Stanley Kubrick, Part 7 — 2001: A Space Odyssey

Published On June 9, 2013 | By Mike Carroll | Stanley Kubrick

There was simply too much in the 2001: A Space Odyssey room in the Stanley Kubrick Exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to contain it in one blog.

One of the 2001 rooms at the Stanley Kubrick Exhibit. The symmetry of how everything is arranged is perfectly in keeping with Stanley Kubrick’s obsession for geometric arrangements and compositions.

2001 is one of the most revolutionary films ever made. It completely defies screenwriting analysis. There are no backstories offered for any of the characters and virtually no discussion of what the story is about. It’s a story about the future that begins with “The Dawn of Man” four million years ago. It then jumps to the future with space craft ascending from the Earth to a space station, which is still under construction. Not a single scene takes place on the Earth in the future, wisely eliminating any outlandish concepts of what the future would look like.

Stanley Kubrick squatted in the Moon Bus set trying to figure out what to do with a scene. I’d seen these photographs before, but never in color.

Much of the film takes place on the interplanetary spacecraft Discovery, yet the two astronauts, Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, overseeing the flight — while the scientists on the crew are only seen in hypersleep chambers for the eighteen-month trip to Jupiter and are never revealed — are shown doing their daily routines, but never discuss or have any idea of what their mission is about.

A photo from a scene on the space station that was never used.

Some of the futuristic furniture from the space station set. It now looks so normal. I could easily see this in my living room — and in this color! I think I read somewhere that Kubrick took some of these pieces home for his children’s rooms.

Kubrick sitting next to the Panavision 70mm camera for the scene on the space station with the Russian scientists. Notice also the old studio overhead microphone. This was the last film where Kubrick would shoot with cameras and microphones and other equipment that he didn’t own.

There is no dialogue during the first 27 minutes of the film. Similarly, there is no dialogue during the last 30 minutes of the film, not including the closing credits.

This is augmented by the sound of the movie. Kubrick had commissioned a soundtrack score from Alex North, who was nominated for an Oscar for his score of Kubrick’s earlier movie Spartacus. However, this traditional movie score did not work at all for what Kubrick was trying to achieve. Instead, he worked with his brother-in-law Jan Harlan, an amateur authority on classical music, and created a score out of classical music. This was revolutionary in itself — a movie set in the future in space accompanied by music that dates back hundreds of years.

The wide-angle lens specially made for the Panavision 70mm camera which served to shoot the ultra-wide angle shots in 2001. It also shot the fish-eye point-of-view shots of the HAL 9000 computer by putting an extension tube between the rear of the lens and the Panavision camera’s lens mount.

The lens in action. Look at how enormous that front element is in relation to the camera. This was necessary because 2001 was shot on 65mm film, which is twice as wide as standard 35mm film. The “T-AO” on the film magazine above the lens is for “Todd-AO.” The “AO” is for “American Optics.” Todd-AO was the format invented and used in the 1950s to shoot “Around The World In 80 Days.” It was owned by Mike Todd, then was inherited upon his death by his wife Elizabeth Taylor. This camera was also most likely used to film “Cleopatra.”

The camera set up on an improvised dolly inside the Discovery centrifuge. This was probably the camera set-up for filming Gary Lockwood jogging around the centrifuge.

A production photo of the spacesuits and helmets in the Discovery pod bay. The red helmet seen here is the same one that is on display in the exhibit.

A production Polaroid of Keir Dullea from the scene just before he leaves Discovery in a pod and forgets to take his space helmet. Kubrick would test his lighting on every shot with a Polaroid camera with manual shutter speeds and F-stops. Christiane Kubrick said that at the time of his death there were still a box with hundreds of Polaroids from 2001 in one of his offices.

One of the space suits used in 2001. All of the details of the spacecraft and suits were done with the advice and consultation with NASA scientists and experts.

Time has not been good to this suit. It looks a bit worse for wear. I’ve always wondered what these suits were like to wear, how warm they were. In all the scenes in the film they look 100% correct.

In an adjoining room a projector was playing scenes from the film. I’ve always loved this sequence, filmed in one continuous handheld shot. All the lighting was strategically built into the set, giving it an even more authentic look. Here you can get an idea, if you haven’t seen 2001 yet, of how completely real-looking the spacesuits look.

The helmet worn by Keir Dullea in the climax of the film. A projector was shooting Dullea’s face from the descent into the stargate sequence onto a curved material inside the helmet.

Even from up close, the back of the helmet looks absolutely real. I’ve seen actual NASA space helmets and suits at the Space Museum in Hutchinson, Kansas, and I can only say that 2001 got it right.

Stanley Kubrick and Keir Dullea inside the Discovery centrifuge.

In the first dialogue scene in the Discovery centrifuge Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea are seen eating processed space food. This is a set of the silverware that was used in that scene. Kubrick obsessed over every detail of style and design in 2001.

A wall of 2001 memorabilia and photo. The model of the Discovery — it was never clear whether this was the miniature used in the film or not.

The astounding detail, even as evidenced by this lighting, makes me thing that this must have been used in the film. No doubt, there were several scale models of the Discovery used.

This is something I never imagined would be on display — the actual Star Child from the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The Star Child in a glass display case. It looks just like a large doll in real life.

The top of The Star Child’s head is removable. Inside are electrical connections so that his eyes light up, as is seen in the end of the film.

Mike Williams assuming The Star Child pose. “Please, Mr. Kubrick — This man is scaring me!”



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About The Author

Mike Carroll joined the digital revolution in 1999 with a Sony TRV900 camcorder and Final Cut Pro, when it was only Final Cut Pro and not version 2, 4 or a Suite.

4 Responses to Stanley Kubrick, Part 7 — 2001: A Space Odyssey

  1. Mike L Scott says:

    the Discovery model was built by Scott Alexander at Atomic city he does wonderful can see the development of his replicas from his web site
    he did a 15 foot discovery years ago for an underwriters project I think only 10 were built .the one on display is Scotts personal copy and its incredible I wished I could afford one.
    I my self am replicating the EVA space suit from the film and am doing copies for Adam Savage and Greg Nicotero at KNB effects.please visit my fliker account for pictures

  2. Spaceflightengineer says:

    The Star Child removable top of head was for accessing the articulated eyes- Not “eyes that light up”.
    Get real. Re-view the film again. The eyes didn’t “light up” like some schlockish B scifi baloney.

  3. Bwood says:

    True about the eyes. They were made so they could converge on an object like real eyes. Incredible.

  4. Steve Marino says:

    Wonderful article, especially w/ the great pictures. It has been said that Kubrick destroyed all of the sets from 2001 to keep other producers from using them in their films, but this proves that is not true. I used to own one of those red couches and a matching chair, which were bought from San Francisco Storage on 16th St back in the 80’s. A co worker mentioned that he had seen some stored stuff for sale over there, “and the guy said they were from a movie or something, but I don’t believe him”. So I ran over there and nearly fainted when I saw them. They had some wear, but were in very good shape. I later sold them to my apt mate when I moved from the city for just what I had paid for them, 20 bucks. Yes, I think about this a lot these days. Lord only knows what they would be worth today.

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