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2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey(1968)

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The actors hired to play the apes in the "Dawn of Man" sequence weremostly mimes and dancers, though they also used two baby chimpanzees as thetribe's children. They chose actors with thin arms and legs and narrowhips so that the fur added to make them look like apes wouldn't appeartoo bulky. Kubrick's fear was that the body fur might make them look like actors in B-movie gorilla suits.

While the makeup was being designed, computer technicians ran a programto determine how long it would take to make the number of ape costumes theyneeded. When the program said it would take nine years, they simplifiedthe makeup.

Kubrick hired a company that made artificial limbs to produce along-figured, narrow apelike hand to be operated by remote controls placedwithin the costume's arms. When this didn't look convincing, it wasabandoned at great expense.

To create the facial makeup, technicians first made a plastic skullsubstructure with a hinged jaw. After making molds of the actors' faces,the makeup men applied rubber skin to their faces and added hair one strandat a time, as if they were making a wig. Lip movements were achieved byusing false teeth and tongues to hide the actors' real mouths. This freedthe actors to use their tongues to operate remote controls that moved thelips. Only the actors' eyes were visible, and the masks were made up rightto the eyelids.

The only scene from the film not shot in the studio was the"skull-smashing" sequence in which Moonwatcher realizes that he can use abone as a weapon. That was shot in a field a few hundred yards from thestudio on a small platform. This allowed for a low-angled shot with a vastexpanse of sky in the background, though it also required a halt inshooting whenever a plane flew overhead. They almost ran out of animalskulls as Kubrick shot take after take. The final shot of the sequence was finally achieved whenKubrick walked back to the studio tossing bones into the air and filmingtheir flight with a hand-held camera.

The first design for the monolith was a tetrahedron, but Kubrickthought that would make people think of pyramids. Next they tried atransparent cube, but it was too hard to keep it from reflecting the cameracrew's lights. They tried a Lucite slab, but that didn't look convincing.Finally, they settled on the black slab shown in the film.

Filming the special effects shots took 18 months at a cost of $6.5million (the film's total budget was $10.5 million). Kubrick wasdetermined to make every effects shot look extremely realistic, something previous science fiction films rarely bothered to do.

Kubrick challenged the special effects crew to find a way to do theeffects shots without using automatic matting. Traditionally, actors andmock space vehicles were shot against a blue screen. The images were thenmatted against the appropriate backgrounds, but this usually leaves a linearound the images that destroys the illusion. Kubrick insisted onhand-drawn mattes instead. For a shot of a space ship flying, for example,the ship's shape would be painted out of the background shots by hand, oneframe at a time, before matting in the ship itself. It's the sametechnique used in making animated films, only all of the images matted infor 2001: A Space Odyssey were real objects.

2001 was the first film to make extensive use of frontprojection to provide backgrounds against which the actors worked. Usinglarge transparencies, the crew projected the African landscape on the setfor the “Dawn of Man” sequence. The same technique was used for the moonlanding.

It took Kubrick and his crew months to figure out how to make the penfloat during the trip to the Moon. They couldn't come up with a wire fineenough not to show up on film. Finally they taped the pen to a glass plateheld in front of the camera. If you look closely, when the stewardessplucks it out of the air, you can actually see her pulling it off theplate.

The film's spaceships were models made from wood, fiberglass,Plexiglas, steel, brass and aluminum. The fine details that forever wouldchange the look of space on the screen were created with heat-formingplastic-cladding, flexible metal foil, wire tubing and thousands of tinyparts taken from hundred of plastic model kits -- everything from railroadcars and battleships to airplanes and Gemini spacecraft -- bought at aEuropean toy fair. The fine details made it possible for the cameras toget as close to the models as possible with no loss ofbelievability.

The Discovery's interior was a large, rotating tube 38 feetacross and three feet wide. It rotated at speeds up to three miles perhour so that the characters could walk across it while remaining at thebottom of the screen. The cost was $300,000.

To create convincing images of nebular movement and starbursts, theyphotographed drops of dye moving on a glass plate.

