Napoleon, but it fell over… Was it, this kind of hunger for doing something historical, but after Napoleon was cancelled, then you switched to this film?”

SK: If it was, it was unconscious… Historical films offer possibilities of doing the sort of things that movies do better than anything else, y’know – recreating atmosphere – just as futuristic films do…

Y’know, I mean, description is the most boring thing in a novel – whereas in a movie, what you put on the screen – this is effortless to the audience – but a great effort to the makers of the film… and I suppose that, y’know, I would always be attracted to something which offered interesting visual possibilities, but I – but – no, it just fell into that indefinable area of: wanting to do it.

MC: Have there been historical movies that that give you clues, or that you found satisfying?

SK: I can’t think of any offhand…? Most historical films have not been good… I think one of the best ones – was it Rossellini who did that French television movie…?

MC: The Rise of Louis the Fourteenth?

SK: Yeah – that seemed good. …That’s been one of the very few, that I can think of…

MC: Have you seen La Marseilles (Renoir 1938)?

SK: Yeah. I liked it – but it seemed to have many of the defects of historical movies.

MC: Do you like writing alone, or do you prefer a writing partner?

SK: I would love to write with someone who I found stimulating, and on the same wavelength… The only person that I’ve ever felt that with, was with Arthur Clarke, when we were working on the original story of 2001: A Space Odyssey – But, when you get into the filming, let’s say, frequently many adjustments in the plot have to be made; you know, one of the paradoxes of movies is that, y’know, people who really can write, don’t write film scripts – unless they’re directors [laughs] – in which case, y’know, they’re writing for themselves!

MC: But when you write, do you do only exclusively writing, as opposed to, the shooting?

SK …You never stop writing it… I mean the first draft probably took 3 or 4 months – but the thing is – you never stop changing… I wish that were true (that you write, then: film). There are always other things that are happening – but I find that, the structure, you know, the events – if they’re right – you know, if the moments are right, it usually is fairly simple to write the scene. There are times in various films, where there hasn’t even been time to write the scenes – it’s never been solved, until say two days before you do it – you just couldn’t think of the way to do it – once you know what’s supposed to happen [SK clicks his fingers]; you really sort of `write the scene on the actors’ as it were, in the rehearsal – I mean, that part of the scene – the dialogue – is not the most difficult part… It isn’t in this type of story (Barry Lyndon) – it is, obviously, in a film where someone’s gonna sit and talk for 30 minutes in one place, y’know, like a play…  But – y’know – when the attitude of the people is correct – and the purpose of the scene is correct – and the action of the scene is interesting – then the rest of it, is pretty simple.

MC: How did you come to make some crucial choices – like, for instance, the first-person narration commentary, in Barry Lyndon?

[MC: How did you come to adopt a third-person commentary instead of the first-person narrative which is found in the book?]

SK: The `first-person’ (narration) in the book (Barry Lyndon) was useful, because he presented the story, and you had to reason through the real facts – seemed to me that if you did that in a film – and you saw objective reality, the film would have to be a comedy – and somehow it didn’t really seem to lend itself to being comic… It worked, that technique, for the novel; it just didn’t seem to me it would work well for the film…

[MC: You didn’t think of having no commentary?]

SK: Well there was too much story to tell; I like using a narrator, to spare you from the labor of expositional scenes, y’know… It’s a technique that I think, y’know, works very well – when you have a broad canvas, it’s almost impossible not to use it, I think? Because otherwise you’re burdened with scenes that are really just expositional, and always seem unreal…

[MC: When he is going to meet the Chevalier Balibari, the commentary anticipates the emotions we are about to see, thus possibly lessening their effect.]

SK: One of the techniques of the novel that I did keep, is that: Thackeray always warned you in advance, of important plot-events… I felt that this was important, because first of all, it was in the book – and it seemed to me, it kept the – it made the twists and turns of the story somehow seem more inevitable – and less: `popping up, like a jack-in-the-box’ – by him anticipating major changes, and warning you – it immediately establishes a relationship, which might be less believable, without it… It tends to be a story of, y’know – which doesn’t depend on surprise – in terms of what’s gonna happen, but how it’s gonna happen. If you saw a film about the sinking of the Titanic, and you didn’t know that it was going to sink, you’d wonder what 90 percent of the film was about [laughs] before it hit the iceberg! So, there is another way to tell a story; there is a different kind of suspense. Or let’s say, narrative – like being told in advance of impending disaster – and then seeing how it develops.

MC: Your depth of research is notorious. Is it a thrill for you, the film story research – being like, a reporter – or a detective?

SK: I mean it is a little bit like a detective, looking for clues… For Barry Lyndon I created a picture-file of thousands of drawings and paintings… for every type of reference, you know that we could have wanted. – I think, I destroyed every Art Book that you can buy, in the bookshop – by tearing the pages out – and certainly tried to make it look like the paintings… The costumes were all copied from paintings… I think this has become, you know, the only respectable – in fact the only sensible way to do historical costumes… it’s stupid to have a – quote – “a Designer, interpret the 18th century” as they may remember it from art school, or from a few pictures they get together… Nobody could have a feeling – even if they academically studied it – nobody could have a feeling for designing clothes out of their own period… Very few people have a feeling for designing clothes in their own period, so… But it is fun, accumulating the information… Y’know, it’s part of the problem – that: you have to learn something, y’know – in depth – about something (e.g. a time-period) that you start off, knowing very little about.

MC: But would you agree that realism helps create the illusion?

SK: Well, it has to have the appearance of being realistic, y’know, since part of the problem of any story is, to make you believe what you’re seeing… There are obviously other things that are more crucial – like people’s – the behavior of the characters in the story; certainly getting a realistic atmosphere, and an interesting atmosphere – especially if it’s not a contemporary period, is – you might just say, y’know just necessary, as a starting point. It also obviously has another area of pleasure, in seeing visual beauty, and seeing the re-creation of a historical period.

MC: Yes but in the same way as, (there is) the danger of the picaresque, that you can lose yourself in detail…?

SK: No – I mean, you could have a film that wouldn’t be interesting, whether there was detail or no detail… – The thing is, if you do a contemporary thing, you don’t have the problem, because it’s there… And you certainly are no danger of `losing yourself in detail’… – All you’re really trying to do is, to: get things to a level that they are, if you were shooting on a location, in 1976… That’s the problem.

