“I’m going out with my droogs to the cinny to shove a pooshka into the grahzny bratchny.”
A roundup of some behind-the-scenes photos from the set of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, 1971. Like Cure videos and cute cat memes, there is a seemingly bottomless well of Kubrick memorabilia on the Internet. His films will still be discussed, debated—and still WATCHED—500 years from now.
One of the central difficulties about acting is the sheer act of putting yourself out there—giving it your all, emoting, gesticulating, chewing on a bizarre accent. The difference between a bold and inspired performance and a cringeworthy one has to be next to nothing, right? Jodie Foster once said that “acting is about being the uncoolest person in the room—the unhippest, the worst dancer, the worst dresser.”
This problem of confronting the ridiculous is a good deal of what makes the audition process so terribly daunting—all the more so if you are submitting a tape of a scene you’ve acted solo in your own bedroom. If you have seen Master of None, you probably remember a funny scene in which the Aziz Ansari character is obliged to submit an audition via Skype from a coffee shop. This stuff isn’t easy.
As Stanley Kubrick neared production on his Vietnam epic Full Metal Jacket, he hit upon a novel way of conducting the casting process for a movie that would inevitably be filled with fresh-faced kids: he made public solicitations for audition videotapes. Kubrick’s willingness to assess untried talent in this manner was big news in early 1984. It appeared in movie columns in newspapers like the Boston Globe and the Washington Post, with detailed instructions. As John Baxter noted in Stanley Kubrick: A Biography,
Variety also noted that Kubrick would “launch a nationwide search for new faces to play the young Marines. ‘Kubrick plans to stick very closely to that age in casting the film,’ says WB.” Kubrick played on his mystique, letting wannabe actors do much of the work of casting for him. In March 1984 he told the world’s press that he wanted audition tapes from anyone who felt able to play an eighteen-year-old Marine. They should stand against a plain background in jeans and a white T-shirt with a card showing their name and a contact number, then perform a dramatic scene of no more than three minutes. After that he wanted a minute on themselves and their interests. Then they should hold up a sheet with their name, address, phone number, age and date of birth. A series of close-ups, full-length shots and left and right profiles would finish the tape, which should then be sent to Warners in London.
Kubrick received as many as three thousand videotapes of prospective movie Marine grunts. Kubrick’s staff reviewed all the tapes received and eliminated the ones they deemed unacceptable. Kubrick personally reviewed eight hundred audition tapes, noting that the majority of young men played guitar and were involved in body building.
On a recent episode of his podcast Doug Loves Movies, comedian Doug Benson, who would have been 19 years old at the time, revealed that he sent Kubrick an audition tape. In fact, according to Lobrutto, Vincent D’Onofrio won the part of Private Pyle in the movie by submitting an audition tape in this manner.
In 2006 a video surfaced of another audition tape that was made for Kubrick that year. It was by a young actor at Juilliard named Brian Atene, and the pomposity of his intro speech as well as the over-the-top acting in a scene “loosely based upon” S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders struck a chord among Internet users.
In the intro to the video, He likens himself to “a young Alec Guinness” (the kid had taste, anyway) and calls the intended recipient of the tape, Stanley Kubrick, “one of the greatest directors of all time,” if not quite the equal of “Michael Curtiz, director of The Sea Hawk.” My favorite bit from the video comes when Atene says, “My favorite composer is Erich Wolfgang Korngold, when I was 12 years old I won a spaniel puppy for 50 cents and my favorite color is green.” Now that is a troika of facts that hangs together nicely.
The performance was not perhaps overly terrible but certainly quite histrionic. A host of parody videos were hurriedly concocted, and eventually Atene himself, now in his 40s, came out with a response video—but it only had the effect of fanning the flames. Among other things we learned that Atene made two videos for Kubrick, and the one that went viral 22 years after its creation was the one he didn’t send to the director.
I find it very difficult to be too hard on Atene because I probably wasn’t all that different when I was his age. A little pretentiousness and self-importance aren’t so bad in a young person who is desirous of leading a life in the arts, right?
