Fifty years ago today, Stanley Kubrick’s singular motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey, recently styled the “strangest blockbuster in Hollywood history,” was presented to general audiences for the first time. The movie was released during an unusually eventful week: Just four days earlier, Lyndon Johnson had announced that he would give up presidentin’ due to the increasing unpopularity of the military conflict in Vietnam. A day after the premiere, a bullet from the gun of James Earl Ray would end the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1965 Kubrick hired a well-known British magazine illustrator named Brian Sanders to document the making of 2001. Sanders was given complete access to the production, to document the creation of the remarkable sets and so forth. Sanders would spend two days a week on the set drawing sketches and spend the rest of the week at his studio working on larger paintings. Kubrick singled out Sanders as the only person permitted to take photographs on the set.
Of his collaboration with Kubrick, Sanders said last year:
It was a wonderful brief to be able to draw on the set and go back to the studio to paint the bigger pictures. I could do whatever I wanted and it was absolutely lovely not working to a tight brief.
Also when I saw what Stanley had built, it was just incredible. There was the centrifuge, which you see the inside of in the film, with people running around the ceiling and various parts of it. That alone must have been 30 feet high. I remember when it started up for the first time, all of its lights were connected to one big console and they began to pop!
So he was very much in new territory, obviously in collaboration with other people but he invented new concepts such as a mounted camera where the actual camera itself would revolve. The invention was amazing, I was quite young at the time so to be able to work with him on the set was really incredible.
Many of the photographs would remain unseen for several decades. Secretive Stanley took the images from Sanders and did nothing publicly with them—only two images ever saw the light of day during the movie’s initial run. Sanders was disappointed, saying later that “the works never appeared anywhere in the end—it was a terrible anti-climax. I understood how the actors in A Clockwork Orange felt when he withdrew it from show.”
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ by Jack Kirby
‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ comic in fantastic Howard Johnson’s ‘Children’s Menu’