MC: Talk about the lighting?

SK: Well that’s something that I’ve always been very bothered by – in period films – is the light, on interiors, it’s so false. And, when you see a room that’s entirely lit by candles, it just looks completely different, and it’s of course, very beautiful… So I wanted to do this – and I found this lens, and had a camera specially adapted to shoot with it – and I think that you know, the night scenes are particularly beautiful.

MC: John Alcott in American Cinematographer that, somehow it was impossible sometimes to get natural light?

SK: But – this is true if you shot in this office, now – you might have a very weak fill-in light, because the light from the window is, you know, would be too contrasty – well with the candles, we had very, very weak light – sort of bouncing off the ceiling… But what they would generally call the key-light, was always behind the camera.

MC: And for the windows?

SK: The daylight windows?

MC: Yes.

SK: Well those were always, again – attempting to look like daylight – but in fact there were always lights outside the window. I mean, you might say that: no film should ever be made, which doesn’t look as realistic as possible… Unless you have some other objective…

MC: Did you make it as realistic as possible?

SK: …Well I mean for most of the elegant rooms, it would be almost out of the question… It went even beyond money… Once you’re shooting as many scenes as we did – the smaller scenes just fill in, as cover for exteriors – there was no point in, both being in Wiltshire, and then having to come back to studios in London – it was far easier to do everything on location.

MC: […indecipherable question?]

SK: Well – any historical film, as I say – it’s very much like a science fiction film. You’re trying to create something that doesn’t exist…

MC: Talk about the NASA lens technology.

SK: You know, people have written a lot about that lens… Once the lens was purchased, and the camera was adapted for it – then it just was, no different than any other lens, it was just fast

MC: For instance, the faces come out like Goya (paintings).

SK: Candlelight of course, looks completely different…  You realize why, those paintings that are done in candlelight – the colors look the way they do.

MC: Mm-hmm.

SK: You know, there’s no way of putting filters on lamps, to make it look like candlelight- One had never seen movies photographed in candlelight…


MC: I think you are an innovator, you like to break with tradition… like Jean-Luc Godard?

SK: Well, I think, one of the things that characterizes some of the failures of 20th-century Art, is an obsession with total originality… y’know, in painting, in music… Even – take, you know, people – innovators like Beethoven – and so I mean, it isn’t a complete departure from the music that preceded it… I think that, culturally, any kind of innovation means, y’know, moving it forward, but not abandoning, y’know, what you could – although it’s hard to use a phrase like this in movies – but you know, the “classical form” of the art form that you’re working in.

MC: For instance in the use of music you have apparently completely abandoned…

SK: Well I wouldn’t abandon it, if I was using contemporary music – but I just don’t see how – if you’re using orchestral music, why should you go to a hundredth-rate – I should think it must be like that – composer? There’s no point in having somebody try to write something like Mozart…

MC: No, I wasn’t saying that-

SK: Well, in 2001, I used Ligeti… Well – let’s say, in 2001, you could have, gotten somebody to write it specially. But it’s such a colossal gamble – and it’s done at the last minute, y’know, if they don’t do what you want, there’s no time to do anything about it – I mean if you’re not happy with it – it’s (music soundtrack) always done in, twelve weeks or something, so – if you find the music that seems right, it seems pointless to not to use it. Schubert was an interesting problem, because at first I wanted to stick entirely to 18th century music – although there’s no rule that says you have to – I think I now have every piece of 18th century music that’s been recorded on an LP… I listen to everything very carefully, and unfortunately there is no passion – there’s nothing even remotely that could pass for a Love Theme – that had a sort of tragic passionate feeling that The Schubert Trio had – so I finally cheated a few years – and it still had a feeling of tragic romance… The other thing you don’t find in 18th century music is: dramatic…!

MC: And as for the orchestration…

SK: With Handel, we did talk about it at great length – and did actually talk about the instrumentation… I actually heard this played on a guitar, it seemed to me the nearest thing that you could come to (Ennio) Morricone, y’know, and still not do something that seems like a terrible anomaly, you know, in the story. – And in fact, when we recorded it, we even experimented with different combinations – basically it was – there were very few instruments – just celli, violins, bass… To keep it from being a musical anomaly, we didn’t want to get into any involved orchestrational textures – you couldn’t say it fits into any period of music. And this seemed to suit the purposes; it could be emotional; it could be a sad version of it, and it could be a dramatic version. Whereas the rest of the film was all – well, it was The Chieftains.

MC: Music is also important in the characters’ relationship – because, in the first concert, Bullingdon is there and the second also…

SK: Those are those patterns again… [laughs]

MC: Bullingdon and Alex have a physical resemblance..

SK: He was just the best actor who we found to play the part.

MC: Because Alex looks like an 18th  century character…

SK: Well they both happen to look similar.

MC: How do you direct actors?

SK: Well, first of all, y’know, you discuss the character in general – and then you discuss the scene, y’know – what the characters real attitude is in, the scene – which frequently isn’t exactly what it appears to be, y’know, in terms of the story – then comes this terrible moment of, the first time that you actually rehearse the scene – in the place you’re going to shoot it – it’s always a surprise; it’s never what you thought it would be… the text usually has to be changed in some way or another… New ideas occur, y’know… old ideas are dropped – and at that point, it then becomes relatively easy… The actual shooting – usually – is not the problem; the problem happens before you’re ready to shoot. Once everybody knows what they’re doing – and you know that it’s good – or, interesting – the main thing really is making the thing happen: so you know that it’s doing what it should do…

MC: The attitude towards the character (i.e., Redmond Barry) – I feel that you feel divided towards, you know…

[MC: In the first part of A Clockwork Orange, we were against Alex. In the second part, we were on his side. In this film, the attraction/repulsion feeling towards Barry is present throughout.]

SK: Y’know, Thackeray called it “a novel without a hero”… It is, y’know, it is that – What you’ve described is the way he wrote it, and Barry’s actions and his ambitions and so forth do leave you feeling: ambivalent…

MC: Some people said this character is unsympathetic.

SK: I don’t see how you can have no sympathy for him. It’s the weakness of his character – and the trap that he places himself in, as a result of his ambitions – and the limitation of his personality that arises from, y’know, his – the cynicism which develops from – y’know – his early relationships with people… He then becomes a very, y’know, limited person. He certainly is not a `conventional hero’ – or even a `conventional villain’… I mean; most people are: like that.