The late, great Blogspot site Bubblegum Fink bit the dust several years ago, but we can ensure that the Fink’s creativity lives on for future generations to appreciate. Last spring I brought you a set of fake trading cards that might possibly have been manufactured in an alternate universe for The Wicker Man. Today we have an similarly impossible set of trading cards for children to enjoy outlining the decidedly adult plot points of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
The Fink’s comments on this set, in part:
A Clockwork Orange is another set of trading cards, like The Wicker Man, that never could have existed at the time the film was released. But now, I would rush out to buy a box. Wouldn’t you? I’m happy with the card design, but less so with the Clockwork Orange font which I wish had been a little sharper. To do it over again, I’d just get rid of it. Of course, the cards represent a sort of edited-for-television version of the film, and it’s also the shortest set I’ve done at only 33 cards.
My favorite part is the PG, hamfisted, one might even say clueless captions (“Surprise Visit,” “Work of Art,” “Apology”).
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) neon movie poster
Using the art of “one point perspective” (an approach to art that began as early as the 15th century in Europe that utilizes a “vanishing point” on the horizon point of the image) two Italian twin brothers (working under the moniker Van Orton Design) took on the task of digitally reimagining movie posters based on cult films from directors like Dario Argento and Wes Anderson, in vivid electric neon color schemes.
Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
Although the twins used modern methods to obtain their striking results, there is a distinct old-school feel to their posters that homage some of cinema’s greatest achievements of the past 50 years. The brothers, who appear to prefer to remain nameless and obscure their faces with masks, have also managed to have the films be seen through fresh eyes due to their unique presentation and interpretation of different, unforgettable scenes in the films themselves. Such as the moment Marcellus Wallace unfortunately strolled in front of the beat up Honda that Butch Coolidge was driving in Pulp Fiction (pictured above) before everything goes to shit for both of them. Bonus? A few of the twins’ prints and other works are available for purchase, here. Many images that may require sunglasses (or an extra tab of LSD in your morning coffee if that’s how you roll) to maximize your enjoyment, follow.
Weegee is most renowned for his brilliant photos of crime scenes as well as other urban subjects from the 1940s, but what you might not know is that Weegee was a “technical consultant” on the set of one of the greatest movies ever made, Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. Furthermore, it seems that Peter Sellers’ vocal pattern for the eponymous character owes more than a small debt to Weegee, whose Hungarian/NYC voice Sellers recorded and apparently inspired him in creating Strangelove’s distinctively foreign accent.
As though a satire about bombing all of humanity to death wasn’t gruesome enough, Kubrick brought in as technical consultant the photographer Weegee, who was known for having taken stark, emotionally charged photographs of an estimated five thousand murder scenes over the course of his grim career. Named Usher Fellig at birth, Weegee moved with his family to New York at the age of ten; officials at Ellis Island changed his name to Arthur. As a photographer, he seemed to be clairvoyant in terms of knowing where crimes had been committed; Weegee often arrived on the scene before the police. Hence his nickname (inspired by the Ouija board). Officially, Weegee’s technical consultations involved Dr. Strangelove’s periodically harsh, crime-scene-like black-and-white cinematography, but because he had an unusual accent—German overlaid with New York, all with a nasal, slightly strangled, back-of-the-throat quality—he inadvertently provided technical assistance for the film’s star as well.
“I vas psychic!,” Weegee told Peter on the set one day—a conversation Peter was taping for research purposes. “I vould go to a moidah before it vas committed!” Peter’s vocal model for Strangelove was Weegee, whom Sellers pushed further into parody.
Among other things you can see shots of the famous “pie fight” sequence that was filmed but did not make it into the final cut of the movie.
This fascinating footage was posted about a year ago on YouTube, representing the first time in decades, if ever, that it had been made available for public viewing. It’s a promo reel for Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, lasting roughly 20 minutes (it’s broken up into 2 YouTube videos) that was recorded off the wall from the projection of the scarce 35mm reel with what appears to be Kubrick himself providing a kind of play-by-play for the various scenes that are depicted—many of which have become utterly iconic by this time.
