Filmworker (2017) Movie Script

So I'm always
caught in that dichotomy,
is the journey
the most thrilling part of it?
Or is it, I say end result. I don't
think you ever get to an end result.
You get to a result as close as you can
get in the time that you need to get it.
And I think if you have
a lot of curiosity,
you-you kind of never feel
like you've completed any journey,
because you're always
changing trains.
And you're always, without knowing it,
on some other destination.
It's a conundrum.
I thought about Leon as a
moth that was attracted to the flame
that causes the moth
to burn its own wings off.
Stanley Kubrick was
an incredibly bright light.
His seductiveness was strong enough
for Leon to be burned by Stanley's light.
I'd seen 2001
just after I left drama school.
And I just thought it was the
greatest movie I'd ever seen.
Then I went to see to A Clockwork
Orange, because it was Stanley Kubrick.
When I was watching
the performances,
like Malcolm McDowell,
it was so big, so bold.
And I thought, this is as close as you get
to a theatrical kind of performance on film.
And it makes sense.
And how wonderful for an actor
to be able to come on and give
that whole, broad feeling.
-J I'm singin' in the rain I
-When the film finished,
I turned to the person
I was actually watching it with,
and I said,
"I want to work for that man".
That's exactly what I said.
"I want to work for that man".
l was lucky,
because I never didn't work.
l was doing theater, television,
prestige costume dramas, BBC.
l shocked you,
didn't I?
l was doing one-off plays,
a couple of movies.
There were cop dramas.
Why should they want to?l live on the
outskirts of town, middle of suburbia.
I think I did every single one of them
that was being done at the time.
Not gonna bring her back to life again
are you, you interfering bastards?
Were you, on the night in question,
anywhere near that warehouse?
No, no, no!
l was doing sitcoms.
I was in London
when everything was changing.
I felt I could be, and do, and behave
the way I wanted to.
It was a huge release for me.
- Thy will be done, on Earth as it is...
May I come with you?
One of my agents had actually heard that
Stanley Kubrick was doing a new production.
And he organized
an audition for me,
and it was a film called
Barry Lyndon.
So Stanley had
the text sent to you.
And on the front of mine,
when it came,
it had a little note which had what I later
understood to be Stanley's handwriting.
Which was, "Learn these lines".
And when someone like Stanley Kubrick
tells you to learn your lines,
you learn your lines.
A phone call came through,
and my agent told me,
"You've got the role
in Stanley Kubrick's picture".
Well, my head
was somewhere out there.
Thanks, oh great ones.
I got a telephone call, who said "You
should be at the White Hart Hotel at 6:00,
because Stanley
wants to meet you".
And I was standing
in that hotel foyer,
and suddenly, there was this
little tap on my shoulder.
I turned round, and he said,
"Hi, Leon. I'm Stanley".
And we shook hands.
And I have to
tell you something.
When you shook hands
with Stanley,
it was warm and gentle.
Just, like, a buzz
went through you.
0n the first shooting day,
l was a little surprised at myself
at how nervous I actually felt about
what was going to happen.
He was given a long tube.
And he said, "Put an 18 on".
Now I didn't know
what that meant.
But then he put it up to his eye,
and said, "Okay, Leon, action.
And do it the way you think
you're gonna do it.
I don't want any of this kind of
saving it for the take".
And so we kicked off.
He was wandering around.
He was looking through this tube.
He was getting up close.
He was standing far back,
standing on a stepladder,
down on his knee.
And then he'd change lenses and
go through the whole process again.
And each time I'd have to start
from the beginning
and keep saying it and keep saying it
and keep saying it.
And then just about we were
going to start shooting it,
he actually said,
"Let's do something else".
Completely disorientated me.
I thought, "Oh, my God".
He was going to change the scene
he was going to shoot.
When I walk in with Bryan,
my little stepbrother,
and he's wearing my shoes, we did it
over and over and over again.
And once we'd kind of found the pulse,
the emotional beat of the whole thing...
-...he just let everything go.
There was never a cut.
l have borne as long
as mortal could endure
the ill treatment of the insolent Irish
upstart whom you've taken into your bed.
It is not only the lowness
of his birth
and the general brutality
of his manners which disgusts me.
We just kept doing complete
takes with the whole speech.
His brutal
and ungentlemanlike behavior,
his open infidelity,
his shameless robberies
and swindling
of my property and yours.
And as I cannot personally chastise
this low-bred ruffian,
and as I cannot bear to witness
his treatment of you,
and loathe this horrible society
as if it were the plague,
l have decided to leave
my home and never return.
And that's really
where I got the message.
This is what filmmaking
is about.
As opposed to just shooting a film,
this was filmmaking.
And I leap up out of my chair,
-and I hit him as hard as I can in the back.
And knock him to the ground,
and try to-to throttle him.
And I hit him and...
And Stanley said, "You're not
hitting him hard enough".
-I'm looking at Leon, you know
"0h, Leon".
But we did it 30 times.
AndAnd I know I hurt him.
I know I hurt him.
I did n't want to.
But this was Stanley.
"Again, again".
We broke for lunch.
He said, "Leon, don't go anywhere.
I want to talk to you".
And I thought,
"Oh, my God. This is it".
He's gonna say, "You tried hard, but
it's not quite what I'm looking for".
Because we had
three George the Thirds.
And the first two
were kind of fired.
If you didn't know your lines, uh, suddenly
you weren't in the picture anymore.
And a new one,
actor was brought in.
This happened a couple of times.
You didn't make friends. You didn't
know if they were gonna last.
He said, "Leon,
let's sit down". We sat down.
He said, "Leon,
let's sit down". We sat down.
And then he said,
"I really like what you're doing.
And I like the fact that when we
break to set up new lighting,
that you're actually walking around,
going through your text.
And sol decided I was going to write
a whole bunch of scenes for you
and keep you here till
the end of the movie".
I almost passed out.
Can you imagine?
Ay, can you imagine?
Although I'd worked on films,
you were always just
there as an actor.
So you never really understood anything
that was going on into the making of that film.
I started to sort of look around
and just see all the resources.
And you see people moving these banks
of brutes, like ten yards further in,
ten yards further back.
Angling them differently.
The costumes were being made
and hand-sewn
in the way that they would have
been made in the 18th century
and people talking
about fine details.
And you see Stanley and heard
Stanley talking to the art director.
So many people walking around.
And everyone had something to do.
And they were doing something
to get something on a strip of film
to make that single moment work.
I thought, it's so amazing
that one man's idea
should spawn all this.
This goes into making a movie.
And that intrigued me so much.
- The raw egg.
But when you shoot with Stanley,
you better have a dozen raw eggs.
But do you know what they gave me
for lunch before that?
-No, stop it.
-lt was...
-lt was semi-raw chicken.
-And tomatoes or tomatoes.
And it was all mashed together.
I was so vomitous.
But the moment
I got on the set,
-and it was like nothing.
And then, Stanley said, "Give him a
raw egg". A raw egg. Give him a--
But you know
what he saw in you?
He saw a way out
of the movie. He saw an ending.
-Yeah, yeah.
-Some-Somebody has to get Barry Lyndon.
Somebody has to get him.
Who can it be?
It was in July
we shot the last scene.
It was sad to know that these were going
to be the last couple of days of shooting.
I kind of thought, "Oh, well, this is
going to be quite tough, actually".
I said to Stanley that I'm beginning
to get quite interested
in your whole sort of
technical side of it.
And everything that has to go
into the making of the movie.
And I'd be quite interested
to work in that area.
And he said to me, "If you really
are serious about it, Leon,
do something about it
and let me know"
And he gave me a Christmas gift,
a beautiful art book.
It says, "Dear Leon, thank you for your
great talent, energy and kindness.
Sincerely, Stanley".
It almost brought tears
to my eyes.
It was so touching.
A Treasury of Master Drawings.
- Barry Lyndon.
-And then Barry Lyndon came out.
And I started getting invites
to a lot of parties.
And there was somebody who contacted
me and wanted to be my press agent.
And the more of these parties
I went to,
the more people I met who just thought it
was the most fantastic film they'd ever seen.
Wow! A Stanley Kubrick film?
Bloody hell!
This guy is going places,
you know I couldn't believe it.
Things were kind of happening
in parallel in a positive way.
And I was offered a season at
the Royal Shakespeare Company,
which, when I had early thoughts of being an
actor, I would have given anything to be a part of.
And I had offers
for the National Theatre too.
But what I had understood
for myself was the first chance I got,
the next movie that
l was going to get to work on,
I would ask if! could work
in the cutting room.
I'd make tea, anything.
I don't care. I didn't care.
There was a Swedish-lrish
coproduction of Frankenstein.
I talked to the director.
And he'd seen Barry Lyndon.
He said, "I think you'd work well
as Frankenstein".
And sol said, "Great".
I said, "I was wondering if, at the end
of it, I could work in the cutting room.