MC: The feeling of the film at the end is: utter waste!

SK: …It is tragic – but then, y’know, melodrama uses all the problems of the world, and all the disasters which befall the main characters to finally show you that the world is a benevolent and fair place… all the tests and trials, and seeming misfortunes which occur, in the end, just reinforce this belief… – But tragedy – or, an honesty – or an attempt at presenting life as reality, rather than melodrama, can leave you with a feeling of desolation.

MC: Because this last sentence [the end title card of the film Barry Lyndon]: “They are all equal now”. Is it Religious? Or nihilistic?

SK: I mean, it seemed a very… they’re all dead…?!

MC: Are you a Believer? (I think Ciment here means: Religious? Life after death, etc? – JTV)

SK: No, you could even just – it just seemed to me – and I guess, to Thackeray – a very good PostScript to the story.

MC: But I’m not just thinking about Barry Lyndon, but your films in general – so you can’t protect yourself from great despair…?

SK: I wouldn’t say, y’know, honestly – I think that – I do think that the comparison between melodrama and honesty does depend, I suppose, on the weight that you give it; but basically, if you use the – all the difficulties which befall the main characters – the story is to – in the end – reinforce the belief – then you’re not really saying what things appear to be…? How disappointing you make the end of a film is a matter of, I suppose, taste – or artistic balance, whatever it is – but y’know – you always are faced with the problem of: Are you going to try to reinforce this illusion, which melodrama fosters — or are you going to try to reflect what one sees about life?

MC: Hmm… So would you say that it’s Nihilistic?

SK: No – I just I think it’s realistic?! No, I mean – Does the world seem to you, a benevolent and fair place? [Laughs]

MC: [Laughs] No… no.

SK: The solution may only be that: It’s possible to carry on… Y’know, despite all these things that one observes… Certainly, the solution doesn’t have to pretend that: the world is a different place than it appears to be… The fact that the world is that way, doesn’t mean that everything is going to come to a stop, or that people don’t get pleasure from their lives.

MC: Mm-hmm.

SK: Certainly, the `formula’ approach – which presents the world in a way other than it is, doesn’t seem to have a great deal of merit – unless you’re just: making entertainment?

MC: You get the feeling from your films – and particularly this one – that the world is at war all the time. In 2001, even the apes are fighting.

SK: Well I mean – in a work of fiction, y’know, you have to have conflict…? You wouldn’t – you couldn’t have a story, where something wasn’t wrong… [Laughs] …Even in The Sound of Music, something goes wrong!

…In addition to which, it’s (Barry Lyndon) not an inaccurate picture of the way most peoples’ lives are structured. I mean – How many happy marriages are there? And how many fathers love their stepsons? And how many stepsons love their stepfathers…? And how often do people who have ambitions which only involve money – how often do they find that satisfying? Especially in his case (Barry), where it virtually paralyzes all of his activity, y’know, from a broad sort of psychological pattern – you could say that, while he is struggling, and “out in the world”, things happen to him which he doesn’t like – but at least his life is vital. Until the time he gets married – and he accomplishes what he thinks he’s going to get, then everything just becomes gray and dismal, and wearing away at him… He’s completely unsuited for the life, not only socially – but temperamentally – and so he puts himself into a gilded cage – from then on, everything goes sour.

MC: You’re interested in chess… In the film there are duels, and games, and gambling…? DO you like games, and sets of rules?

SK: I mean, most films are like – they’re almost like an athletics contest, in that you start with a plan… and depending on where the ball bounces, and where people are standing – opportunities arise, which if you can exploit… just make it better! There’s a marvellous James Joyce quote – he said something about: “Accidents are the portals to – accidents suddenly open up entrances – to things that you hadn’t thought of”… and, obviously, if you exploit them correctly, they add a dimension to what you’re doing, which – if you ignore – is very limiting…

[Side Note: James Joyce wrote in Ulysses: “A man of genius makes no mistakes, his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” – JTV]

MC: Would you say there were more accidents on this film?

SK: Most films consist of – most films are like –

MC: More than on say 2001?

SK: Well, that’s not true – there were accidents in 2001… I mean certainly in the story structure…


SK: I mean I was a pretty good chess player – I used to play in the Marshal and the Manhattan chess clubs in New York… I was not obviously a great chess player – but it teaches you to overcome the initial excitement of something that looks good – and to analyze it… Even Bobby Fischer – or Karpov – cannot see to the end of the game… I mean, they can analyse deeper than anybody else can – but they – none of them can see all the way. I mean part of the decision is based on the analysis, and the rest on a feeling. Probably mostly on the analysis. When you’re making a film, basically you have to – once you start – you have to make most of your decisions on some sort of intuitive basis… There really isn’t time, no matter hiw slow the schedule may seem to somebody on the outside – to make so many decisions, that you couldn’t possibly really sit down and analyze to any great extent… but at least – even if you stopped for a minute – you will prevent yourself from making a mistake, where something looks initially attractive, but when you really think about it, it isn’t right. …It’s more, I would say, chess is more for preventing you from making mistakes, than it is for giving you ideas… The ideas seem to come spontaneously – and seem to be born whole – but the discipline of examining them, and not just saying “Oh that sounds great!” …I think that’s something which chess teaches you. It also teaches you to, y’know, thinking – on a movie set is one of the hardest things to do, it’s very distracting – there’s millions of people moving around, you know, money is being spent at a very rapid rate… Most of the mistakes you see in films, are really because people just don’t even – I mean it wouldn’t – if they avoided the mistakes – you look and see so many things that everybody in the audience sees is stupid, but nobody seemed to realize it when they were doing it. And I think it’s really because there’s an awful lot of filming that goes on, where people literally just don’t think for a moment… They get an idea, and they’re so thankful to have an idea, that they just do it [Laughs]. So I think that’s where chess helps, along those lines.



SK: After Barry Lyndon, I’ve never had another film clearly in mind as I was making a film. Whenever I finish a film, I just start to read… I waste a lot of time… I wish I could make films more often, but – this just came to me. It took – must have been four or five months after the film came out… I don’t find any systematic way of reading. It’s a terrifying prospect to realize: all the books there are in the world, that you’re never gonna read… So: What you should read? So I find by just reading at random, it seems like the best approach. Since there’s no systematic way…

MC: In the case of this film (The Shining), were you more interested in the paranormal?

