Keir Dullea: I have never worked with anybody like Stanley KubrickWritten by Eva Csölleová, Vítek Formánek
American actor Keir Dullea was born on 30.5.1936 in Cleveland. His parents owned a bookshop in New York. Keir studied in Pennsylvania and then continued in San Francisco and after graduation he started flirting with acting. It was in 1960 and lasted over 60 years up until now. Mostly he was devoting his time to TV and theatre and made 30 films in all, but he became immortal thanks to lead in legendary movie 2001: Space Odyssey filmed by Stanley Kubrick in 1968. He repeated his character-astronaut David Bowman - in sequel, filmed in 1984.
Although 52 years passed since Kubrick´s cult movie, he has more fans around the world than ever before.Therefore he travels around the world alone or with his colleague Gary Lockwood and meet and talk to fans. Maybe that is why we have been waiting for his answers for 19 months but it was worth waiting for.
Were you Kubrick´s fan before he called you with an offer and have you ever told him this?
Yes, I was his huge fan and my most favourite film of his was Paths of Glory with Kirk Douglas. It is beautiful, anti-war movie. I must admit I don´t recall ever telling Stanley I was his fan.
How did you get the lead in 2001: Space Odyssey, was there any casting for that?
No, I haven´t been at any casting but I visited a fortune-teller who asked me if I was a scientist, since she saw something connected with rocket in my palm.I didn´t know what she was talking about and I haven´t got a clue about a novel A Space Odyssey by A.C.Clark. Within a week I was shooting in London and my wife called me to say that my agent is after me. So I gave him a ring and he told me this fascinating news that I got a lead in Kubricks´ new film. I didn´t want to believe that, so when I met Stanley face to face I was very very nervous since I admired him very much. He noticed that, took me aside and told me that he thinks I am really a good actor and how happy he is to have me in the movie. That was very uplifting and it helped me a great deal.
What was Kubrick like?
He was very gentle and quiet, he never shouted at us or even raised the voice. He was opened to new ideas and he enjoyed improvising which was provocative to some people. When we started shooting, the script wasn´t ready yet and sometimes the details were changed at very last minute, in few cases even in the morning before filming. The whole film was developed in whole three years, which is unthinkable from current point of view and Kubrick got a free hand from the studio. He way immaculatelly prepared and I must confess I have never worked with someone like him before or after. Incredible man.
Malcolm McDowell once said that during filming A Clockwork Orange all clicked very well between him and Kubrick and he was very upset and frustrated that after this movie, Stanley never ever called him back and offered him another role. Do you have similar experience?
Absolutely, but unlike Malcolm I never took it personally. Kubrick had a rule that nothing existed around him but the movie he was recently working on.
There are not many dialogues in the movie. How did the process of shooting go?
Sometimes we waited even a half of the day, before all was built and was properly lit so we had plenty of time and could hone the role according to Kubricks´ instructions.
For example the scene when we talk with Gary Lockwood in the module and computer HAL is reading from our lips.It was made shorted and shorter each day until it perfectly fit into the picture Stanley wanted to have. By the way, this scene was invented by my mate Gary Lockwood. I was filming 3,5 months out of 12 shooting months, from January 1966, to be precise Last scene made, was the first scene in the movie, the dawn of the mankind, but I wasn´t there. After it´s premiere the further 20 minutes was cut off the film so final version is much shorter than the original one.
I must admit I didn´t understand the film at the first go. It´s dimension and beauty dawned on me in last years, when I watch it over and over again. How was it accepted by audience in those days?
I understand your point. After premiere the film had very bad reviews and many people left cinema during film, since they didn´t understand it either. You know, if someone is ahead of his time in all directions, be it conseption, way of filming or effects, it takes some time before it settles down, since the audience isn´t ready for that.
What Kubrick filmed, no one had ever made before or after him. Without digital effects he captured what Hollywood tries to capture in his movies with budget over 100 million dollars. He didn´t make thriller but almost an art movie where there is let lots of space for spectators´ imagination and there is no clear interpretation of what is happening. But young audience, unlike that intellectual, was queuing for the movie and they saved it.
Have you ever discusssed the film idea with Stanley?
No, there was no time for that, we all were focused at our job. But I was there, when, during premiere, various people of different religion, said, that it was the stongest spiritual experience for them. I think everybody will find something different in the movie and one interpretation of it simply isn´t possible, since it had different effect at each person.
It is said that with this film Kubrick re-written the definition of sci-fi films? How would you explain that?
Well, you have to realize how big time span Kubrick captured in his movie. It goes from the dawn of the mankind to very distant future, so timewise it shows billions years. It is overwhelming in that respect and the fact that he didn´t use any digital effets it´s even more overwhelming. No movie ever captured past, present and future in two hours and still managed to leave there space for mysteries which Space hides and we can´t explain them. It is timeless movie which matures overtime and even after half of century didn´t loose it´s magic. I think without this movie there would be no E.T. or Alien.
In 1984 when you were asked to play same character in sequel, how did you feel? Did you like it more than „first“ part?
It was just another job offer and I knew from very beginning that in can´t surpass Kubrick´s movie by mistake.
Today Hollywood films remakes of previously successful films. Do you think there would be anybody capable who would dare to re-make 2001: Space Odyssey with current technology and digital effects?
Maybe there would be someone but why would they want to make it again?
Mostly you are connected with role of David Bowman from this very film. Are you happy or you are annoyed that it shadows other films you have made and your theatre work, too?
If spectators remember me only for this role out of all 30 films I have made, that would be fine. It could end up even worse couldn´t I?
Photo, thanks: IMDb, Collectors, Filmtoro