Just get to know that process".And I said,
"You don't have to pay me or anything".
And he said,
"Sure, if you really want to".
Let me tell you about myself.
I started a whole period
where I worked
in the cutting room
till the whole thing was assembled
and mixed and released.
And so I did that, and I let Stanley
know that's what I'd done.
I kind of started off
very slowly.
He sent me a book which was
called The Shining.
And there was a little note
on the front.
He wrote, "Read this book".
And it was, again, it was like, "Well, if Stanley
says I gotta read it, I gotta read it".
The phone rang, I picked it up, and the voice
on the other end said, "Did you read it?
What do you think?"
I said it could be
a really exciting project.
He said to me, "How would you like to go to
America and find a little boy to play Danny?"
Yeah, how would I like to go to
America to find a little boy to play Danny.
And I actually just, you know, just said no to
every offer of a-a-an acting job, you know
Mission accomplished,
is howl saw it.
I think I was rather amazed
that he'd stopped acting.
Because I thought
he was such a good actor.
And wanted to be an actor,
and enjoyed it.
It's a paradox, isn't it?
He was at the height
of his career.
And he decides
not to carry on acting.
l was dumbfounded.
And he suddenly goes to
the other side of the camera,
something I could never
see myself doing.
I had been there now 16 months.
So as soon as they said I could
go home, I fled,
thinking they'd probably
try to call me back, sol fled.
But apparently they had
some kind of, um, connection.
Why would someone
like Leon Vitali, who was an actor,
he had his life,
he had his work,
put all that on hold
for another individual?
And I think because you
recognize in that individual
something that you don't see
in 90 percent of the human race.
He was, um, a master.
You don't meet that many masters
in your lifetime.
You're lucky if you meet one.
Leon is one of the only actors
who has ever,
you know, surrendered his, uh, career
to work closely with a filmmaker.
Let's be honest.
Uh, a filmmaker
of Stanley Kubrick's,
not only his stature,
but his mystique.
And I look at a box like this,
and I just think, this is years
of dealing with all the detritus
of what you have to do inside the film
industry to make something work.
All the correspondences,
and all the bullshit.
There's a lot of that.
There's footage notes about
what's wrong with a print, you know
So you had to look at everything
frame by frame and send him notes.
One of Stanley's manias
was you had to write everything down.
Write it down. Remember to look at
what you've written down.
You could say I spent half my time
with Stanley writing down things.
We were always working with all of
Stanley's titles all the time.
There wasn't a single one of his
movies that somewhere in the world
didn't want to get a print of,
and didn't want to screen.
Whether it was
a special exhibition print.
I mean Finland, France, Germany, Sweden
were doing Paths of Glory and The Killing.
And Denmark.
And the thing is,
we were working on
something completely different,
i.e. Full Metal Jacket
at this time.
Oh, this is Danny Lloyd's. This is his
record of times. I call it book of lies.
By law in England, they were
very strict about child actors.
You could only film
within 20 minutes inside any hour.
Stanley started to get nervous. And Stanley
said, "I want you to keep the times".
Well, of course, this is where it
becomes a book of lies.
I think, oh, when was his last day
of shooting?
March 27, 1979.
- Good evening, Mr. Torrance.
Good evening.
Well, I went to Denver first.
The idea was that
I would video every child.
We would ask them an initial set of
questions that all of them would get.
There were 4,000 kids.
The biggest number
were in Chicago.
The first thing I
remember, I'm four years old.
And my parents talking
in the kitchen.
Something about
sending my picture in.
And now we had to go to Chicago
for an audition.
We're underdressed.
And there's so many kids there.
And-And, you know,
we don't have a chance.
And I said,
"Hi, are you Danny?"
and he wouldn't answer.
For some reason, I got down on my haunches,
you know, to get myself on the same level.
And said, "I'm Leon.
It's all right.
You know why you've come here?"
He was sitting
in the chair like...
And his mum was saying,
"Come on, Danny. We've come all
this way," what have you.
And suddenly he said, "Okay".
And so he took my hand,
and we walked into this room.
Then we sat on a chair about
a foot away from each other,
and just stared
at each other like this.
And then he said,
"Gee, I really like your suit".
And that was it.
From that moment,
we were talking.
Boy, Leon was really so nice.
From then on, you know,
we were like best friends.
Hello, Danny.
It wasn't even in the script
that they were twins.
l was just looking
for someone good.
And the problem with kids
who come to these things,
they go to
these children's stage schools.
But they were all infected with having
an inflection in the way they talk.
Was like,
"I don't know why you would--"
And you kind of thought,
you know..
But I was getting really,
really desperate.
And suddenly,
on the very last day,
this woman brought
these two girls into the room.
And they were twins.
And the first thing that went
through my head was
Diane Arbus' famous photograph
of these twins who look a bit weird.
Sol did about ten takes
of them doing this.
And I went running onto stage.
"I got it, I got it!
It's the Arbus twins!"
He looked at it and said, "Well, there's
no question, is there? That's it".
Come play with us, Danny.
When something
like that happens...
-Forever. kind of speaks for itself.
-You don't have to say it.
-And ever, and ever.
I remember Leon and l...
He would say,
"Okay, color. Okay, now stop".
"Okay, give me the scared look".
So I was able
to tune into his voice.
He was my acting coach.
Stanley saw
that it worked in that way.
If ever we'd, doing a running shot,
a traveling shot or something like that,
I'd be the one closest to him
behind the camera.
Danny, you gotta listen
to Stanley.
Sol could tell him to do things
like look around now, or hesitate.
Keep going, come on, scared.
"Look scared".
What about the gun, Danny?
"Look back, look back.
Left, Danny. Turn right".
Leon and I would be working
together and practicing that.
Or maybe we were actually
shooting it.
But Leon would play Jack.
Yeah, this whole place is such an
enormous maze. I feel like...
And then Stanley wanted me to
work with Shelley, just run dialogue.
And the same with Scatman.
It's big, but it still ain't
nothin' but a kitchen.
Do you remember
the repetitive, the many takes?
Uh, kind of. I think the reason I do is
because there was a bowl of ice cream.
But it was like a few days later
somebody said,
"Oh, we went through
five gallons of chocolate ice cream".
The continuity would be
if you had to stop and start again,
you got a new bowl
of ice cream.
And not being able to eat it all,
somethin' to that effect.
You know, a five-year-old's mind was,
"Hey, look at all this ice cream".
That is such
a-an iconic character.
So many people strive to
get to that level.
The most important thing that I would
wanna say about that is that
I think that's the tribute to the job
Leon did, and the kind of person he is.
Stanley had said
from the very beginning,
"Whenever you're not doing
anything specific, you know,
just stick by me, and you can come
into meetings, and things like that,
and just see how things are done and how
they're run and how they're organized".
I worked with John Alcott.
We worked a lot with black-and-white
Polaroids to get contrast and density.
This is another thing.
l was allowed
to bring my camera.
And then Stanley keyed me into ASA
speeds, what you could do with them.
Push them, underexpose,
all those things that he learned
as a young man, as a photographer.
Also, he'd given me the job of
doing all those location stills
in Chicago and Denver,
and Kansas City, Missouri.
So we went to every hotel
in whatever town we were in
and just photographed every
kind of room that there was.
I went back with about
a hundred rolls of film.
And he said, "I just want you to know,
I think you've done a really great job".
And he just makes you
feel so great,
because he's making you feel
like you're a part of it.
Get him in.
That you're part of his process.
That you've been an important
part of his process.
Just get him in!
Let him realize we're out of time!
Every day was full
of a lot of different jobs.
l was in absolute heaven.
Mr. and Mrs. Kiget,
Mr. Kubrick.
-How you doing?
- And Mr. Woodland.
- If anybody met Stanley,
maybe talked with him
for ten minutes or 20 minutes,
or maybe worked for him for a year,
oras long as I did,
they're always going to come away thinking,
"I know the real Stanley Kubrick".
He could meet somebody,
shake their hands, and be...
"Hello, I'm Stanley".
And remember,
he was a chess player.
I always remember the people who met him
for the first time would always come out saying,
"Aw, gee, he's nothing like
what I've heard about.
He's fantastic. He's so gentle.
He's so this, he's so that".
I mean, he was the same with
me when I first met him.
It was only when we got
into Full Metal Jacket
and the responsibilities
were getting heavier and heavier,
another Stanley came in.
Because it was, like,
J Kiss, me good-bye J
J Kiss, me good-bye J
I And write me while I'm gone I
J Good-bye, my sweetheart
Hello, Vietnam J
Date, August 19, 1985.
Location, production office.
Stanley invites me to the production office
to show me what goes on behind the scenes.
The first thing that strikes me
is the lack of people.
This place is almost empty.
There's a guy here named
Leon Vitali.
I've met him a few times
at Stanley's house.
I think
he's Stanley's assistant.
Leon appears to be
a jack of all trades.
He makes notes about everything.
Sometimes he writes on his arms.