It was the essential blog Cinephilia and Beyond who first spotted this, to my knowledge. The reel includes, as Open Culture’s charmingly Strangelove-obsessed Colin Marshall put it, “the B52s circling constantly, refueling in midair; Brigadier General Jack Ripper’s sudden order to bomb Russia; General Buck Turgidson’s wee-hour departure for the ‘War Room’; the siege of Burpelson Air Force Base; Group Captain Lionel Mandrake’s struggle for the recall code and subsequent confrontation with the ‘prevert’-fixated Colonel Bat Guano; President Merkin Muffley’s bad news-breaking call to Russian Premier Dmitri Kissoff; the titular German expatriate scientist’s plan to restart society after the nuclear apocalypse.”
The footage is undeniably raw—considering it was filmed from a projected image—and some of the takes are unfamiliar. This was a work in progress of one of the most galvanizing cinematic successes of the 20th century, and it’s fascinating to hear the flat, Bronx-bred accent of the master walk the viewer through the movie. It’s not clear what the purpose of this promo reel was, but Cain Rodriguez at The Playlist speculates that the idea may have been “to placate investors since the satirical elements are somewhat downplayed.”
The work of Israeli born artist Tomer Hanuka may be familiar to you. The New York based artist and comic book enthusiast has created pieces for some of the biggest publications, film studios and business in the world such as The New York Times, Universal Pictures, and Microsoft. Of particular interest is Hanuka’s ongoing series of posters based on the films of Stanley Kubrick.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb movie poster
So far Hanuka has produced four posters based on films from Kubrick’s catalog; Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, and A Clockwork Orange. The posters are as colorful as they are unsettling. I especially love how Hanuka manages to incorporate the more memorable, as well as troubling aspects from the four films into his posters. I don’t know about you, but I for one cannot wait to see which Kubrick flick Hanuka takes on next. Lolita, anyone?
Artist Kristan Horton knows Dr. Strangelove well. I mean really well, much, much better than you do: he’s watched it hundreds of times, the natural outcome of a situation that arose when a VHS cassette of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece was the only content he could play on his TV set over a period lasting more than two years.
Horton, who is from Canada, says that this created a relationship to the movie he had to respond to, somewhat like when “Star Wars fans ... log hundreds of viewings and go on to make Storm Trooper outfits for themselves in their living rooms.”
Several years ago Horton decided to make an art project by re-creating hundreds of stills from the movie using ordinary objects you might find in your home. The project is called Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove and was shown at Jessica Bradley Art + Projects and Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery.
Horton had wanted to re-create the movie via animation, but eventually realized that the stills from Dr. Strangelovehad a special power and allowed for sober comparison of the original and the imitation:
The project began with an intention to animate [by creating] an animated film. But it was the still that attracted me. The comparison was the exciting part. We can take as much time as we like in making the comparison. Time is on our side, not whizzing by at 24 frames per second.
The project has roughly 200 images, of which we show a small sample here. You can buy the book of Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove and study all of the images at your leisure.
(Click on each image to see a larger view—these are gorgeous, and you’re going to want a closer look.)
Stanley Kubrick’s career took a winding path to him becoming one of the great auteurs of cinema history. Before he became a filmmaker, his street photography for LOOK magazine (a job he got at 17 years of age) captured striking, insular moments—the kind that usually go unnoticed in public; his pictures of the NYC subway system are particularly engaging (very Edward Hopper). He made his way to film after discovering how much companies would pay for a short newsreels, and how much profit he could make by doing all the rentals and purchasing himself.
His first film was Day of the Fight, a 15-minute-long documentary about middleweight boxer Walter Cartier. Although he sold it to RKO-Pathé, he ended up $100 in the red, all said and done. Undeterred, he made a second short for RKO-Pathé, Flying Padre, a puff piece about a priest who used a plane to visit his parishioners—again, not a money-maker. His third film however, is the most obscure of his career, and the one that allowed him to raise the money for his first feature, Fear and Desire.