For shots of the space ships that show people moving through the ships'windows, technicians photographed extras moving, then projected them on thewindows with 16mm projectors. This led to one error in the film. Theexterior shots of the ship carrying Dr. Floyd to the Moon show otherpassengers on board, but the interiors reveal that he's alone.

To create the spectacular space ride at the film's climax, Trumbullcombined aerial footage of Monument Valley, Utah (a favorite location forJohn Ford's westerns), shot through colored filters, with other aerialshots originally made for Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. He alsoinvented a split-scan effect by keeping the camera's shutter open to exposea single frame of film while he moved the light source toward the camera tocreate fantastic light patterns.

Most of the effects shots were made during 10 to 12 hour workdays, withsome takes lasting hours. Although the crew was large, the only soundaudible in the studio during each take was the sound of the Panavisioncamera's motors and the sound of the motors moving the ships. Onetechnician compared it to driving a tank.

Originally, the Discovery was on a mission to Saturn. When thespecial effects crew couldn't come up with a convincing model of thatplanet, however, Kubrick changed it to Jupiter.

The first actor hired to provide the voice for HAL 9000 was NigelDavenport. He sat out of camera range during filming of theDiscovery scenes and read his lines so the actors would havesomething to react to. After a few weeks, however, Kubrick decided thathis British accent would be too distracting. Davenport was dismissed andan assistant read the lines from off-camera. During post-production,Martin Balsam recorded HAL's lines, but still Kubrick wasn't satisfied. Atthis point, the film had a narration that had been recorded by Canadianactor Douglas Rain. Kubrick also decided that he didn't like thenarration, but he liked Rain, who ended up playing HAL in 2001 andits 1984 sequel 2010. For that film, all of HAL's lines werepre-recorded, so although they have co-starred in two films, Keir Dulleaand Rain have never met.

Kubrick hired composer Alex North, who had written the music for hisSpartacus (1960), to score the film. During filming, however, Kubrickplayed various classical pieces to set the rhythms and moods for thescenes. He also used pre-recorded music while cutting the film, then toldNorth he wanted to keep some of the music he'd already been working with.North objected to this, but couldn't come up with an opening fanfareKubrick liked as much as the opening of Richard Strauss' Also SprachZarathustra. Over a two-week period, North composed and recorded 40minutes of music for the film. Then Kubrick decided to stick with theclassical music and just use breathing sounds for many of the unscoredsequences. He even dubbed the breathing himself. Years later, North'smusic, under the title Alex North's 2001, was released byVarese/Sarabande.

Ultimately, Kubrick's decision to use classical music for his scorewould cost him. Contemporary composer Gyorgy Ligeti sued over theunauthorized use of his music and the cutting of his piece"Adventures."

After the New York City preview, Kubrick cut 20 minutes out of thefilm, shortening several sequences. Prior to that, he had already cut ablack-and-white prologue in which scientists discussed the possibility ofextra-terrestrial life. After the preview, Kubrick also added the titlecards "Jupiter Mission 18 Months Later" and "Jupiter Beyond theInfinite."

2001: A Space Odyssey was a huge hit with younger audiences,becoming one of the biggest cult films of the sixties. In Chicago, a group of hippieswent to the film several times, sitting in the front row until theintermission. Then they would move to the floor in front of the screen towatch the final star ride from the closest possible point. According toRolling Stone magazine, during one screening a young man rose as ifin a trance at the monolith's reappearance near the end and ran down thetheatre's aisle shouting "It's God! It's God!" Before the theatre'smanagement could stop him, he had crashed through the screen.

The film also developed a celebrity cult whose members included MikeNichols, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Franco Zeffirelli, Roman Polanski andRichard Lester. Recording artist Mama Cass Elliott said the film hadchanged her "chemistry."

by Frank Miller

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

"2001 is one of the grimmest films I have ever seen in my life...Ithink that Kubrick is someone who is too intelligent, too cynical, toopessimistic about man, or about men rather, and I think that as it turnsout, 2001 is a disaster because it is much too abstract to make itsabstract points." - Andrew Sarris, WBAI Radio.