One thing about Leon--"
When I was working
on Full Metal Jacket,
I thought of Leon as kind
of an Igor character
from, uh,
Frankenstein, you know?
"Yes, Master". That he was-- That he
was just a slave to Stanley Kubrick.
You kind of had to be
everywhere at once.
It was just one of those things
where Stanley kind of utilized me
in any way that he thought
would be effective and would work.
It was the first time that Stanley had
given me responsibility of casting.
There were thousands
and thousands and thousands
and thousands of tapes
that were sent over.
And it was just so much to do,
you know?
I agreed to be Stanley's
technical adviser
simply sol could get my foot in the
damn door and audition for Stanley.
I wanted to be Gunnery Sergeant
Hartman, no question about it.
I couldn't imagine anybody that could
do it any better than I could.
He looked me straight
in the eyes and said,
"Not a chance. I already have
a contracted actor".
Well, it's-- The Marine Corps never
did teach me to lose gracefully.
Good afternoon, sir. My name's
Tim Colceri. I'm 32 years old--
I get a phone call
from Warner Bros.
"Uh, hello, Tim?"
"Yes, sir?".
"Come on down
and sign your contract".
I think you have
the finest role in the film.
And he reached under his desk, and he
pulled out the Full Metal Jacket--
He said, "You play the role
of the drill instructor".
I was looking for extras
for the platoon.
So I went to Army regiments and
just said, we're making a film.
We'd like to know if anyone
would be interested,
and it occurred to me, Lee Ermey, he
used to dress in his drill instructor gear.
I thought, well, why don't we do it
sort of the way he used to do it?
Just stand 'em up.
You give 'em their induction.
So we did that.
And I was videotaping it.
So, and I'm thinking
Stanley Kubrick's gotta see this.
And then! had a little talk
with these people
and let 'em know that I might say a few unsavory
things about their mothers and fathers,
their immediate family.
And that they should not
take a shot at me,
because if they hit me,
I would for sure not hire them.
Uh, what a dirtbag
they looked like.
"What's your name, scumbag?"
I had a couple of 'em
suckin' their thumbs.
Then I noticed this, that,
uh, Leon was subtly...
He would tape them.
Then he would come to me.
Sol says yep, it's workin'.
I ended up having to rehearse
all this dialogue with Leon.
And Lee Ermey is out with the troops,
marching them around.
And I started doin'
that dialogue.
"If you have a mole, a bump, a scar,
anything else protruding from your head,
and by protruding, I mean anything
else sticking up outta your head,
the minute you sit
in that chair, the--"
He goes, "Stop". I go,
"What? It's goin' pretty good".
"It's the minute you sit down in
that chair".And I went...
I knew that Leon
would send the tape to Stanley.
Stanley would see the tape that night,
and tomorrow! would have the job.
-PIain and simple.
- You knew that?
In my mind,
I knew that, yes.
I took the tapes to Stanley.
I said, "You gotta see this".
He couldn't help laughing. I mean,
he was falling about all over the place.
I pretty much was-was counting on
being called to the production office
first thing the next morning,
and I was.
The hardest thing I think! actually had to
do on that film was go to this guy's house
and give him a letter
that Stanley had written saying,
"I'm really sorry
to tell you but--"
"After painful deliberation, I've decided to
use Lee Ermey to play Sergeant Hartman.
I'd like you to stay on and
play the helicopter door gunner,
which is a very powerful role
in a very powerful scene.
Sincerely, Stanley Kubrick".
Well, it crushed me. And I didn't
want to be around people.
So I could see that they...
they were...
Everything became
like a blur to me.
The TV was kinda blurry.
And I was angry, because! had that
role for eight months,
that he couldn't come to me as a man
and talk to me about it.
He sent Leon with a letter.
The caliber of actors who would
probably sell their own mothers
just to have the chance
at working with Stanley.
And you think you've got it,
and then it, suddenly it's gone.
It was not an easy thing
to sit through.
My heart bled for him.
It really did.
"As Stanley's assistant,
Leon is prepared to go for
and answer everything
that might come up.
It's a huge undertaking.
Leon's face is a testament to that undertaking,
a road map of sleeplessness and concern.
I love Leon,
but he makes me sad.
I want to help him, but I don't
know how He's chosen his path".
l was suspicious of Leon
when he would come to me and say that
he wanted to work on my lines.
Because I knew that he was that guy
that was back there in the shadows
who was speaking to Stanley.
And I thought maybe--
I think the other actors
working on the film
thought that Leon might
have been some kind of spy
that was going to see if somebody was smoking
pot or somebody was doing drugs.
And so everybody was kind of
a little bit suspicious of Leon.
When, in fact, all Leon wanted to do was make
sure that people were truly, deeply prepared.
Everybody was on edge.
I realized was that each day
that went past,
I could see and feel Stanley getting more
and more sort of tense and nervous.
We had a-an art director
who had a-a nervous breakdown,
simply because of the work
that had to be done.
I mean, Beckton had to be demolished
and then kind of built again.
Stanley assigned Leon to me.
l was Leon's project.
You think
you're Mickey Spillane?
That's right.
You think you're Mickey Spillane.
There's all the hours and hours and
hours of these auditions and these tapes.
We had them transcribed.
And we actually stitched together
Lee's role from about 800 pages.
That's fucking God awful.
I know how hard he
worked with Lee Ermey.
Because Lee's dressing room was
next door to my dressing room.
And IAnd I heard them playing
catch with a ball.
One day, I pissed off Leon.
And there was a bowl of fruit.
He reached over, he picked up an
orange, and he threw it at me.
I caught it.
And I threw it back.
And as we were tossing that orange back
and forth, I started doing dialogue.
It didn't matter to him
how often we went through stuff,
how much we went through stuff.
I'd have him lying on his back on
the floor with his eyes closed.
Just say the dialogue.
And then speed it up,
and speed it up, and speed it up.
So he was just saying it fast,
fast, fast, fast, fast.
Sir, no sir!
Are you a peter pumper?
Sir, no, sir!
I'll bet you're the kind of guy
that would fuck a person in the ass
and not even have the goddamn common
courtesy to give him a reach around.
Leon Vitali, I--
He would drop me off in the evening, and
then he would pick me up in the morning.
When I was there, he was there.
And I spent, anywhere, 14 to 20
hours a day, seven days a week.
It was amazing. He never slept.
Stanley drove him.
If it wasn't for Leon Vitali,
I doubt I would have done
half the job
that! ended up doing
in Full Metal Jacket.
Now, you listen to me,
Private Pyle,
and you listen good.
I want that weapon.
And I want it now!
You will place that rifle
on the deck at your feet...
and step back
away from it.
What is your major
malfunction, numb nuts?
Didn't Mommy and Daddy
show you enough attention?
And that is the one
that opened all the doors.
So... I haven't stopped workin'
ever since.
It's been a great life.
They're done with the movie.
The movie's finished,
shot, done.
And they decide to put
the door gunner role back in.
- Action.
- Then as we went through it, what you
noticed was that,
little by little, he was beginning
to find nuances.
- Any women and children?
It really was a wonderful
kind of process
of watching somebody get an
understanding about something.
And then we actually went to the place
to shoot it, we went up in a helicopter.
And I took a video camera
with me.
And we rehearsed it. Because Stanley,
of course, he wasn't going to fly.
And then Stanley arrived about noon, and we'd
been doing this for about two or three hours.
And then they set up the thing
in the outhouse.
And he went, "This angle's still off.
Good, Tim".
-Get some! Get some!
- "Do it 13 more times just like that".
Get some, get some, come on!
Get it, come on!
Get some, get some!
Yeah, yeah, yeah!
I got you mother...
And he just became a little
bit calmer, but more terrifying for it.
Anyone who runs is a VC.
Anyone who stands still
is a well-disciplined VC.
J Ho Chi Minh
Is a son ofa bitch I
J Ho Chi Minh
Is a son ofa bitch I
Stanley came in to me
and he said,
"You gotta do the foots
and Foley".
"What do you mean?" He says,
"That's where you do all the footsteps,
and you do all the sound effects,
and you do all this, and all that".
And I said, "I don't know if! can do that".
And he said, "Sure, you can".
And that's how he always
started me off on a new task.
If! ever said, "I don't know
how to do layouts".
"Sure, you do".
- Okay.
4 am the Foley man.
Eddie Tise, who was
our sound recordist, and l,
just the two of us, we did all the
footsteps and clothes rustle,
and gear rattle,
and everything.
Every bit of sound,
including the hooker.
J Somethin' you call love
But confess- I
Could you, after
Full Metal Jacket, do what Leon did
and actually switch gears, knowing
what you know about Stanley?
Um... no.
I think I could not have, uh, after
Full Metal Jacket said, "You know what?
I'm gonna go to work for Stanley".
I'm too selfish.
What Leon did
was a selfless act,
a kind of
crucifixion of himself.
I couldn't imagine doing it
myself. I guess I'm too selfish.