The Seafarers is a 30-minute, 1953 promotional film for the Seafarers International Union—a labor union amalgam representing mariners, fishermen and boatmen. The short is pure workerist propaganda (my favorite kind), and it’s very well made, for what it is. As per the genre, Kubrick films impressive ships, office bustle, cafeteria meals and even a union meeting, but looking closely, you can still see his fingerprints. In the canteen for example, you see an early incarnation of a Kubrick signature shot, as a slow dolly glides across the busy room of hungry men. Kubrick never mentioned The Seafarers in interviews, and it wasn’t even “rediscovered” until 1973 when a film scholar submitted it to the Library of Congress, but the short most certainly reveals the gestating eye of the great filmmaker.
Ken Russell was among the many directors originally touted to direct A Clockwork Orange before Stanley Kubrick. Russell was considered stylistically sympathetic to bring Anthony Burgess’s source novel to cinematic life—he had documented youth gangs as a photographer in the 1950s and made a series of highly influential drama-documentaries and films that had inspired not only Stanley Kubrick but also Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson and later Derek Jarman. I wonder what Russell’s version of A Clockwork Orange would have been like? Perhaps more flamboyant, more seedy, more of the end-of the-pier, more human than Kubrick’s aesthetically pleasing but cold and sterile vision. And though the great and the good lobbied to have Mick Jagger play Alex, I wonder if Russell would have opted for his favorite actor Oliver Reed? Oh, what japes they’d have had. Instead Kubrick chose Malcolm McDowell because of his unforgettable and iconic performance as Mick Travis in Lindsay Anderson’s If…
Casting at first sight: director Lindsay Anderson was understandably smitten by McDowell’s beauty, talented and attitude when he cast him as Mick Travis in ‘If…’ The performance that led to his role as Alex in Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange.’.
McDowell had the blue-eyed, blonde beauty of a fallen angel—he would have been the perfect choice to play Lucifer for Kenneth Anger. McDowell was born in 1943 into a lower middle class family in Leeds, he was never the working class lout as some tabloids like to pretend but a privately educated son to a family who ran a small guest house. He was clever, smart, idealistic, and decided he wanted to be an actor. After school, he found found work as a stage manager on the Isle of Wight before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company. McDowell embraced the cultural rebellion of the 1960s and hated the dominance of the established theatrical institutions, as he once explained to writer Michael Bracewell:
‘The RSC? Horrendous. Middle-class theatre crap…actorly acting with lots of shouting—after [Laurence] Olivier—and soul-searching performances…I mean I saw some great performances—Ian Richardson and Paul Scofield—but it was like being ordered around and told what to do by a bunch of little shitheads. I auditioned for the RSC by reading the Prologue from Henry VIII, for the very good reason that nobody knew it. It begins, “I come no more to make you laugh”, which was ironic, because humour has always been a great mainstay of my arsenal. I mean, A Clockwork Orange was essentially a comic performance. I used to loot my style from Eric Morecambe.’
Eric Morecambe (with umbrella and bowler) and Ernie Wise.
Eric Morecambe was the comic half to the much-beloved double-act Morecambe and Wise, who dominated British television screens in the 1960s and 1970s, which brings a different interpretation to his performance as Alex—one that would have been ideal for Ken Russell.
‘I’ve always had to live down A Clockwork Orange wherever I go, because ever since then, with the exception of O, Lucky Man!, which I made with Lindsay [Anderson] immediately afterwards, I’ve always been cast as the heavy. It used to irritate the shit out of me, and then I just got bored with it, you know? I just wanted to get on, maybe make a few comedies or do something else, but there was Alex…I know that I’ve said some mean things about Kubrick in the past, but thinking back to the actual shooting of that film and trying to forget all the baggage of what happened afterwards, it was an incredibly stimulating experience, even though I got to the point where I hated the film because of the reaction.’