SK: Well in this case it was the fiction, not the facts… Just like everybody else, I’m fascinated by the various experiments, and the stories which have been published about ESP… And y’know, psychokinesis – but it certainly didn’t start with a desire to do something on that subject… The book (The Shining) was sent to me in a manuscript form by John Calley at Warner Brothers. I’ve always enjoyed the genre (Horror) in literature – and I felt that I hadn’t really seen a picture that properly presented, y’know, that genre. There have been pictures which have had shocks in them, and which have had some wonderfully gory or horrific moments – but to properly, y’know, present that type of a story, in a way where, you could just believe – and get involved in the story. And y’know, the supernatural events were presented in a way which seemed dramatically realistic.

…Well this is what I found so ingenious about the way the novel was written – as the various supernatural events occurred, when you read something like that, you always wonder to yourself: How is the writer ever going to explain this? The way the way the story is written, you assume – as you read it – that the things that are happening are probably going to be a product of his imagination, and I think this allows you to start accepting them – and not worry about it… And it isn’t really until the bolt is opened on the larder, that you’re absolutely certain, that it isn’t part of his imagination – because he couldn’t open the bolt from the outside… And it wasn’t a `great work of literature’ in the sense that, the writing was marvelous – or that the characters were particularly well-presented… But I felt, in a story like this, it didn’t really matter that the plot was the cardinal point – and that the characterization and everything else when you make a movie out of it – could be, y’know improved.

MC: But don’t you think that it’s somehow in today, it’s in popular literature, like that, there – that you find strong archetypes that you know cinema, extremely fits.

SK: Well, there’s no doubt that I think that both novelists and filmmakers, consciously or unconsciously, are encountering the problem of: What importance is a story? …Is it more than just a way of keeping people’s attention, while you exercise the more subtle aspects of the medium that you’re working with? Or – is the story the most important thing? …Or is the story just a means of producing pleasure and holding your interest, and execution of the of the art form becomes the – what the artist is interested in… I don’t know. I think that, realistic fiction and realistic drama, must be encountering some limits now; where people feel that, it either takes too long to make a point – and that the points that are made are not that important… I mean nobody has any profound answers to anything –

On a psychological level, and the archetypes, and details of life, introspection, and so forth  – I suppose you could also say that: Just as a ghost story has its basic appeal in its promise of immortality, it’s possible that – many types of genre material are really ways of thinking about death…? The classical love story always ends with a death – of one or both of the lovers – or certainly, their eternal separation – in a way, that too, has the promise that at least, when you die – someone will care. A lot. And, I haven’t really completed this thought – but I have a suspicion that – on a psychological level, raw, dramatic plots may function on that level…?

MC: And once you had decided to pick up this film, that the fiction drew you- did you do research on the paranormal?

SK: I think it’s entirely possible that ESP has been proven to exist – and that even other forms of the occult, and psychokinetic experiments and reports are true? – I wish somebody would prove it a little more conclusively…

MC: Mm-hmm…

SK: It’s also possible that, it’s the kind of thing which cannot be tested, in the way that they’ve tried to test it… I – I’ve certainly seen behavior in dogs and cats, which to me seem fairly conclusive proof that there is a nonverbal form of mental communication which occurs… I mean, I have a cat who frequently gets clumps in her fur. She hates to have her coat combed. And, I mean, this has happened – I should think a dozen times – I’ve only to sort of touch her, and think about it – not even move – and she’ll suddenly just dive under the bed, and hide – and before I even move! And I touch her all the time…? She often has knots (in her fur). Now, I think to myself “Well I must be – maybe I’m doing something, I’m moving?” I think she – it’s because, she can tell that I’m thinking of combing her coat-!

MC: Mm-hmm.


SK: Telephone ringing…


MC: With Roy Walker, did you have a complete idea of the hotel structure?

SK: We made models, of all the rooms in the (Overlook) hotel. Well first of all – we decided that since it was a supernatural story, that we didn’t want to have any kind of impressionistic sets… You know, an Art Director’s idea of what `a hotel full of ghosts’ would look like. We wanted it to look like a real hotel – and this also was carried forward into the lighting, and everything else… It always seemed to me that, the guide for this sort of thing was, the way Kafka writes – as opposed to the films that have been made about Kafka’s work. Kafka writes in a very simple – almost journalistic – style, but all the films have these bizarre sets, and strange-looking things and so forth – and, none of those Kafka films, as far as I’m concerned have ever really worked…? Kafka should be done, you know, like a very simple, straightforward – like it’s real! Once we decided that it should be as realistic as possible, we went all over America, photographing different hotels… And then to make it absolutely correct, every single detail was copied – so that, you know, we didn’t fall into the trap – what I think is a trap – of, you know – “haunted-hotel look”…

MC: And the paradox is, the ghosts look like real people, the darkness is outside, they go into the maze…

SK: When you do read reports of people who have seen ghosts, and things like that – they always describe them as being, as solid and real as someone standing in the room… I mean, only in movies does the convention come up, of ghosts being ethereal… All the descriptions I’ve ever read, where people actually claim they’ve seen ghosts – is that the people are very solid and real – and it takes place in very ordinary circumstances – so I felt in this case, it was important to go against the cliché of how it’s presented in movies – I mean, this gets into one of those fundamental questions that most Art Directors would argue with you about – Y’know: Do you try to imagine something – or, do you take a real hotel? It’s like the way costumes used to be done in historical movies, before Zeffirelli and Visconti… And if you made a Costume Picture, you’d get a Costume Designer – and from their vast store of culture they would draw costumes for you. But Visconti and Zeffirelli suddenly made it artistically acceptable to copy paintings… Well I think, the same thing really is true in many instances with sets – …if the real things are there…?