"...the scope of its imaginative vision of man...immerses the eye, the ear,and the intuitive responses of the viewer in a uniquely stimulating humanexperience." - National Catholic Office of Motion Pictures.

"A regrettable failure, though not a total one. This long film isfascinating when it concentrates on apes or machines (though there is toomuch of this, too), and dreadful when dealing with the in-betweens: humanbeings...the slab is never explained, leaving 2001, for all itslively visual and mechanical spectacle, a kind of space-Spartacusand, more pretentious still, a shaggy God story." - John Simon, The NewLeader

" extraordinary masterpiece...a major challenge to some of theassumptions that dominated serious writing for at least a hundred years." -Hollis Alpert, Saturday Review.

"...the uncompromising slowness of the movie makes it hard to sit throughwithout talking -- and people on all sides when I saw it were talkingalmost throughout the film. Very annoying. With all its attention todetail, a kind of reveling in its own I.Q., the movie acknowledged noobligation to validate its conclusion for those, me for example, who arenot science-fiction buffs. By the end, three unreconciled plot lines --the slab, Dullea's aging, the period bedroom -- are simply left there likea Rorschach, with murky implications of theology." - Renata Adler, TheNew York Times.

"I have seen Stanley Kubrick's mind-bending, maddening, awesome,debilitating, demoniacal, dehumanizing, and miraculous extraterrestrialfantasy-drama twice. At first I thought Kubrick had flipped his lid. NowI believe he is a genius." - Sam Lesner, Chicago Daily News.

Despite some of the worst reviews ever given a major motion picture,2001: A Space Odyssey attracted a devoted audience of young fans. In fact, many college-age viewers attended the film in an altered state, enjoying the film's celebrated "trip sequence," a ritual which was noted with interest by studio executives who began marketing it as a "head movie." In some ways, the film's success with the younger generation gave rise to the midnight movie phenomenon which provided filmmakers like David Lynch and Alexandro Jodorowsky the opportunity to make experimental, non-traditional narrative films like Eraserhead (1977) and El Topo (1970). 2001: A Space Odyssey made $15 million on its initial U.S. release, and currently shows a worldwide gross of over $190million.


2001: A Space Odyssey was nominated for four Oscars®including Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay and Best Directing. It wonfor Best Special Effects, which is the only Oscar® Kubrick everreceived. He didn't want to submit his name in the category, but anAcademy® rule limiting the number of names eligible for nomination inthat category would have required him to submit only a few members of thefilm's special effects team. Rather than make such an impossible choice,he just submitted his own name, with the crew's blessing.

When Planet of the Apes won a special Oscar® for best makeupat the 1968 Academy Awards® Kubrick was furious, feeling that hisfilm's ape makeup was better. He publicly stated that the Academy®'sboard must have thought the apes in his film were real.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) honored thefilm for art direction, cinematography and sound, while also nominating itfor Best Picture.

The film also won the David di Donatello Award (Italy's version of theOscar®) for Best Foreign Production and a Hugo Award for Best DramaticPresentation from the World Science Fiction Society.

2001: A Space Odyssey was voted a place on the National Film Registry in 1991.

By Frank Miller

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teaser 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The creation of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was as big an epic as the movie itself. Employing teams of professionals in every field from space flight to food services, Stanley Kubrick set out to make what he simply described as a "good science fiction film." His first step was to contact famed author Arthur C. Clarke, and over the next four years the two men crafted a "fictionalized science lesson" which was to be a coming of age of the entire human race.

Based on a short story written by Clarke in 1950 called "The Sentinel", 2001: A Space Odyssey tells the story of humankind's steps from cavemen to enlightened beings.