Leon was compelled to dedicate his entire life,
30 years, he spent with Stanley Kubrick.
Leon did for Stanley
what half a dozen executive producers
and associate producers
and production managers and...
and drivers and tailors...
do on other movies
for directors.
It was a real roller-coaster
ride even through a single day.
And of course,
the days were very, very long.
And when you turned in
through the gates,
these huge wrought-iron gates
which would never close normally.
They wouldn't--
Just never closed.
You'd kind of mentally hear this bang,
you know.
They were closing behind you.
You hear--I mean, I did. I did.
Fact of the matter was,
"This is it".
There will be no "you"
until you start driving
out of here at some point.
The phone calls you had to make early
in the morning with the laboratory,
or Warner's in London.
'Cause what you know is, you're gonna
be chasing for the rest of the day.
The thing was, when I say I worked 14, 15,
16-hour days, that was at the place.
That was at Stanley's place,
the place where we worked.
But when I got home,
it was all telephone work.
Was there a big staff
on the estate?
No, there was me that worked,
dealt with all the film, video, TV...
lab work and all that stuff.
You know,
to do with his movies.
And then there was Tony Frewin,
who looked after the estate,
a go-between writers,
between them and Stanley.
And then it was Jan who looked
after Stanley's interests
and legal interests,
and that was it.
But you handled Stanley creatively?
-No, I never handled Stanley.
-Really? Okay.
-Never "handled" Stanley.
-WeII, reword it for me.
l handled myself
sol could exist
in Stanley's world.
You know, you're there till
3:00 in the morning.
You're just writing these notes.
And that's howl learned so much
about color timing.
Because I was with him doing it
for all those years.
It was years.
Most of his grading,
he'd-he'd stop and start
on-on the Steenbeck.
He'd come in about 11:00.
And Leon would be there.
So it was very much
a family thing.
This is, uh, Stanley's notes,
the maestro's writing.
All bloody night doing this. "Very
unnatural color. Ryan's hair is not orange".
Fifteen pages of this stuff.
I'm sure their hearts sank
when they did come in in the morning
and find this waiting for them.
Warner Bros. went through a time where
every fax they sent you had that.
You actually started
to hate Bugs Bunny.
You really did.
You thought, "Oh, this is another
bad news fax coming through".
This was, uh, 2001, the video, VHS,
with the notes that I gave them.
They hadn't followed my layout.
I mean, not to the millimeter.
Sol had to give them
these notes.
I did this one.
There it is.
And then you open it up,
and then you had a little booklet.
Everything had to be
to the millimeter.
We even got Stanley to sign.
l was using
a color copier.
Do you know how slow
those things were? lt drove you nuts.
lt drove you nuts because
Stanley wanted everything now
This was all preproduction on, um,
Wartime Lies, a.k.a. Aryan Papers.
Hand weapons list,
small arms, artillery.
Do you know, for every one
of Stanley's films,
there were, like,
25 protection tracks,
for every single original
There were dozens, and dozens,
and dozens, and dozens.
The original negative of Dr. Strangelove
disappeared off planet Earth.
-And the only bit of original negative you'll see
is just one little short when Mandrake
has discovered a working radio
that tells him that
there is not a nuclear alert.
And so for ten years,
l was searching for that one.
That's why we kept a track of every
reel of all of Stanley's movies.
And if we could grab 'em and store them
and archive them ourselves, we did.
That was a full-time job itself?
Well, yeah. Yeah.
Funnily enough, everything you ever
did was a full-time job.
Leon put together, put together quite
literally different trailers
for every country
in the world.
They were printed here.
Stanley Kubrick...
They were checked by Leon.
And they were then
shipped out.
He helped
small production houses.
He delivered the ads
if we needed.
All the minutiae that drove Leon
into, you know, catatonic foam,
foaming at the mouth hysteria
were the things that
other people in our company,
and certainly in the other film
companies, hadn't thought about.
Didn't think about.
When it came to release
the Full Metal Jacket in the UK,
Stanley intuitively
came to distrust the managing director
of Warner Home Video in the UK,
going as far as to send people
across England,
take photographs of the in-store
displays and the store windows.
I went up around all these
stores, and I took photographs.
When I told Stanley
"There's not a single bit of advertising
in Warner Home Video's own building,"
you know,
he just went fucking berserk.
I felt incredibly, um,
responsible for this.
we remedied the shortcomings.
His attention to perfection
could periodically be maddening.
Well, the reality,
these were his works,
and he brought the passion
of an artist who wanted
the audience to see the movies
in the highest-quality form
and to have them
marketed properly.
What Leon provided was that link
between Stanley and this great
behemoth that was Warner Bros.
Huge, huge,
powerful corporation,
rather like a dinosaur.
Wonderful mass, power body,
and a tiny little brain pan.
And what Stanley was doing,
and it went through Leon...
was getting them to change things
ever so slightly.
l-l never heard a word said other than,
"Leon needs it. Let's get it done".
If anything ever
went wrong, he said,
"It is your responsibility to make sure
they understand exactly what you want".
And that could take two, three,
four, five, six tries to get it right.
If I felt like I wasn't getting
any response,
or people were kind of, uh,
for want of a better phrase,
dicking me around,
you know,
saying they're gonna
send something, it never gets sent.
You gotta chase 'em up
and chase 'em up.
He'd say, "Okay, Leon, tonight you get
on the phone and you say to them,
if they're talking like that to you,
they're talking like that to me".
It really felt like there was a
kind of a loyalty there.
So sometimes,
I'd get into my office
and there'd be a fax
on my desk from Stanley
to somebody about some heinous crime
that they'd committed.
Except it didn't come from Stanley.
He'd typed my name under it.
Where I never knew what it was
I was saying to anybody,
because Stanley
was saying it forme,
using me as a substitute
for him.
I never met, with maybe two exceptions,
anybody from the offices here in LA,
even when
he came over to England.
Stanley would stick me
in a back room.
I think what it was,
in a way, this, you know,
Stanley didn't want them
to see what I looked like.
Stanley didn't want them
to see what I looked like.
Being his, for want of a better word,
spokesman, when I would say,
"We need to do this.
You gotta do that.
You gotta do this.
You gotta do that".
They probably heard
my voice on the phone
and thought I wore
a three-piece suit, six feet tall
and I had
tremendous authority.
The assumption
that people think,
"Oh, somebody's an assistant for
someone, you're doing layouts".
-"You're, you know, you're working with labs.
-You're working with restoration".
You're, uh, casting people.
You're working with the actors.
And sometimes I'm acting.
Was that the title
you were happy with?
-Or was that-- You never
-Didn't make any difference.
You know something?
When I traveled abroad,
and I used to have to
fill in these visas.
They used to say,
And I always used
to write "filmworker".
I mean, I'm a filmworker.
I'm a worker.
That's what I do.
So assistant, to me, is nothing other
than I am assisting somebody
to fulfill what it is
they want to get up on a screen.
l was dialogue coaching
and casting.
l was also in charge of shipping.
Television. Sales.
This was all about licensing.
Doing layout.
Video transfers. DVDs.
Laser discs. Inventory.
Timing sheets.
Checking of all these prints.
The trailer. Translations.
All of that work on the timing.
There wasn't a print or a
telecine I hadn't sat with Stanley,
made the changes and then talked to the
lab about it afterward, for all his movies.
At first, you're like, "Oh!
My God, Stanley Kubrick".
And then you're like,
"Fuckin' hell, man".
'Cause you're pushed to a point
where you're like,
"l have no more".
You have to understand
Stanley Kubrick
before you could even
begin to understand...
what Leon V-Vitali
did, does, went through,
what's imprinted
on his soul and mind.
It's only when you understand
that this remarkable man, a genius,
a nightmare, warm, caring,
distant, cold,
expansive, funny, hugely intelligent,
totally driven man
would do to make his movies.
Stanley's extraordinary
attention to the tiniest detail
drove a lot of people
away from him.
The production designer
on Barry Lyndon
actually got taken off
by men in white coats
because he couldn't
stand the pressure.
He could be as charming
as charming to you.
You know, where you think,
"Boy, I'm on top of the world".
He's just patted me on the back and
been very pleased about something.
And then the next thing, you can be
shit on from a great height.
l was always scared of him,
to be honest. I really was, you know
Because it was really cold.
It was like talking to God,
pretty much.
But living in that environment, and working in
that environment, you know, which was so intense.
And the intensity of Stanley
is-is well-documented.
So Leon was as close as anybody
was likely to get to that.
lf Leon would do one thing
that wasn't correct, or what--
Nobody can do everything correctly.
I'm sorry.
Especially when you're working
with Stanley,
because there's-- it's so much detail
and so much stuff.
It was his nature to always think that you
didn't care, or you were gonna mess up,
that people weren't gonna be
as invested as he is.
He was always waiting
for you to fuck up, in a way.
So it was always like as much as you
gave, that it was like "Give more".