SK: I mean, the other problem is – the length of a movie imposes tremendous restrictions as to the amount of story you can ever tell… Certainly, if you tell it in a conventional way – which this is, told in a conventional way (The Shining)…

I must say, I still would like to make a movie, which is structured more the way Silent Movies were structured, than the way Sound movies are… We started to talk earlier about Sound – I think that, one of the prices that have been paid for Sound is that – you always – movies always think of scenes in terms of “theatrical scenes”, you know – even if they’re short, you know – they’re thought of as a scene… Whereas in in the silent movies, you could make a little simple statement – like saying “Bill’s Uncle”… And then you illustrate – there’s Bill’s uncle, on the back porch, you know, fixing a bicycle… and then you get onto something else… You had much greater scope I think, in a narrative – I would certainly like to make a movie which told a story differently than really, a series of scenes, which – in most movies – could be told on the stage…

I mean – paying a very small price – with a little bit of impressionistic stage-lighting, and scenery-changes – you could almost – there’s very few movies, that could not have been told in a theatre… It isn’t so much “saying something”… it’s: the way you think of conveying information. The dialogue tends to be the main way of communicating information. I think that there’s probably a much more cinematic way to do it – and it has much more to do with silent films…

MC: But people accepted it in 2001

SK: Even that, though, was scenes…? You know – there’s a Scene… somebody comes in; somebody will do something… Scenes are of a certain length… I have a feeling that you could have a story that had much greater narrative scope, if you decided that certain things would merely be illustrated – and other things would be dramatized… You could say that – in most films, virtually – I mean in all films – everything is dramatized… Nothing is just lightly illustrated – and, saves itself to decide: Which things need dramatic weight – and which things could just be visually Illustrated – and, just stated simply. I mean – only the silent film has done it – and, TV commercials; in 30 seconds, a point is made…

MC: You are extremely interested in knowing things, in 2001. But this film is about William James’ spoke about aspects of unexplained experiences

SK: Well obviously, in this type of story – you must – you are in an area where, not only the intellectual explorations stop – but I mean, you’re in an area where: no one’s even sure whether it’s true? Let alone – how can you explain it? So you know – if you, from a dramatic point of view just accept, saying “It’s true” – you can’t got much further than that…? So you say now, if it was true, how would it – how would it happen?

MC: But it’s a defeat of reason?

SK: It’s going into areas where reason is of no great help… I mean, reason simply – reason doesn’t help you… You’re in an area where – as I say, it’s more like music – than rational thought. You know there are areas where rationality can take you up to the border – and from there on, it’s poetical or musical or imaginative… I think with this type of story, if you try to be verbally analytical, it becomes slightly ridiculous – either you make too much of it – or you reduce it to some sort of ultra-clear absurdity… I think – the musical or poetic sort of manipulation of the material is the most important thing, in this type of a story… Did we ever talk about Freud’s essay on `The Uncanny’?

MC: No-?

SK: He made an interesting point – he said that, The Uncanny, he said, is something – is the only emotion – or the only feeling, which for most people, is more powerfully experienced in Art or Literature, than in life… It’s interesting. Perhaps, semi- y’know, -justification of the genre – for whatever value it is, it is an interesting point… Obviously, our ability to get into the most profound questions which people ponder, which we realize how rationalism takes you so far – and you don’t really feel it’s far enough… Now maybe, going into it in a poetical or a musical sense isn’t of any great value – but it’s certainly a temptation, to do it. It’s interesting.

MC: Of course, what is dangerous is that – some people can take the message and make it into this muddy mysticism…

SK: Y’know, but I mean, there’s always a danger, people will always misinterpret in some way almost anything – usually just to support a view which they held, before they saw it. Most things really are, people  simply take from it, what they already believe… I wonder what percent of people ever actually encounter a work of art, and it changes them – a view that they have? …Maybe if they’re fifteen or sixteen years old? [laughs]

MC: Did you have a religious upbringing, or?

SK: Uh – No, no.



MC: Full Metal Jacket. Did you always want to make a movie about Vietnam (the war)?

SK: No… I have always been interested in Vietnam… I’m interested in a lot of things. This arose out of a chance encounter with the book – which I suppose is how all of them have come to be… In the course of reading and reading and reading, I found that – somebody sent me the book (Gustav Hasford’s The Short Timers) – not even sure who – it just, was immediately struck by the book… I was reading fiction, anything that sounded like it might be good, you know? I mean this one came with a very good Virginia Kirkus review… Newsweek said, on the cover, “the best work of fiction about the Vietnam War” – so it didn’t take a lot of brains to read it – and it struck me as so original in its point of view, and it’s economy of statement, you know – it leaves out all of the “mandatory scenes” that every war film has, which you know `fill you in’ you know, on: who everybody is… You only find out about the people in the course of the main action of the story – and, then – very economically – no one has the big character-speeches, that slow the films down – and are obviously unnecessary… Because people seem to identify very strongly with the characters, and pick – and get a sense of the relationships, from the most economical…

MC: So you liked the book.

SK: The first thing I thought – and this I think is common of all the books that I’ve done that we’re really interesting – first thing I thought is “My god – I really enjoyed that… Could you actually make a movie from that?” There’s something about the originality of attitude – it doesn’t suggest anything that you’ve seen already, I mean – so you don’t immediately go – “click” – and say “Right – another Star Wars” or you know “Another Godfather…” you know – it’s something like that… Books that seem safe – they’re familiar – and people have done things like it… And the tone of this movie is unique… I don’t think anybody’s made a war film like this.

It just struck me as: so fresh and original – and uncompromisingly truthful – you couldn’t really say: “Is it an anti-war book? …Is it a pro-war book?” – Phrases like that seem to become irrelevant… It just seemed to be, y’know – a work of art…? Which probably can be misunderstood by everybody. [Laughs]

You know, I can see how, some people are saying, you know – in certain ways it glorifies war – and other people will say, it’s very unfair – and it shows American troops as this, that, the other – it’s not an easy film to get a handle on – but strangely enough, it doesn’t seem to make any difference now – the people seem who respond to it, dramatically – as well as intellectually, depending on who they are, you know –

Hasford has made a lot of statements that really are not part of the book… Subsequently he’s become more politicized – but I think, when he wrote the book, I think he was really just working as an artist… Now, if you interview him, you know, he’ll sound like he had some point of view to expound… But I don’t think it’s there, in the book…

They were obviously more cynical than any other troops, but they express it in the interviews (in the “TV news vox-pops” in Full Metal Jacket)… The thing that characterizes the Vietnam vet – which is not in the film – is that they were the first of almost any war, that came home, and instead of having their guilt relieved, by being told they were heroes – were told that they had done something bad – so a lot of them suffered a lot of psychological post-war problems, moreso than any other troops. Because you know – the guilt that you feel as a soldier is to a great extent relieved, when they tell you, you did something wonderful – and you saved your- you fought for your country, even if you lost… Even the German soldiers, when they came back, were probably looked on by the people as…

