Monday, April 7, 2014

2001: The Space Odyssey | Interview with Keir Dulea and Gary Lockwood at Hayden Orpheum | Sydney

I grew up during a time watching science fiction films, such as Star Wars and Star Trek where it was assumed mankind and extraterritorial life form co-existed side by side. There was rarely a question in these films of where Yoda, Wookie or Ewoks came from in Star Wars or how it came about that it was fine for humans to hang out with Klingons, Romulans or Vulcans in Star Trek. It was just assumed they all existed together (whether or not harmoniously) in whatever shape or form. However, Gary Lockwood, one of the lead actors of the 1968 classic 2001: The Space Odyssey, was quick to tell me that “Star Wars is a kids film” and draws no comparison to Stanley Kubrick’s landmark masterpiece.

2001: The Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick was originally based on the 1951 short story by Arthur C. Clarke, The Sentinel and later developed into a more expansive novel. Love or hate the film, the plot will make you question, not whether other life form exists, but what form does it exist.

Recently, at the Hayden Orpheum in Cremorne, I had the privilege of meeting in person the two lead actors in the 1968 film 2001: The Space Odyssey, Keir Dullea who plays David Bowman and Gary Lockwood who plays Dr Frank Poole, both astronauts in the movie. I learnt a lot from my discussion with Dullea and Lockwood about the making of this film 45 years ago, and the film director himself, Stanley Kubrick whose film credentials include Hollywood blockbusters including Spartacus (1960), Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove (1964) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999). If there was any message that resonated with me from my discussion with the actors, it’s the high praise and respect they had for Kubrick as a filmmaker and as a person.

1. What key element gave the 2001: The Space Odyssey near legendary status?

Dullea said, “Stanley Kubrick (the film’s director) is a big part of why it is what it is. He was one of the geniuses of the cinematic arts and there weren’t many that could equal him.” Lockwood emphatically echoed, “Hah! None!” Dullea added, “The film is so visual - in first 20 mins there is no dialogue and in the last 20 minutes there is no dialogue at all.”

When a comparison was drawn with Star Wars, which appeared years later after 2001: The Space Odyssey, Lockwood said the film draws no comparison adding, “Star Wars is a kid’s film - a cowboy movie in space”. Dullea thought the film paved the way for Star Wars.

Why 2001: The Space Odyssey worked was that the film was at the right place at the right time. “The younger generation was coming along, more technologically astute with computers and so the film hit a chord like a sweet spot of a golf club”, Lockwood said.

2. Were you puzzled by the storyline and the ending when you read the script and during the film?

Despite many critics and viewers being puzzled by the story line, Lockwood did not think the storyline was complicated.

Dullea added, “The thing about Stanley is that he never tied the plot to the novel…there was always some ambivalence. Catholic nuns thought the film had great religious significance. Atheist thought it was a great film. The film fulfilled the philosophy of a lot of people.”

When the film was made in the 1960s, Lockwood said they didn’t have a proper script, “How does a script show what the film would look like? There was hardly any dialogue. It was always in Kubrick’s head.” Dullea says, “I had read the short story written by Arthur C Clarke, called ‘The Sentinel’ when I was 12 or 13. When I read the script I suddenly thought something is familiar here. Arthur C Clarke only wrote about finding a monolith on the moon. His question was that now that it was uncovered by man, it was like a cosmic alarm clock that was signalling the original alien presence that was there four or five hundred thousand years beforehand when man was merely an ape. So his query was, who was it that was receiving the monolith’s signal? Kubrick collaborated with Clarke, elongated the story and came up with what became the film."

Lockwood said, “The reason why there was no substantial script is because we improvised many many things. In order to make something that complicated the sets had to be designed according to their needs. There was a definite story board on how it would go. Towards the end of the film, Keir came up with a great idea on how he would see himself and the cuts as he advanced in age – that wasn’t in the script but that was how that came about.” Whereas Lockwood helped set up the powerful scene where the computer Hal, with its single red eye, was reading the lips of the astronauts as they were in the pod – one of the most powerful scenes in the movie, just before the intermission break.

3. What was the most memorable moment in working with the director, Stanley Kubrick?

Lockwood said “I can’t say there was a memorable moment other than he was an intelligent man you could have a conversation with. Unlike other directors, I think Stanley Kubrick actually liked actors – not all of them do”. Dullea agreed noting it was such a wonderful and calm experience working with Stanley Kubrick: “He even played music for you.”

Q&A at the Hayden Orpheum

Before the film started at the Hayden Orpheum cinema, Dullea and Lockwood had a Q&A session with the audience. The actors gave some interesting tips of advice for budding young film directors such as “if you cast well 85% of your job was done” and “don’t listen to anybody but read – the brighter you are the better choices you’ll make”.

One question asked that was interesting is what impact did 2001: The Space Odyssey have on science fiction as a genre? 2001 had a massive impact in America according to Lockwood. There were people who dropped out of med school to become astronauts. Dullea added, “The direct effect the film had on science fiction is that it paved the way for big budget science fiction films. Before 2001, science fiction films were B grade. 2001 paved the way for Star Wars and everything else came ever since.”

Acknowledgements: Many thanks goes to Scott from First Contact Conventions and the Hayden Orpheum, Cremorne for making this event possible.

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