And you had to give more,
and more, and more, and more.
And that's
why Leon got eaten up.
I think we have these ideas about what
it would be like to spend all of your time
with one of the world's
greatest film directors.
And then when you really stop to think
about it, you think,
"God, that
would be hell, actually".
Because you would never
have your own life anymore, you know
Your entire existence would
revolve around this one individual.
I'd say outside
of the film industry,
Stanley's equivalent would be
Gordon Ramsay on one of his,
you know, reality TV shows
where he's saying,
"Oh, fuck me, fuck me.
Yes, fucking stupid.
You know what you--"
Fucking look at me!
Look at me in the eyes!
You're not as pissed as I am!
You fucking ass!
I'm not sending that shit!
This is not personal.
This is professional!
I'm sorry, Chef.
That was a piece of shit.
Now put it back!
Stanley could be like that.
I mean,
if he was mad about something,
you could bet that
if there was a fault-- were done.
The worst part
of any of those jobs,
was actually the time you
left the lab
or whatever facility it was
with what you thought you'd got.
And you had to have
lots of alternatives.
And the whole journey back was,
you know, really, uh,
"Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God.
He may not like this.
He might not like this".
-I mean--
lt-- Oh, yeah.
They made a 70 mil print
of 2001.
And they sent us this copy
which was about ten points too green.
I had to go through
every single frame.
The smaller frame here
is Stanley's 35mm print,
to his specifications.
But you can see,
they're so different.
And when Stanley saw it,
he was just... apeshit.
I think that's the word
to describe it.
Oh, I saw it, and I just said, "There's no
way he's gonna approve this thing".
What a huge difference
there is.
And how couldn't
someone see that?
That was where! had a lot of
em pathy for Stanley.
But then, I also think he kind of
pulled that a little bit on himself,
because his temper was so vitriolic
and so sarcastic, and so hard.
It took a little bit of courage to actually
say the truth about any situation.
lf when
we were watching the rushes,
I couldn't not say, "I don't think
that looks quite right".
Because if! didn't say it,
he would say afterwards,
"Why didn't you say something?"
J Happy Birthday
Dear Jesus I
J Happy Birthday... I
It was Christmas Eve, and suddenly, I was
the only person left in the cutting room,
and everyone had
pissed off by noon.
And I had to show Stanley
these rushes.
And he came down
in the foulest fucking temper.
And whenever! said to Stanley,
"There's flare in this shot or
that shot," he said, "I like flare".
So I never bothered
to mention it.
So we were watching the rushes,
and he saw this flare.
And I said, "Well, yeah, but you've
always said you like flare".
And he gave me such a bollocking.
It was unbelievable.
I mean,
he was just screaming at me.
And as soon as he finished, he said,
"I guess you wanna go home now
I got some gifts for you. Come".
And so he walked
down the hallway.
And outside his office was this
box with lots of gifts in them.
He said, uh, "So, take it, and,
uh, Happy Christmas".
You kinda think,
"I can't believe this.
Well, this will be the end.
He'll leave me alone now"
Until 1:00 on Christmas Day.
And that's when I started getting
bombarded with phone calls.
Uh, "What's happening with this? What's
happening with that? Where are we hour?"
And thought you'd finished the
conversation. You put the phone down.
And nine, ten minutes later,
you know, it would ring.
"What's happening with that?
And what's happening with this?
And have you looked at that?
And have you done this?"
It just went on and on.
Oh, what am I doing?
When you work as
Stanley Kubrick's assistant,
general factotum, it's not terribly
difficult to lose your temper.
lt's-lt's easy.
You have to have patience
of a tribe full of Jobs
to listen to that kind
of thing every day and take it
and understand
from whence it cam e.
I guess he didn't feel
he needed anymore
to be kid-glove handling me
and my sensitivities.
It became, rig ht,
you're here to do this
and you have to get it done.
Any kind of error or mistake
could be just jumped on
and absolutely, you could feel
crucified at the end of it.
There were times when
l was a total dickhead.
There were times when
l was a total dickhead.
And I didn't get it,
or! made a gross error
of judgment or something.
As much as Stanley
would yell at him
and be like,
"Leon, what are you doing?"
"Oh, God, yes, Stanley. Yes, Stanley.
Okay, Stanley, but listen".
Always kind of, like,
keeping it low tone.
It was-- How many years
were they together?
I think that the only reason that
that could have continued for so long
was because of a deep loyalty.
That Stanley understood that Leon was somebody
who had his back, that would protect him.
The few things that Leon has shared
with me that he holds most dear to him,
standing on the porch of his house smoking
cigarettes and peeing off the porch.
I don't think Jack Nicholson ever peed
off the porch with Stanley Kubrick.
I think they had a unique
relationship, uh, rarely found.
And they had this level
of trust between each other.
Leon was like a part of Stanley.
There was an understanding between
them, an unspoken understanding.
These are depositions I wrote
about aspect ratios that Stanley
had wanted his films to be.
And I had them notarized.
Barry Lyndon, that's been a bone
of contention all the time.
And I went through a day of hell
where I had
all these people saying,
"It never was 1.77.
It never was".
I mean, it's really funny, isn't it, that!
worked for all those years with Stanley,
working on prints.
We had a special aperture plate
that we put in the projector,
and it was 1.77.
You know, I mean, pshh.
Bit like Room 237, you know,
where people had their own ideas of what
the film was about and blah, blah, blah.
And, you know, a picture of a downhill skier
was not a picture of a downhill skier.
It was a picture of Satan,
and you could see his tail behind him.
You know, when I look at the full moon,
I don't see a man in the moon.
If you look on one side of it,
I can see a French poodle sitting.
I don't think there is a French poodle
sitting on the moon.
I'm gonna have to turn
to Leon, and I'm gonna have to say,
"Leon, uh, was-was Stanley involved
in the Apollo landings?"
Task lists.
"Finish cleaning up projection room".
About half a day.
"Go through my filing cabinets
and reorganize". About one day.
"Clear up old library.
Finish inventory long garage.
Finish inventory in long stalls".
About half a day.
And the stable block was a line
of buildings 50 yards long
where everything
was shoved into,
and I had to sort it out.
"Dear Stanley, this is now complete
regarding stable block".
Was he happy?
He didn't even come
and look at it.
"Leon, how could you
get the couch so filthy?"
Well, it was the dog hairs
of the dogs
who he allowed
to lie on the sofa
on the Sunday evening
he was watching the movies.
My appreciation for genius
would probably end
when the genius told me
to clean a room for him.
He would do anything
for the guy,
and I would not.
I would, when it got
physically difficult,
I'm hereto tell you
I would probably say,
"Thank you very much. You're quite
a genius. Leave me alone now"
Amongst my other
duties is the cat compound.
How we kept the cats safe.
Stanley, oh, my God. He never
thought animals had any guile.
And so when one of them was dying,
it became a major, major problem.
There was this, oh, lovely cat, you know,
16 years old, named Jessica.
She had a fit, couldn't move.
I set up a whole video system
in the house
so that in every room
there was a monitor
where you could see Jessica lying
there anytime of the day or night.
It just became obsessive.
Just didn't wanna let her go.
And in the end,
we called the vet.
And they gave her the shot
she should have had weeks before.
-Put her to sleep.
-Everything was a tragedy for him.
If a dog was dying, there was nothing
else except this dying dog.
And I understand it.
Nothing got done.
I had to keep with the work
so that when he came back to it,
I could say,
"This is where we are".
Leon is fascinated,
and he's curious, and he's there.
Someone who's
a Shakespearean-trained actor.
Someone that you can explain
three-point lighting to,
and they get it.
Then you find someone that
you can tell them about baths in labs,
and they remember.
And you've struck gold.
And that person is
so enamored with you,
and they don't want to
leave your existence.
That sort of thing
is irreplaceable.
And if Leon had really ever
seriously tried to make a break,
you know, for the hills, I think he would
have been prevented from doing it.
He came in
to my office and he said,
"Leon, I've just had a thought. You're not gonna
go and work forWarner Bros., are you?"
l was wearing a Marine jacket.
My hair hadn't looked as if
it had been combed in a week.
I just said,
"Stanley, do I look corporate?"
He kind of smiled, and then laughed,
and then he kind of walked out.
And then there was never any discussion about
me leaving or him gettin' rid of me again.
When somebody would say
to Stanley, and they would,
"I'd give my right arm
to work for you,"
he would kind of smile.
Because I actually think,
you know, he thought,
"Well, why are you
low-balling me?
What, just a right arm? How about the
left one and the legs?
And the body and the heart,
and everything?"
If you said to him,
"I commit myself,"
you just better
make sure you mean it.
why would you bother?
'Cause you'll betray yourself
anyway, in the end,
if you're not going to give
everything you've got...
to what it is you're doing,
because he did.
He gave everything he got
to what he was doing.
And that's the most
important thing.
And that's what I saw,
that's what I understood,
and that's
what I reacted to.