MC: [Asks Kubrick some weird, complicated creative-process-related question, which I can’t quite decipher…]

SK: This is where we always have trouble talking, because I don’t think that way… I start by reading the book a lot of times, and saying, coming from the beginning: “Let’s, you know, this could be the first scene – what could be the next scene?” and then – make an Outline – and then, if you have any new ideas – as you see, there a couple of important scenes that are not in the book – like the Editorial Office discussion, where they talk about the [news] story they’re supposed to write – that’s not in the book at all – although something related to it, but not that scene…

First you say, “Well – what could be the next scene, you know, what are you gonna leave out” and then, What is lacking?, and, Have you any ideas for others – but it’s more a matter then of just working subjectively, rather than sort of getting an architectural view of the whole thing…

MC: But the Editorial Office discussion reminds me of… (bla bla bla, not sure what Ciment says here)

SK: Yeah, but I think the most important thing about that was – in a very witty and economical way – it dramatized one of the other central features of the war… That was the manipulation of the reality of the war by technocrats and `Hawk’ intellectuals – always finding light at the end of the tunnel, and encouraging the men there to lie, and to exaggerate, you know, kill-ratios… If any shots were fired in the bush, they were always encouraged to say “Well, you know, they didn’t find any bodies but they saw drag-marks…” And I think-

In fact the Marine newspaper that Hasford worked for, are just full of stories – he says you know he said “We run two types of stories: Half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants – winning hearts and minds – and combat actions that result in a kill – winning the war…” – So I think the scene presented a sense of the cynical manipulation of the truth, in a very amusing entertaining way… Well it’s a bit like the generals and the men in Paths of Glory… I mean it’s always that way… In this case, it was more than just the ambition of the generals versus the men’s lives… There was an arrogance back in Washington by these – quote – “intellectuals, who ran the war like an advertising campaign”…

And of course, ironically, they paid a price for this – because in the Tet Offensive, even though the North suffered a tremendous military defeat, where all of the carefully harbored forces that they had been building up – and supplies that they had been bringing down on the Ho Chi Minh Trail by bicycle were squandered away – They thought people would actually rise up and join them… But – because of the lying – the press and the public were so shocked – that that there was the strength in the north – that it was the turning point of the war… I mean the war was probably unwinnable – I mean the war was unwinnable, not because of the Tet Offensive… The war was also unlosable – but it was unwinnable. Because of the nature of it. I mean we have a country, you know, that’s feeding forces into another country – and you have this 500-mile border on the west… Infiltration, that nothing could stop… And the South Vietnamese, you know, not really supporting the government because they were corrupt and inept… You know, there’s a lot of evidence that any South Vietnamese officer – you know, general – who actually was prepared to fight, was quickly booted out, because – for fear he might represent a political rival… So that, the generals, the high command of the South Vietnamese army, were all people who simply avoided combat.

MC: So, everyone doubted the war could be won?

SK: Everybody was in doubt – except for a few lunatics. Everyone felt it was unwinnable. Hartman’s – his name is changed in the film – that speech – those speeches, Drill Instructors have been making to Marines since the beginning of the Marine Corps… A lot of people who have seen the film, you know, who were Marines in 1940, you know, said: [They had] the same speech – the same guy – same sort of thing probably goes on in the Foreign Legion – or any sort of elite fighting force, where they really – I mean lines like: “Marines die – that’s what we’re here for – but the Marine Corps lives forever… and that means you live forever”

I remember, reading these Moroccan troops in the Spanish Civil War used to say – they had some cry about death… I would think, there’s a universality about his speeches in any – you know – really 100% dedicated fighting force… it makes it very clear that `fighting’ means `killing’, you know… It doesn’t mean anything else.

Since I have always found it very easy to make – to do the visual side of movies, I never even worried about it… I think the problem with the audiences is the story. Movies are not disappointing because they’re disappointing visually – they’re disappointing because they’re just boring – and there’s nothing about them that really moves you, or gets your imagination. So I would say your problem more is, how do you – Where do good stories come from? Is there ever going to be a way to combine the structure of the silent movie with the quick presentation of an idea of a TV commercial? …Maybe a poet has to do it – cuz I don’t know, a novelist will never do it – a playwright will never do it – and if you’re not a writer you’ll probably never do it. So somewhere – somebody has to be able to take the wonderful economical structural possibility of a silent movie, with the tremendous power that a good TV commercial can generate on a topic in 30 seconds… I still think, this would be the most exciting thing that happened since whoever it was, cut the first two films together and realized you could have Editing… You really need, a sort of like – an Editing of the Mind –  which hasn’t happened…! Someone, somewhere, has to bring this together. Just tell a story in a different way…

MC: [MC basically says, something like] FMJ is beautiful…

SK: I mean I think, visually, it is beautiful – but I think the thing that is so striking about the film is the story – and the sense that you get of – the reality – the kind of reality, that the film presents… I think this is what people are, you know, being blown away by – apparently – in America. I don’t think, they’ve ever actually been hit by this kind of an impression? I think they’re responding, really, to the story – and to the tone…

Television is a good influence, because TV commercials are so beautifully realized, that it’s making movie-cameramen more aware of what they should be doing… Movie directors realize that: There’s something there besides just saying, you know, to the Operator: “A knee-figure shot, in this direction”… The real explosion will come when someone finally liberates the narrative structure.

MC: But what you quoted – which is the end of the movie, I mean the commentary by Joker about human survival – and, at the end, you: `You are alive’

SK: Yeah – and he says, when he looks at the mass grave – He says: “The dead know only one thing: it’s better to be alive”… If you’re looking for, a – you know – a statement like that, I suppose you could say that’s as good as any.

Ending a War film has special problems – because: How do you end them? If you don’t kill the character, or, find out what happens after he gets home – aesthetically, there’s a just a mechanical problem of: How do you end a War film? I mean some stories end it by him being wounded – some by being killed – and that’s it.

