Warner Bros. Studio Burbank, Calif.... 843 6000

 

BARRY LYNDON

STANLEY KUBRICK PROFILE


The suspicion persists that Stanley Kubrick works under a heavy cloak of secrecy to produce the cinematic miracles with which he has astonished the world at regular intervals during two decades or more. Well aware of his reputation as "a demented perfectionist" and social recluse, Kubrick could only wonder at it while working around the clock - surrounded by scores of aides and close collaborators - to put the finishing touches to his impeccable, eagerly anticipated epic, "Barry Lyndon."

From Borehamwood to Broadway and Beverly Hills, curiosity had naturally been running high, since a virtual blackout of publicity was imposed during the more intensive phases of a work-in-progress for the better part of three years. A degree of feverish speculation was inevitable, perhaps, for the film adaptation of a seldom-read first novel by William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 1863) does not sound entirely in character, coming from the director who attracted legions of admirers with such mind-blowing contemporary spectacles as "Dr. Strangelove," "2001: A Space Odyssey," and "A Clockwork Orange" (preceded, of course, by the controversial "Lolita," "Paths of Glory," and those early works that marked Kubrick's evolution from a wunderkind LOOK magazine photographer to equal rank with a handful of the greatest film -makers on the planet).

Now that the critical hosannas are pouring in, no serious doubts remain either about Kubrick' 5 monumental talent or his penchant for springing major surprises. The austere, gleaming, transcendant perfection of "I3arry Lyndon" dazed a few critics, while moving a host of others to the kind of hat-tossing exuberance usually reserved for victory celebrations or New Year's Eve. The tributes ranged from "Overwhelming... an uncompromised artistic vision... greatness that time alone can, and probably will, confirm" (TIME magazine), and "One of the most breathtakingly beautiful films of all time.. .a classic (PI~~Y130Y), to "l3rilliant . .even he has never before made a film quite so audacious... its aching beauty will wipe you out" (THE NEW YORK POST).

While savoring the successful conclusion of the project which a TIME cover story called "Kubrick's Grandest Gamble, " the director himself continues to work an 18-hour day in his drab one-storey command post at the EMi Borehamwood studios outside London. He remains totally engrossed in every aspect of "Barry Lyndon:" sound dubbing for the imminent foreign versions, television advertising spots, posters, even the choice of theatres where the film will play. lie is brisk, black-bearded, affable. Liabitually wearing nondescript cords under a canvas coat with a fur-lined hood, he more nearly resembles a fierce Sherpa guide than a film -maker well on the way to becoming a legend in his own time. lie smokes more than he wants to, but is really hooked on a specially imported brand of black Algeriancoffee, carried in a bright red thermos that goes wherever he goes.

Kubrick fidgets when pressed to exp~in just why he chose "J~arry Lyndon" and Thackeray. 'That's the hardest question to answer about any film I've done. Really, it comes down to one's affection for the material. It's not interesting, at any rate, to keep making the same kind of film, to become a specialist at repeating yourself. And I don't believe there's inherently anything better about doing a contemporary subject. The only really important thing about anv work of art is that it be relevant to human life, and have some element of truth. if it has, nothing is irrelevant. One thing that makes "I3arry ~~yn don" accessible in movie terms is that you don't have to destroy the essential qualities of the story by compressio~i. Though a great deal had to be cut out, it still survives as a film. I wish someone would make, or find the money to make, a thirty-hour film of Thackeray's 'Vanity Fair.' I3ut 'Vanitv Fair' com pressed into three hours would just be nothing."

In Kubrick's wry view, a rash of second-guessing about his affinity for Thac kera y is apt to prove unproductive. "I find, with everv new film of mine, that people are always looking for your last film. In '2001,' thev were looking foi 'Dr. Strangelove. ' and didn't fin~t. in ' Clockwork Orange, ' they were looking for '2001.' Critics, it seems, are compelled to come up with a handle. I~ut for a film-maker, once vou decide what to do, and how to do it, and whetI~er it's right or not when done, you get into areas that are primarily intuitive. You cannot explain whv.

Among the happier surprises of "I3arry i~yndon" was the casting of Ryan O'Neal in the title role. Though O'Neal acquits himself so smashingly that his performance seems all but certain to clinch an Oscar nomination, how did Ku brick come to choose him - a top hollywood glamor boy, with E ngLind full of gifted and highly trained classical actors? 1(ubrick defends his choice without equivocation: "I never imagined anvone else doing it, either before - and certainly not after - the filming. i)irst, I was tremendously impressed wi~ Ryan's work in 'What's Up, Doe?' lie's got qualities as an actor that had never been used. Ani strangely enough, Ryan's emotional acting - when the going gets heavy in 'I3arry I~vndon' - is almost easier for him than anything else. The character also had to be physically attractive, incredibly charming. The very things that made millions of women swoon over Ryan in 'Peyton Place' work beautifully for 'Barry Lyndon' . .. I think his performance is brilliant."

Most actors swear by (not at) Kubrick after working with him, as do other close associates. "his physical energy is astonishing," declares one loyal, exhausted aide, "yet despite the pressures, I've never seen him lose his temper in five years - no~ cv~i the night they ripped the negative of 'Clockwork Orange.'

1 laving spent an entire year on the final cutting and nolishing of "Barry I~yndon," Kubrick naturally hopes that his passion for perfection will not be lost on a public grown accustomed to the esthetic hammer -blows of so much curre lit movie fare. "My assumption always," he says, "is that if I find a subject interesting, other people will too. Though success is pleasing, I don't conduct a market survey. If I were to concern myself with that, I might as well be doing 'I iawaii ~~ive -0.

Kubrick's favorite form of relaxation, when he isn't up to his eyebrows in making a movie, is going to other ~eople's movies or reading. He also enjoys music, ballet, theatre, tab~ tennis, and what he refers to rather vaguely as "normal social activity - I used to be very interested in chess." Considering hims~lf an exceptionally reticent and private person, he spends as mllch spare time as he can manage in his country house near London, which he shares with his third wife, Christiane, three daughters, and a menagerie of dogs and cats. One friend, quoted by TIME, describes him quite accurately as "like a medieval artist, living above his workshop."

A longtime resident of England, Kubrick cannot imagine any ripple effect vndon'' t of "Ikirry I hat might bring him back to the ~J. S. in the imm~diate future. Ironically, the creator of "Space Odyssey" is more or less marooned on the I~ritish isles by the fact that he hates to fly, while "boats are getting fewer and farther between." Yet he shies away from being labelled an expatri ate. "I don't really think of myself as living anywhere in particular. I have been here for quite some time, because the films were made here. It doesn't matter where you are when you're at work on a film. Also I have never felt that England was a foreign country. I get 'The New York Times' by airmail every day. I sometimes even get the Thursday 'Times' on Thursday, so I have this illusion that if I wanted to go down to the Baronet theatre, say, I know what's playing, and could actually go....

He has no idea what his next project may be. Perhaps "The Life of Napoleon," a film he was forced to abandon several years ago. "It just looked like it was going to cost more th~ any company wanted to spend." But for that, there might have been no "Barry Lyndon," number ten in the collected works of Stanley Kubrick, whose ultimate aim - as one Kubrick watcher puts it, is "a string of masterpieces," each bearing the inimitable stamp of a unique retiring, obsessive and unpredictable genius. Let the record stand that Kubrick, at age 47, has added another flawless pearl to his string.

"Barry Lyndon" is written for the screen, produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, and stars Ryan O'Neal and Marisa Berenson. For release world-wide by Warner Bros.

** * * Printed in U.S.A. 11376