In the spring of 1965, the physicist and prolific author Jeremy Bernstein wrote a short piece for The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” about of 37-year-old director Stanley Kubrick, who was accelerating towards the zenith of his cultural acclaim after releasing Lolita and Dr. Strangelove and was about to release his greatest film, his cult collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Bernstein recorded these meetings, and the result, a 76-minute audio interview with Kubrick, is a compelling, informal, and hugely informative look into the director’s life. He covers his early films’ origins from script to screen, but also space travel, chess, and the nuclear bomb, which he calls “as abstract as the fact that we are all going to die someday, which we usually do an excellent job of denying.”
This rare audio is arguably Kubrick’s most extensive and revealing interview about his early career, discussing such wide-ranging subjects as how he learned that problem-solving is the key to creative success, why he got bad grades in high school, the promise and perils of nuclear power, the allure of space exploration, and what it was like to work with Clarke and Nabokov.
“Now I think that if you get involved in any kind of problem-solving in-depth – almost anything – it’s surprisingly similar to problem-solving anything.”
“One thing that perhaps helped me get over being a misfit – a school misfit – was that I became interested in photography at about the same time; around 12 or 13. Now I think that if you get involved in any kind of problem-solving in-depth – almost anything – it’s surprisingly similar to problem-solving [in terms of] anything. I started out by just getting a camera and learning how to take pictures and learning how to print pictures, then learning how to build a dark room and learning how to do all the technical things, and so on and so on. And then finally trying to find out how you could sell pictures and, y’know, would it be possible to be a professional photographer? And it was a case of, say, over a period of, say, 13 to 17 you might say, going through step by step by myself – without anybody really helping me – the problem-solving [aspects] of being a photographer. And I found that, I think – in looking back – that this particular thing about problem-solving is something that schools generally don’t teach you. And that if you can develop a kind of generalized approach to problem-solving, that it’s surprising how it helps you in anything. And that most of the deficiencies that you see around you in people that you don’t think particularly are doing their job right or something, it’s really that, I mean, assuming that they care – y’know, a lot of people appear to care, or may actually care – if they’re still not going about things completely the right way, when you think about it, I generally find it’s just that they don’t have a good generalized approach to problem-solving. They’re not thorough. They don’t consider all of the possibilities. They don’t prepare themselves with the right information, and so forth. So I think that photography, though it seemed like a hobby – and ultimately led to a professional job – might have been more valuable than doing the proper things in school.”
A rare interview with Stanley Kubrick
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