Stanley Kubrick called himself a “demented perfectionist,” and there were few who disagreed Sunday during a tribute to the late director of gems like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “A Clockwork Orange.”
“His eccentricities were the ones of an artist protecting his vision,” said movie critic Richard Schickel. “Other men broke under the strain of Stanley’s heedless pursuit of perfection. I suppose that, in the end, he did, too.”
Sitting among the audience at the Directors Guild of America were actors who worked for Kubrick, including Jack Nicholson (“The Shining”) and Keir Dullea (“2001”); former colleagues such as Warner Bros. co-chairs Bob Daly and Terry Semel, business partner James Harris and production designer Ken Adam (“Dr. Strangelove,” “Barry Lyndon”); and admirers like Steven Spielberg, Warren Beatty and Curtis Hanson.
Hundreds of calls
Semel recalled the “hundreds and hundreds of phone calls and thousands of faxes” he received from Kubrick during their 30-year collaboration. “I guess you could say he was unrelenting,” Semel said, and the crowd laughed knowingly.
Semel said he spoke with Kubrick by phone early on the day Kubrick died in his sleep — March 7, in Harpenden, England — and that the director had been jubilant about his latest film, “Eyes Wide Shut.”
“He clearly went to bed with a smile on his face,” Semel surmised.
Vincent D’Onofrio, whose first film was “Full Metal Jacket,” remembered asking one day on the set why there was a van full of people nearby. ” ‘Those are the London film execs,’ ” Kubrick replied. ” ‘They’re not allowed to get out.’ ”
During the making of “Strangelove,” Adam said he drove Kubrick to the set every day in his Jaguar E-type, “but Stanley insisted I not drive above 30 miles an hour.”
Adam described the Bronx-born director as “a kind patriarch,” revealing that Kubrick had once spent hours helping him set up the lights for a scene in “The Spy Who Loved Me.”
Spielberg met Kubrick — “a schlumpy-looking man in ill-fitting clothes” — on the London set of “The Shining” in 1980. ” ‘Saw your last movie, ‘1941,’ ” Kubrick said to him. ” ‘It was great, but it wasn’t funny. You should have sold it as a drama.’ ”
More recently, Spielberg said, “We were actually going to do a picture together that he was going to produce and that I was going to direct; I have 900 pieces of fax paper on that project.”
During a reception following the tribute, Spielberg said he often sent Kubrick the first cuts of his movies, even before the studios had seen them, but that Kubrick did not reciprocate. “How come?” Spielberg asked him around the time of “Full Metal Jacket.”
” ‘Because that’s who I am, and that’s who you are,’ ” Kubrick replied.
Beatty said Kubrick “navigated the currents of idealism and the vulgarities of the marketplace better than anyone else.”
“Most of us were so shocked by his death because we figured if anyone had it wired to live to 110 or 125, it was Stanley,” Beatty said.