Friends, family, et
cetera, everybody understood that?
I don't think so.
And why is that?
Because Stanley kind of ate you up.
You're in this strange world.
And-And probably Stanley Kubrick's
world was stranger than most.
He was obviously someone
who was so steeped
in the day-to-day minutiae
of his own films.
He wanted to do everything. And a lot
of that work got deferred to Leon.
And Leon really became
his arms and legs.
And I think it probably
took quite a serious toll.
He would not admit it.
He probably wouldn't say it out loud.
M will, though.
Leon surrendered a great deal of his family
life to the cause. Did he need the job?
No, he could have worked on, continued
working, as I said, as a very good actor.
Stanley said, "You either care
or you don't care.
There's no gray area
in between".
So caring meant giving as much
of your time as you had,
until you quite literally
were too tired to go on.
How was Stanley with you guys?
Uh, he was...
um, he was lovely.
He was always very sweet
to me and Max.
But I always found him
really rather charming.
Probably because
I didn't work for him.
If they had a good day, then
it became a good day for me.
If it was a bad day for Stanley,
it became a bad day for Leon,
and that would be
a bad day for me.
Very good. Well done.
Of course, I see a person
who demanded a lot from Leon
and made life tricky for Leon
to maybe balance.
And he'd be working, working,
working, working, working.
And constantly working.
Not a break.
And that would take
all his time.
So me and Vera
would do other things.
He would just be on the phone,
or by the copy machine, nonstop,
nonstop, nonstop. And smoking.
And a cigarette and a cup of tea
and just being totally in the work.
- It was kind of Kafkaesque, I guess.
Always piles of stuff to do
that would never go away.
Piles of film reels to check.
All the stands for the video stores, and all
Piles of posters to check
the color temperature of,
or piles of VHS's
to check Hungarian dubbing.
Or whatever. Oof.
I get exhausted just thinking
about those things, actually.
In a professional way,
Leon never relaxed.
l know there were periods where he would
stay dressed and sleep on the doormat
so he could wake up two hours later
and go back to work.
Never being comfortable,
'cause then you might oversleep.
When you're working for
somebody who's such a perfectionist,
you just keep going
and going and going and going,
I think,
until you literally fall over.
And I think there's been times when it's got to
a point where Leon has literally fallen over.
Because he feels
it's bigger than him.
So he'll keep going
until he achieves
something close to
impossibly beautiful or perfect.
It's something that
just keeps driving you on.
That you need to have it again.
It's almost like a drug.
Nothing mattered to him as much
as the work he's been doing.
Because that
overshadowed everything.
It'd be hard to have
a single discussion, let's say.
Try to communicate,
but someone is still...
somewhere else in his mind.
I remember feeling jealous that he
always had the energy for other people.
Being a kid and seeing that
I don't-- l-l don't get that.
No one works
24 hours a day,
but if anybody could or would, Leon's
job pretty much encompassed that.
And he was certainly on tap
seven days a week.
There was one day, I remember,
when Stanley decided we were gonna
change the Full Metal Jacket campaign,
and Leon had to go through
frame by frame of 35 millimeter film
to pull the right frame that just reflected
the nuance that Stanley was looking for.
And on that day,
Leon was in absolute pain.
He had an abscess in his tooth.
And he was taking a swig out
of a bottle of, uh, whiskey to--
hoping that the whiskey was
going to sort of kill the pain.
Leon had a lot of knowledge,
not only about filmmaking, but also
about literature and everything.
And at the same time,
he was a workhorse.
Uh, he'd do anything.
I mean,
he'll carry logs for you.
When you're working
with these kind of directors,
it's like you-you're sharing
your blood with them,
if you're in the inside.
I think it could be like a drug.
Filmworkers are slightly
different than other people.
And that goes
for theater workers too.
They're usually there
for the love.
They-They work worse hours.
They're usually not at home.
And they do all this
with a fantastic capacity of creating
a functioning social unit
that is extremely intimate
within hours.
I remember coming in at night and
meeting the negative developing crew
Precious negative.
There's no light in the room.
Everything you do
is by feel and by touch.
Once, there was a break
on a developer,
and a guy basically
wrapped himself in film
so that he could pull it over and quickly get
it back into solution to save the film.
I mean, this industry has been
built on people like that.
And you're not just doing it at this
level. You're doing it at this level.
You're doing
You are at the tip of the spear.
That is an absolutely intoxicating
and addictive environment.
I don't have an obsession
for creativity.
It just is a necessary
You either love it so much
you can't help it,
or you're a fucking idiot,
or you're a mixture of both.
Are you obsessive
about creativity also?
I don't know I don't think about it.
l-l am creative.
l, uh-- l-l work a lot.
And when I'm not working,
I'm cooking.
And when I'm not cooking,
I'm fucking. It's all creative work.
I worked as an assistant for a very,
very good Swedish director
in the Royal Dramatic Theatre
for several years.
I did small roles in his plays.
And I assisted and did-- and did a lot
of assistant work. And I loved it.
And after a while,
you feel how he feels.
You think how he thinks.
And-And you learn to see
what's going on with his eyes.
And that's a fantastic
revelation as an assistant.
This was a vicarious experience.
I'm experiencing something through
somebody else's genius or whatever it is.
You go with it,
and you work with it.
And then you learn from it.
And you get the hang of it.
And then Stanley would suddenly say,
"Changed my mind. You're starting all over again".
What difference
does it make to me?
I'm at the service of him, because
he's at the service of his movie.
And the thing was
that I wanted--
I wanted to be with Stanley,
work with Stanley.
Do all that stuff.
I just wanted to.
He was the most brilliant, fantastic
filmmaker of the 20th century.
And how honored was I
to be able to work for him,
hmm, for all those years?
l have noticed for a very long time,
since I was very young,
that how--what kind of impact
Stanley had on him.
How important that was, even
though I didn't always like it.
But kind of always known that that was his,
you know, that's what he needed as well.
My dad, who! loved--
I loved him--
he'd sit down at the piano
and he used to sing "La Mer" to me.
It was just wonderful
to stand there, and he'd be playing,
and he'd be looking at me
while he was singing it.
You felt like,
"Oh, this is just for me".
And whether
he understood or not,
that song permeated me
over many years so deeply
that it really became,
and still is,
one of those beautiful songs I can
hear over and over and over again.
During the first World War, when my
father was a child and living in Belgium,
the Germans
had come to his house.
There was just him
and his mother there.
And his father was part of the
Resistance to the German invasion,
and they'd come looking for him.
And his mother either couldn't or wouldn't
say what she knew about where he was.
They took her out into
the backyard and they shot her
and made my father watch
the incident.
He was a very, very volatile person
for the rest of his life.
What was the household like?
It could be
explosive at times.
-Fraught, I think is--
-Yes. howl remember it.
-Yes. I'm, uh--
-What, when Father was alive?
- Yes.
- Oh, yes.
You had to do just
the slightest thing
to get him
to flip his type.
I think we just tried not to put ourselves into
a position which would engender any criticism.
I think that-that's really
what we tried to do.
Uh, keep your heads down
and keep out of the way?
He died when I was eight.
I remember it was
a beautiful summer morning.
And what was funny for me, my mother and
my older brother were painting the hallway.
And before I could say anything else,
she just hushed me up.
And I looked at her face,
and I'd never seen such
a peaceful face in my life.
And she said, "Go into your bedroom
and just sit there quietly and think".
Of course I was thinking, "Well, we'll never
go to the cinema with him again.
We'll never walk down to the sweet shop
on a Sunday morning with him again".
And then you also thought, "Well, I
won't ever get slapped by him again.
And I won't have to watch him trying
to kill my eldest brother again".
And while I was thinking all these things,
all I could hear was these paintbrushes going...
Bit by bit,
we kind of rebuilt our lives.
But, of course, we were
caretakers of the school,
so it meant that
we had a job to do every night.
When it came to Stanley,
you see, I kind of got it in a way.
I just understood
from my experience of my dad,
you take a step back
so you weren't being abused.
You just stood back, and you didn't
confront, you didn't challenge.
You just let them blast their way out
of whatever it was
they had a problem with.
I think that's what I bless Stanley
for more than anything else
is he kind of helped me
to understand who I am.
The thing with Stanley was,
you worked for him,
but you also worked with him,
and he gave you that latitude.
It's not about what
I want to be anymore.
It's about howl am.
You know, the head of Warner Bros.
once said to me on a visit to London,
shortly before Stanley died,
you know, he said,
"It's remarkable how low
his production costs are".
And I said, "Well, it's because,
quite frankly, he does everything.
He's Stanley Kubrick, and he
The only thing
he doesn't do is act".
He acted once, actually.
He did do a performance
once for Leon.
Good evening. I'm sorry not to be able
to be with you tonight
to receive this great honor.
People came, and they set up
the cue card. I had the camera.
So, as usual, the guys who set up the cue
cards were going to be there operating.