It is difficult to describe the events of 2001: A Space Odyssey with very much detail without spoiling many of the plot points, and ruining Kubrick's intention for the film, that we "experience" 2001, rather than merely "watch." With the help of Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick wanted to create the kind of science fiction film that just wasn't made before 2001: A Space Odyssey. A voracious fan of science fiction, Kubrick didn't want to merely tell a story about space, he wanted to tell a story about man's relationship to the universe a pretty tall order. Because of the immense detail required in a screenplay, Kubrick and Clarke started by writing the story as a novel, which would be primarily Clarke's task. After Clarke delivered the story as a gift to Kubrick for Christmas 1964, they began converting the plot into a screenplay and the adventure began. One of the crowning achievements of 2001: A Space Odyssey was the level of detail, which surpassed even Kubrick's usual demands. With the help of Scientific Consultant, Frederick Ordway, the production collaborated with companies like Whirlpool, RCA, GE, IBM, Pan Am, and NASA to provide a technological product placement. In exchange for discussing their plans for the future, and providing feasible designs for futuristic devices, cooperating companies would earn a place in the movie's environments. Hence, 2001 ASO is littered with amusing logos like Pan Am on the shuttle, and Howard Johnson's on the hotel in the space station. These little touches make life in space that much more believable.

This same commitment to detail was extended to the groundbreaking special effects in the film. During the Dawn Of Man sequence, Kubrick employed front projection rather than rear projection, which was most common. Kubrick felt that rear projection never looked convincing, so he mounted a projector from above and projected the background slide behind the set pieces at very low light. The result was a completely realistic environment. But without convincing ape-men, the background would have gone entirely to waste, so Kubrick employed British make up artist Stuart Freeborn to bring early man to life. Though Freeborn was snubbed for an Oscar for makeup in lieu of Planet Of the Apes (1968), Freeborn's complex masks and prosthetics actually allowed actors to articulate their lips more convincingly than those used for Planet of the Apes. Stuart Freeborn went on to design creatures for the Star Wars films.

The space sequences proved no less imaginative. Because characters would be traveling and living in a variety of environments onboard spaceships, Kubrick needed to find a realistic way to blend both gravity and weightless conditions. The techniques ranged from the simple method of mounting a pen on a piece of rotating plexi-glass so that it appeared to be floating, to actually rotating the set, while the actors roamed about inside. The weightless space walk sequences were achieved by suspending actors, and in some cases set pieces like the "pod" transports, from the ceiling by wires. The "floating" actors were then shot from below, their bodies hiding the wires. For the "stargate" sequence, FX Supervisor Douglas Trumbull devised what was called a "slitscan machine." The machine helped with the process of photographing backlit transparencies of artwork, exposing each frame for a full minute, and moving the camera and artwork in sync, recording the art with a "streaked," stylized fashion. The result was the appearance that Dave Bowman was moving through time and space at infinite speeds.

Taking just over four years, and costing MGM $11 million, 2001: A Space Odyssey was met with mixed reviews when it premiered on April 12, 1968. Critics pretty much hated the film, calling it slow, boring, and confusing. Luckily, for Kubrick and Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey struck a cord with younger audiences, who made the film the second biggest box office draw of 1968. 2001: A Space Odyssey is now widely praised as a remarkable achievement for its realistic depiction of space flight during a time when our space program was in its infancy. Years before we actually set foot on the moon, Kubrick and Clarke not only envisioned settlements there; they showed us an unsettlingly accurate portrayal of the lunar surface.

True, the film can be confusing a point that Clarke concedes. During a trip to Hawaii from his home in Sri Lanka, Clarke was detained by an immigration official who joked, "I'm not going to let you in until you explain the ending of 2001 to me." But the film's ambiguity is part of its importance. Had Kubrick spelled it out entirely, he would have robbed viewers of the experience, and we would not still debate it today. As Kubrick himself commented, "'s a non verbal experiencethe truth is in the feel of it, not the think of it."

Director/ Producer: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, based on the story "The Sentinel" by Arthur C. Clarke
Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth
Editor: Ray Lovejoy
Art Direction: John Hoesli
Music: Aram Khachaturyan, Gyorgy Ligeti, Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss
Cast: Keir Dullea (Dr. Dave Bowman), Gary Lockwood (Dr. Frank Poole), William Sylvester (Dr. Heywood R. Floyd), Daniel Richter (Moonwatcher), Leonard Rossiter (Smyslov), Douglas Rain (voice of Hal 9000).
C-149m. Letterboxed. Close captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Bill Goodman

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