MC: You know, but it’s the survival…

SK: By the way – something you may not realize – the Mickey Mouse song, that they sing… In America, The Mickey Mouse Club was on television, and it was the most popular children’s show… The idea of that was simply to suggest, the lost innocence of these boys who – not that many years ago – were singing that song you know, watching The Mickey Mouse Club. I realized, people in England didn’t know what it was, they thought it was just a song. That was very powerful, important but of American nostalgia.


MC: So you decided not to shoot in Asia.

SK: The first thing we did – we hadn’t decided where to film… and I had done tremendous research; I had thousands of stills – and as much documentary footage as we could get from archives. First thing I noticed was that, for the architecture in the peripheral areas, where the fighting – so much of the fighting seemed to be – was this sort of 1930s industrial functionalism. And by the sheerest accident, we found this area, that is about a square mile – and it was designed by a German architect in the 30s… it looked exactly like photographs we’d seen in Huế and Saigon borders, you know the outskirts of the city – and it was scheduled for demolition… We then got permission to do anything we wanted… We could blow any buildings up, burn them down, knock holes them – and it just seemed like a miracle, because I don’t know where – looking back – I don’t know how we would have done those scenes, you know – a tiny fraction of the reality and interest we got, from this location.

Then it was clear that – if that was here, then the rest of it was pretty easy – because things like landing zones, and roads… If you go into marshes at the right time of year, we have tall yellow grass – and put some, you know, tropical plants and palm trees – it didn’t look – it just looked exactly like, the shots looked in Vietnam. It seemed easy to do it here, and, well as I say, more than easy – because this place – I don’t know how we would have found anything like it anywhere – and if we have been allowed to film in Huế – we could never have achieved this you know vision of hell, that that actually Huế looked like… You’ve seen photographs, it looks like – some of the photos look like an atomic bomb hit it – it’s just – you know, flat.

MC: So what did you shoot there?

SK: All of the fighting in the city… We blew up a lot of buildings – we spent 6 weeks knocking holes into them with a ball – you know a wrecking-ball, and also added features to the buildings which we saw in the Vietnamese photographs; you know grills, and signs…

This wasn’t really a set – this was like a location – which we could do what we wanted to…

The only sets were the Parris interior – and the place where the sniper is…

You don’t really know what you’re going to do – and this starts from, you know: the story, the screenplay, production plan – even when you go out in the morning to shoot the scene – you know, you’ve thought about it – and you hope that what you think it will be like, will be a reality when you get there. You always have to adjust when you’re presented with the with the final reality of it.

At the time of writing the script, I had really a completely open mind… In fact I remember even looking at some documentary footage of the French town that was preserved – Oradour – where they preserved – you know, it looked like what it was – and, I didn’t think they would they were about to let you blow it up, or burn it down… We didn’t really know where to do it… We were thinking about a place like this – but we couldn’t imagine where you’d ever find one. And, BOOM, there it was. Because we burned so much fire – but it was quite nicely isolated from residential areas… We had a lot of complaints – but nothing like you’d have had in a normal area.

We were almost shut down, once – we had to stop shooting; the smoke was just – I mean a cloud of smoke, about five hundred feet high – that slowly started drifting across the Thames… Into a rather rich area… you know, where people were going insane…

MC: Obviously you are interested by the form of the violence, in all your films… So war is of interest? Is that why you are attracted by…?

SK: I don’t know – I mean, obviously some very good stories have been written about war – and I happen to have read them [Laughs] …You can’t do a story about nuclear peace-! Doctor Strangelove…! You know – it really it is, the chance encounter with the book is the whole thing… I must tell you – I have not found many books that I’ve turned down, that I thought would make good movies…

MC: The Drill Instructor says “Your killer instinct”…

SK: But there’s an interesting irony too, in the fact that – in order to train the Marines – they have to be able to be really told you know – pounded into their heads, this thing about: “Your rifle is only a tool; it’s a hard heart that kills; your killer instinct” and so on… And yet of course – in the end, this little twelve-year-old Eurasian angel, has shot three men in the most merciless way – and tried to kill Joker – and obviously, didn’t need to be trained at Parris Island to do this… She’s a killer, and they’re killers – but, you’re left to think about the real motivation that she has; forgetting the political aspects of it – and the motivation they have to have, which is a professional one – which has to be trained into them – and which in the end, probably isn’t as strong… As strong as it is.

MC: Has your attitude to war changed?

SK: I don’t think so.

MC: Do you think that the difficulty of a War theme is that, whatever you do to, not to involve the audience into the battle – yet, you still become involved – and you get a thrill…

SK: Doesn’t he (Hasford) have this man at the end, quote, saying “Take the glamour out of War? That’s impossible.” …It’s true – I mean there obviously is something about it, that’s incredibly spectacular –

MC: But isn’t it an ethical problem, how to show war, without-

SK: I don’t think you can… Obviously when you read the memoirs of people that have survived the war, many of them look back on it as being the greatest moments of their lives. There must be an aspect to it that is genuinely inspiring – and spectacular – in  the real sense of the word – and the elements of you know, comradeship, you know – loyalty, courage – those things, in retrospect, people are who take part in it, are moved. I mean it doesn’t have anything to do with the political aspect – or even the overall ethical question, you know, Wouldn’t it be nice if there never were wars? But I don’t think you have to not make a war film, for fear that people will…

MC: I don’t think – the battle scenes, you really get excited about?

SK: I don’t know – but I mean, you certainly – even if you’re frightened by it, there’s some kind of a thrill. You know… the explosions will always look beautiful – and the sound effects always sound interesting… There is a problem there…

MC: Isn’t it summed up by the scene with the General – and Joker, and his Peace button.

SK: That of course is playing on The Jungian idea – the duality of man… Altruism and cooperation, you know, versus xenophobia and aggression…Y’know, the fact that, people do not see the dark side of themselves – and tend to see, you know, tend to externalize evil – you see it even in just, you know, disputes between people – that, you know, when you say “He only sees his side of it…” I mean, people do only see themselves as good – and everybody else, as either weak or evil… Or potentially weak or evil.

The classical reaction – the way people react – he looks at him, and says “Whose side are you on, son?” And then he says “Our side”. There is always a problem, when people are confronted with the `shadow’ side…

MC: Are you pro-war, or antiwar?

SK: I don’t regard myself as a one thing or the other – I’m an aesthetic opportunist…

MC: There was a sentence by William Burroughs…

SK: “I’m as psychotic as a guy who’s just figured out what’s really going on.” I like Burroughs… That’s a great quote!