And Stanley said, "Uh, no, no, no. And,
um, uh, could you-- could you go?"
So in the end,
l was operating the camera
and having to operate
the cue card at the same time.
And we did it again, and it would be, "Leon,
you're moving it too fast, the cue card".
Or, "Leon,
you're moving it too slow"
When he finished,
he started walking backwards.
And I said,
"Why are you doing that?"
And he said, "Well, you know, kind of
finishing it off, you know"
And I said, "I think
it would be better, really,
if I just kind of put
a big fade on the camera
so that you weren't
there anymore.
We just went to black,
you know?"
It was quite tortuous for him.
I had a feeling that everything
around Leon and Stanley
was a studio for, um,
High and low,
small details, big things.
It was like coming to a creative
workshop, very creative atmosphere.
- So, Leon, yeah?
- Mm-hmm?
Uh, we, have we--
you been recording this?
You've been talking, yeah.
Have you more wigs?
- Let's try something.
- All right, okay.
You look like you've
lost weight anyway.
They asked me to come to London.
It was just me and Stanley
and Leon in the room.
-A little bit too down maybe.
- Look at me.
Ah. Just stand with your legs
a bit straighter, yeah.
With, uh--
Any way you want.
But not the way you were, no.
Just, uh, moving
Whatever you feel
Oh, I feel very uncomfortable.
You haven't been a model
I see, huh?
-No. No.
Oh, these are
from Eyes Wide Shut.
You know, when I was playing Red
Cloak for a bit of makeup touch-up.
Although I never understood it, seeing as I was
wearing a mask all the time. I never
What was the feeling
when he called you to be MC or--
Oh, well, embarrassed.
Because I was actually doing
a screen test for the MC.
And I'd seen about 30,
35 actors.
And I'm auditioning, he was
a really well-known actor,
and suddenly this phone call came
through, sol picked up the phone.
And he said, "Leon, I just decided.
You're gonna play it".
And put the phone down.
That was it.
May I have the password,
I just felt that I could
build on it for every take.
And you weren't afraid of going
too far or going over the top.
You could just keep going
and keep going,
just like when I was
working on Barry Lyndon.
This is what we had to do every day.
They were the lighting plans.
So we went around together
every night at like 1:00 am.
And we would take the readings
from the lights.
And then I had to send
a fax to the DOP
with a laid-out plan
of every light.
But isn't that what the
cinematographer is supposed to do himself?
Yes. But you know, Stanley
never trusted anybody.
He just didn't.
It must have been very difficult for people,
you know, who are serious professionals
to sort of go through
that kind of,
I don't know, examination,
for want of a better word.
But he had a specific
look that he wanted?
Yeah, he did. And he wanted to
keep it once he found it.
On one of the days, Leon
pulled me aside and he said,
"You know, Stanley really
only saw your tape".
And I was like, "Oh, thanks, Leon.
That's really cool".
He said, "No, really,
yours is the only tape I put in.
So, you know, Stanley looked at it and
went, Great, yeah. Let's-Let's have him.'
So just let you know, you know, you were, uh,
great on the day, and that's why! booked you
and really glad that
you're part of this".
And I was like, "Oh, Leon,
thank you, man. This really--
Wow, that's a lot of, um,
high praise coming from you and"
Leon, he was always working,
never sleeping.
I don't know
when he slept at all.
In the Masked Ball scene, I'm playing
eight different people, including the Red Cloak.
You know, we'd finish a take
and Stanley'd say,
"Leon, go down and find the shot that
we took, like, two weeks ago".
l was on these six-inch-high platforms
in this full-dress costume.
I'd have to run down
this corridor,
'cause it had to be "Now, now"
And then I'd have to search through all
these slates and put it up on a Steenbeck.
And he'd come down
and we'd look at it.
And he'd say,
"Great. Now, get back up there".
So I'd be running
back up to the set.
And then we were up
and running again.
You know, that's what Stanley
grew to look like.
And you could see
he was kind of tired.
I mean, some people have said,
unkindly, that they thought he'd lost it,
but I can tell you, you were there with
him every day, that was the last thing.
He and I and Margaret Adams,
who was his coordinator,
we were the last people
out of the studio.
And it would be
3:00 or 4:00 in the morning.
But it was a ritual
which we always had.
When it was a wrap, and
when everyone left the studio,
he would come in to my office
and say, "Let's have a talk".
And then we'd talk about everything
that had gone well that day.
Who tried hard, who didn't.
We were always looking at
material that was shot yesterday
or the day before
or what have you.
We were shooting,
and at the same time,
the Venice Film Festival
had announced
that they were going to celebrate the
filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.
But they needed copies
of all his films.
So I was having to crank
those out of the lab.
And at the same time--
we were making a new internegative
of A Clockwork Orange.
And at the same time, I was dialogue
coaching, casting and God knows what.
And I just thought
I was going to explode.
He was getting tireder
and tireder and tireder.
You know, there were some days when we were
driving home from this location in Norfolk.
And when he got out of the car,
you kind of thought,
he's not even going to find
a way to the front door.
But we're parked
right in front of it.
If he bent down on the floor
to pick something up,
then! had to bend down
and pick Stanley up.
I think that last week
was totally exhausting for him.
On a Saturday afternoon,
I went down to the supermarket.
On a Saturday afternoon,
I went down to the supermarket.
My phone rang,
and I answered it.
And it was Stanley.
And there we--
l was standing,
leaning up against my car,
and we were talking
for two and a half hours.
It was eerie simply because it
was that same kind of gentleness
since the very first day I met him
when he said, "Hello, Leon. I'm Stanley".
Everything was rational
and measured and gentle.
More relaxed than it had been for a--
for-for quite a while,
because you're in the middle
of this mayhem.
Um, but it was.
It was.
That was the last contact
I had with him.
And then, of course,
early hours of Sunday morning,
that's when he died, you know?
l was told that it
looked as if he had been
trying to reach
for an oxygen bottle...
that he had in his bedroom.
Stanley Kubrick
has died at the age of 70,
one of the greatest and most
controversial masters of cinema.
The director Stanley Kubrick,
one of film's greatest yet most
controversial figures, died today.
Kubrick was revered by his peers for movies like
2001:A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange.
He'd just finished what
was to be his last film, Eyes Wide Shut.
The studio was--
was in shock for a while.
And because Stanley,
when he was making the film and getting it
ready for delivery as a finished piece of work,
as a finished film
to the studio,
that part of it was now missing.
So there was Leon Vitali,
who was the key factor in all of this.
He'd been through the process
of making the film.
Leon Vitali was probably
the most important person
from what I call
the Kubrick stable.
I have to tell you. It was a very
touching scene at the Dorset Hotel.
There was Leon,
eyes red-rimmed with tears,
but determined, in the face of
chairman of the board of the company,
the head of
Warner Bros. technical,
Stanley Kubrick's
determined that he was
going to do whatever he could
to finish Eyes Wide Shut
as Stanley would have wanted it.
And that's the greatest
compliment I can pay.
Because that speaks not of personal
kudos but of a commitment to.
The person that, you know, you had
this relationship with for 30 years,
every single day,
sacrificed your life.
they're gone, and now you're left
to do this last piece of their work.
And then you're having a bunch of
other people, like, not respecting you
and treating you
like shit about it.
It was bad.
It was a bad time.
It was easier to work and live by
those standards and that code.
I think it was harder
as an assistant to demand the same.
- Was it easy?
- No.
While he was alive,
we fought the battles.
Of course we did,
but he was there.
And everything was about him.
Now it was about
what everybody thought...
he was about.
I mean, there were people just crawling out
of the woodwork, being as obstructive,
like they all wanted
to be the ones
who were gonna now tell us
how things were gonna be done.
And so sticking that picture up there in
my office, I could just look at that picture.
And I just thought, well, no,
this is why you're doing it.
Everything in this picture doesn't
really even describe the rest of it.
Because at that time,
l was also checking every single transfer
from every country in the world.
One in five prints that were
shown in theaters in America
was checked from
the first to the last reel.
I think there was something like
2,500 prints came to America.
So how did you collapse?
I'm gonna tell you this.
And it's not to make myself
a hero or anything like that.
I did two 36-hour sessions
in a screening room at the lab.
And I had to make a call
every now and then to say,
"Could somebody come down here
and keep their eye on the print?"
Because I had to run off
and throw up, I was so sick.
l was so sick.
Our working days
were anything, 15, 18 hours.
Leon was doing 24 hours a day,
seven days a week.
I don't think I want
to talk about this.
I don't know when he ever slept.
They had released a DVD set,
because they'd done so much heavy advertising
timed with the release of Eyes Wide Shut.
It was a bit of a disaster.
There was so much
angry reaction to it,
like, how could you just do
this to the master's oeuvre?
When you do that, it's not a case of
just sticking a piece of film into a machine,
and it comes out
in a new format.
You have to do everything again.