This runs contra to McDowell’s enthusiasm as expounded in this interview about A Clockwork Orange he gave with author Anthony Burgess in 1972, but this was still early days and McDowell had not been hamstrung by his move to Hollywood, where he ended-up making movies for the lowest common denominator. McDowell is an exceptionally talented actor and no matter how dire the film he always gives a powerfully memorable performance.
The book and its Beethoven-loving author, Anthony Burgess.
Anthony Burgess came to hate Kubrick’s film too, which was ironic as the movie made Burgess a bigger star than his writing up to that point had achieved. Burgess is a writer’s writer, a polymath who claimed he would rather be known for his musical compositions than his books. Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange in 1962, after being mistakenly told he had not long to live. To ensure he left money for his wife, Burgess wrote a series of novels in quick succession, one of which was A Clockwork Orange. It was moderately successful on publication, a cult book, that became a bestseller after Kubrick’s movie. Burgess claimed he took the title from an old East London saying, “As queer as a clockwork orange,” which may or may not be true, as there appears to be no known record of this phrase. Whatever its derivation, it perfectly captured the book’s theme of a hideous artificial will imposed on natural behavior.
McDowell and Kubrick on set during filming.
After Kubrick’s film version of A Clockwork Orange was released in Britain in 1971, it was ironically linked to a series of violent crimes. The first was the murder of a tramp by a 16-year-old youth; the second involved another 16-year-old who, while dressed in the film’s distinctive gang uniform, stabbed a younger boy; the third was the brutal and horrific gang rape of a Dutch girl by a group of youths from Lancashire, as they sang “Singing in the Rain”.
Sentencing the 16-year-old for assaulting a child, a judge described the attack part of a “horrible trend” prompted by “this wretched film”. Following death threats and warnings from the police over revenge attacks, Kubrick asked Warner Brothers to pull the film from its UK release. For a very long time, through the 1980s and 1990s, the nearest place Brits could see A Clockwork Orange was Paris. It was only after Kubrick’s death in 1999 was his ban lifted and the film re-released in the UK.
In the June 25, 1972 issue of the Chicago Tribune there appears a profile of Peter Sellers written by the paper’s film critic Gene Siskel. The article focuses on some serious health problems Sellers had recently undergone, specifically “eight heart attacks in one day.” Sellers seemed to be recovering well, in part due to a newfound interest in yoga.
The article does not mention what triggered those “eight heart attacks in one day.” According to Wikipedia, on the night of April 5, 1964, prior to having sex with his wife Britt Ekland, Sellers took amyl nitrites as a sexual stimulant in his search for “the ultimate orgasm” and suffered a series of eight heart attacks over the course of three hours as a result. This unfortunate medical outcome forced Sellers to withdraw from the filming of Billy Wilder’s Kiss Me, Stupid; he was replaced by Ray Walston.
Knowing that Sellers was likely the world’s most famous actorly collaborator of Stanley Kubrick’s, having appeared to spectacular effect in Dr. Strangelove and Lolita, Siskel naturally inquired as to Sellers’ opinion of A Clockwork Orange, which had been out for a few months and had sparked intense discussion over the role of violence in the movies.
Much to Siskel’s surprise, it turns out that Sellers’ opinion of the movie was unequivocal: he hated it.
Sellers: I hated ‘A Clockwork Orange.’ I thought it was the biggest load of crap I’ve ever seen for years. Amoral. I think because of the violence around today it’s lamentable that a director of Stanley Kubrick’s distinction and ability should lend himself to such a subject. I’m not saying that you can’t pick up that book [the Anthony Burgess novel upon which the film is based], read it, and put it down. But to make it as a film, with all the violence we have in the world today – to add to it, to put it on show – I just don’t understand where Stanley is at.
Siskel: Are you saying that it will influence people to commit violence that they would otherwise not commit?
Sellers: I think it adds to it.