MC: What is striking in the movie is the violence.

SK: A lot of it comes from the book… Because you know – there was so much wonderful documentary material in Vietnam, you know, that had not been shot in any other war –  including scenes of men dying… There was a lot that you could learn, from that. More than perhaps someone who was there – because, you could have spent a year there, and not seen anything… I mean most troops were never involved in fighting, and most patrols never even stepped on a mine. Most patrols were just lugging 60 pounds in a hundred degree heat for five days and nothing happened. Very few people saw action. So, looking at sort of, you know, a hundred hours of documentary film, actually probably tells you more than if you were there and we didn’t actually have combat…

MC: Yes so you had a project about the civil war.

SK: Except the Civil War was a war that you can say – both sides certainly had vital interests at stake, they were fighting for… The Vietnam War, you know, was all these fancy theories about you know, `falling dominoes’ and political consequences which obviously never occurred – even when at the point where they realized that that now, there was no way to win – there was this problem of: How do you get out without suffering the political consequences?

MC: You started with by making almost a home movie when you were 23… (Fear and Desire). Why did you do that film – not from reading a book?

SK: (Laughs) No – in fact, that’s what – one of the films that convinced me that I should start with a good story… Because, that was a very arrogant, flippant script, put together by myself and a boy that I knew who was a poet, where we thought that we were geniuses… And you know – it was so incompetently done… and so… undramatic. That I… learned a lesson from that-!

…But I mean, ideas – unfortunately – don’t make good films – I mean, there’s a lot of artistic work that has to go along with presenting an idea, you just can’t `say’ the idea… It’s a good ambition to have ideas, but the film was not very good… I remember James Agee – the  critic, he saw the film, and he looked very pained and he said “Well” he said “there’s too much about it that’s good, for me to just say that it’s: pretentious” – or some remark like that – and he was right… I guess, for an amateur film – you could say, there were some things about it were good – although I think he was being very generous… but I know what he meant. At least it had the ambition of having some ideas in it – and I suppose you could say, in that sense, there’s some continuity with the rest of my films, which I’ve also tried to make sure that – you know, they weren’t just: “hollow entertainment”… That’s about the only connection… (of: those 2 war films)

MC: You are interested in the ambiguity of war. Like the Drill Instructor in FMJ.

SK: Well – the Drill Instructor in this film, I think, is just as naive as the boys are – I mean he’s just programmed to do that, and he’s not really the villain at all of the piece –

MC: No… Not as much as the higher echelons…

SK: Yeah – who are only shown indirectly through the lieutenant, you know, of – this false way of trying to present the war to the American public… And, I suppose, the Colonel – who demands – you know – `Singularity, not Duality’ from his soldiers… Even a good war has the problems of `the men versus of the generals’… In this case, it was really, you know – `the men versus the unreality of what they were being told to try to do’.

MC: It seems you are attracted by events – periods that shift history – like WW1, or the nuclear war, or the Vietnam war… After these wars, nothing will be like it was before…

SK: Mind you, I mean – life has a tendency of moving along like that anyway – I mean after almost anything, nothing is like that again… Life does keep changing…

MC: Suddenly World War one was a big turning point… suddenly the Vietnam War for America –

SK: I think it taught America that you know you don’t fight a war because some intellectuals decide that it might be a good thing … Yeah I don’t think you’re gonna get Americans to fight a war again, unless they think it really means something to them. How far that kind of isolationism will go, I’m not sure. Certainly you’re not gonna be able to sell them something which is quite clear everybody you know doesn’t vitally affect them.

MC: You have no other project now?

SK: No – I wish I did… Don’t want to wait so long, cause it’s too long… I wouldn’t like to – I mean – if I had a story right now, I wouldn’t really want to start immediately – because it does start to feel like a lot of work… You know – you work very long hours, and for a very long time, and, you really don’t do anything else… When you’re filming, you get up at 5:00am, if you want to not be tired you’ve got to go to bed around 10pm. If you fall behind in the editing, you get up later – but you wind up working a very long day… We were working until 6:00 in the morning, every day…

MC: How long does it take to make a film?

SK: Okay – so, working backwards – it takes about a year, to edit – it takes about six months to shoot… If it’s a complicated picture with research – it takes about a year, to… carefully prepare it – so that’s: two and a half years… So now, the question is: How long does it take you to find a story? …If it takes a year, that’s 3 and ½ years… You know, I mean – that’s the problem – this one took about two years… That’s the whole thing: If I could find a story now, you know, I could have a film out, in say – I dunno: Three years, easily.


[END OF THE 3 TRANSCRIBED CIMENT INTERVIEWS – on: Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket].

…Interesting, to see how Kubrick uses the word “problem”! (Since: creativity is problem-solving.) The whole thing is interesting in lots of ways: as an academic study of creativity, (seeing how interviews get reshaped), seeing how Kubrick communicates/thinks, etc…!

…I hope it is useful to Kubrick scholars, somehow?

For more on Kubrick and problem-solving (and: creativity) – see:

StoryAlity #13B – Creativity, Cinema, Stanley Kubrick & Genius

StoryAlity #151 – My article on Stanley Kubrick, Charles Darwin and Joe Campbell’s monomyth, in The Journal of Genius and Eminence (March 2018)

And also:


JT Velikovsky, PhD – High-RoI Story / Screenplay / Movie & Transmedia Researcher

& Human & Computer Creativity Researcher

& Evolutionary Systems Analyst

See the research in my 2017 doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is reproduced here for the benefit of fellow bio-cultural scholars, and screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see also https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is a million-selling Transmedia writer-director-producer and game designer & writer. He has also been a professional Story Analyst for major movie studios, film funding organizations, and also for the national writer’s guild. He is also a judge for the writers guild and the director’s guild. 

For more, see also the Transmedia-Writing weblog: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/


Velikovsky, J. T. (2017). Darwin & Kubrick, Joe Campbell & Me: Eminent-Genius and Everyday-Joe Heroes on a Journey. The Journal of Genius and Eminence, 2(2), pp. 55-69. doi: 10.18536/jge.2017.



One thought on “StoryAlity #155 – Kubrick on Problem Solving

  1. Pingback: StoryAlity#165 – The HOLON/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of (bio)-culture – (book chapters) | StoryAlity

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