Most fascinating (and in a way, hilarious) is a passage later in the profile, which comes when Siskel is trying to get Sellers to admit that it’s okay for movies to handle violence as a subject. Sellers interrupts: “I must tell you first of all that I’m a yogi. I am against violence completely. Hare ommm. So you now know why. So there’s really no point in asking any more questions about it.”
In the summer of 1945, Stanley Kubrick, many years before he was the acclaimed director of Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, had a series of photographs published in LOOK magazine, a competitor to LIFE. He was just 16 years old. Thus would begin a relationship with the magazine that would last several years, until he began making movies in earnest around the age of 23, in the early 1950s.
Kubrick took this self-portrait in 1949 with his Leica III while working as a staff photographer for LOOK Magazine
A pretty impressive homage to Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 masterpiece A Clockwork Orange hosted by Grand Theft Auto Online on YouTube. It took more than a dozen people to recreate some of the most iconic scenes from the movie using Grand Theft Auto V. Now I’ve played GTA a few times myself—this was years ago, btw—and I can’t figure out for the life of me just how they were able to recreate a few of these scenes. Incredible work!
It wasn’t just the nuclear fallout in the milk that concerned most people during the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was a genuine fear that the world was on the verge of an all-out nuclear war between Russia and America that would end life on the planet or make it rather awful for the few survivors. These anxieties were heightened by the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and were reflected in a series of novels, films, and TV dramas that predicted humanity’s seemingly inevitable nuclear annihilation at the push of a button.
When Stanley Kubrick optioned Peter George’s book Red Alert (aka Two Hours to Doom), he intended to make a faithful film adaptation of the George’s chilling tale of near nuclear armageddon. But as he researched the subject and began work on a script with the author, Kubrick found the proposition of nuclear war utterly absurd and decided to make not a thriller but “a nightmare comedy” that satirized the insanity of two countries arming themselves with such horrific weapons of mass destruction.
Kubrick considered telling the story of Earth’s nuclear demise from the point of view of visiting extraterrestrials, but didn’t think this approach had the right amount of “inspired lunacy.” He then decided to bring in author Terry Southern to write a story using George’s novel as a loose framework to play up the comedy rather than the thrills. The result was Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb—“the most perfectly written comedic screenplay of post-war cinema,” as critic Alexander Walker described it. Dr. Strangelove was also the film that brought Kubrick’s unique visionary talents as a director to the fore.
Kubrick discusses a shot with camera operator Kelvin Pike and the director’s wife Christiane Kubrick.
Kubrick instructs cast members during filming of the siege of the airbase.
Operating the camera prior to filming a scene with George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson and Tracy Reed as Miss Scott.
Many more pics from the filming of the Cold War classic after the jump…..
One of the best things about being Stanley Kubrick would be that people like Scatman Crothers, who played Dick Hallorann in The Shining, would just spontaneously write songs about you and sing them to you. I feel like if that ever happened to you, your life would be complete. And no, you can’t just substitute Kanye in for Scatman or something like that. Biz Markie, maybe.
Anyway, in a 1980 interview conducted by Mick Garris, Crothers discusses Kubrick’s excessive perfectionism (as represented by the unwieldy number of takes) and then essays a rendition of a little song he composed about Kubrick during a down moment on the set of The Shining—it sounds like there were plenty of down moments to choose from.
Even more fabulously, Scatman, true to his name, actually does do some scat-singing in the song. Here are the lyrics to “Stanley (Does It All)”—Scatman was very insistent about the parentheses there.
There’s a man
Livin’ in London Town
He’s a world renown
Yes, he’s really got the fame
Stanley Kubrick is his name
He does it all
He does it all
I’m tellin’ y’all
Stanley does it all
He’s a writer, he directs
He produces his projects
He’s the man behind the lens
And Stanley always wins
He’s a man who looks ahead
Can make you think he raised the dead
It’s and cuts all his flicks
He’s a genius with his tricks
He does it all
He does it all