And you have to have people like Leon
who knew the films backwards.
l authorized
incurring the cost
for perfect mastering
and digitalization.
Remastered again
and in yet a higher quality format
than had been available in VHS.
Without a doubt, there was only one man that
could have, uh, headed that restoration effort
and that was Leon.
Someone like Leon, who had that wonderful
grasp of the production process
and the distribution process,
which is quite a rare animal.
You learn the film by working
with it and printing it, you know?
And if you've printed it for 15 years,
you know-- You know the negative.
And I didn't.
It was that daunting.
He was trained in the way to
know how it was supposed to sound,
know what to do with the tracks,
know how it was supposed to look and
know how to handle the negatives.
And he was the only person
who knew that.
His final part of his job was
basically preserving everything.
Making sure it was in good order, making
sure it was all vaulted securely on the shelves.
So he packed up,
and he came to the US.
Somebody has to the standard-bearer
for that thought process.
And this is where Leon comes in.
Leon was tasked with this kind of
Herculean effort to move the ball ahead,
and then take all the flack from the people who
thought that this shouldn't be done at all.
And Leon was the person who was left
standing there when all the knives came out.
And I know that he took
a huge amount of shit
for what Stanley had done
to people for many, many years.
Because Stanley
wasn't around anymore.
And it was the Kubrick gang, Chris Young
and Jan, the Warner Bros. people.
They were known for being tough
and not taking any bullshit from anybody
and doing what they wanted to do because
they had this guy who had proven it.
He was unique. So Warners
wasn't going to say no.
The critics weren't
going to say yes.
And Leon was caught
in this position in between
of having to be the guy
that had to address all parties.
When I'm working on a film,
I need to learn the production
history of the film, the archaeology.
And you have to know
how it was made.
And when you got it, it's
that the film speaks to you.
Just to recreate what
Stanley had done originally
took two to three years of
research and finding masters
and going and proving
that that was exactly what it was.
And then you could start
to do your work.
Barry Lyndon, it's a lot
of long, long, long shots.
And often it's outside.
Often they're landscape exteriors.
Leon always knew how bright
it was supposed to be,
how contrasty it was supposed to be,
how rich or how dense.
And you realize as you work
with him that his skills are enormous.
And then you finish it, and you realize
that it's not really finished at all,
because Leon then had
the task of moving into Warner Bros.,
where he was the only
person who was left,
and fighting for another
transfer to be done,
or something to be kept up
in a certain way.
All of a sudden,
it's Leon against the world.
And they were just
grinding him down,
because Warners had exuded goodwill way
beyond what anybody would have done
in going through the process.
I got, you know,
people calling me saying,
"You know what they're saying about you right
now is that you're looking for problems".
No, we're not looking
for problems.
We were never looking
for problems.
But if there were problems,
you have to point them out.
You have to.
You know, I mean, in all honor,
you have to say, "This isn't right".
So he started getting thinner
and thinner and sicker and sicker.
He looked very gaunt,
a bit scared.
I weighed in
at one point, 65 pounds.
This is when I wasn't very well,
and it was my affirmation.
"I am Leon Vitali.
I'm healing myself".
He was always present for the work,
a hundred percent, more.
But he's, you know, everybody
says, like a cockroach.
Not a great term, but there's nothing
that'll stop him. Just keeps going.
Eventually, they gave his office away and they
gave him a desk in the hallway at Warner Bros.
And he was sitting there alone,
still going through all the files,
making sure all the things were done.
And if somebody wanted to screen
2001, he had to be there for that.
No one else was gonna followthrough
with the level of maniacal detail
that only Stanley
or only Leon could have done.
And it shows in the work.
It's this body of work that exists today
that never would have existed.
Because Leon took the sweat equity
of all those years with Stanley.
Leon righted every
single wrong that was done.
He basically
preserved the process
so that for future generations
that will get to see Stanley's work,
they will see it
the way the master made them.
That will always be Leon's
imprint on Stanley Kubrick's legacy.
Well, right now in
Los Angeles, California, there is an exhibit.
Director Stanley Kubrick
arguably made--
And then the exhibit
comes about.
And there's this big opening
and a world tour.
And Leon, kinda not really
a part of it.
It felt like Leon
was really dismissed.
All these, like, experts on Stanley talking
about Stanley and what he was like.
Here is this person still standing in
the corner, how he always would be,
who's worked with him from acting,
from cinematography, everything.
And meanwhile,
it was like Leon didn't exist.
I guess the opening,
I guess, or the presentation,
were you part of that?
You mean in a kind
of official capacity?
No, not at all.
The actual big gala thing--
Gala, mm.
...where people came
and spoke about Stanley.
Oh, no, no.
Um, no, I didn't goto that.
-You didn't go to that?
-No, I didn't go to that.
Now was that, like, choice by you or
they just didn't invite you, or...
Um, no, just didn't
invite me, so...
Leon had every right
to say, "That exhibit stinks,
and I want nothing
to do with it".
Just the opposite. He said,
"You want to go? I'm gonna take you".
When another friend of mine wanted to go,
Leon said, "I'll gladly take you guys again".
to walk through these worlds with a guy
who knows them intimately, is just incredible.
And he's so generous about it.
When I asked Leon to take a bunch of
high school film and visual arts students,
he said yes like this.
l was shocked.
It was so amazing.
lt lifted his spirit
to be able to share.
I remember at
a recent Academy meeting.
And they were talking about people that
they needed to have an oral history with.
I said, "I don't understand why you guys
haven't done an oral history on Leon Vitali".
And I said, "You should
have done it a long time ago
when you were preparing
the Stanley Kubrick exhibit".
I found out that he went
25 or 30 times with people
as favors to people, just
to give them that same gift.
There was such a kind of emotional
attachment to so much of that material.
I could actually say, "Well, remember when
l was doing that, working on that".
There was a story about
just about every bit of it.
I spent hours just
looking at the lenses.
It felt more like I was saying good-bye
to him this time than when he died.
You know, some places are like people.
Some shine and some don't.
Is there something bad here?
And for Leon, not only did he
have to face life without his mentor,
he also moved to Los Angeles, initially
to work for the estate on the restoration.
Then he made the decision
to stay in Los Angeles.
And suddenly found that doors
are not easily opened.
- You understand? Stay out.
I had to help him
for a while financially.
Um, I guess that's kind of sad,
because he's worked so much.
You would hope that...
that you'd have enough to survive the
pretty simple lifestyle he lives, you know
Good. Finally, the last three.
We're going good.
I think the last two
were better than previous--
Stanley had
an amazing vital energy.
I had the license to go into
any area on the operations side.
But, of course, you can't do that here
because it's quite heavily demarcated.
Are you still
working for Stanley?
Of course.
So this is all
voluntarily at that point?
This is because
I love Stanley.
That's why I do it.
Because I love him.
You're not even getting paid?
No. So?
Leon is one person of many
that are like him in the business.
I think he's an extraordinary
example of it.
And I think he represents
the best of that group of people
who are unrecognized
for doing what they're doing.
You give your assistant a gift at
Christmastime, and that's their recognition.
But that person was crushing it
for you for 25 years.
How do you acknowledge them in a way
that celebrates what they've done?
Film is just such
a fascinating thing.
Requires tireless effort.
It is a moving train of people
getting on and off at a process,
but having the train with enough fuel to
continue to make it to the destination.
It's a very special world.
It's like the circus.
Whatever those worlds are, they have
an attraction that goes beyond
how creative your own work is,
that you're a part of it.
What skin color you had,
what sexual preferences you had,
it has always been a place to go to as
long as you function socially.
All right,
clear back, boys.
Anybody who's sort of
self-obsessed or grumpy
won't survive in the business,
unless he's an actor.
And stay there now We're ready--
getting ready to shoot.
-Are you okay?
Leon spent years of his life,
almost drove himself
into an early grave
because the prints needed to be
as good as they possibly could.
All those other people,
if you took out one person,
there'd be something
missing in that film.
This is like all
a bunch of Leons.
All these people
below the line
are the ones that elevate
the people above the line.
It was amazing that Leon got to,
uh, to stick around
and stay with the--with the-- with the
maestro, as we called him.
And they were inseparable for--
for the longest time.
I've been dreaming about him
more and more and more.
It's always in a house
that! have.
And it's always full of people,
most of which I do not know
And we're starting
a film production.
And it's like, there's no kind of feeling
that we need to communicate at all.
It's just looking at each other and nodding
our heads and saying, "That's it".
If you look back on your life
when you were a child,
and you had aspirations,
and you had ambitions,
but they never really worked out
the way you thought they would.
So there's a lot that can make you
extremely frustrated and extremely mad.
But at the same time,
it's kind of exhilarating.
In many ways,
it doesn't really matter
if things work out exactly the
way you wanted them to or they didn't.
The most important thing
is the journey.
Because the experiences can be
so rich and so valuable to you.
Leon was a spirit.
You could see, you know, the doors
open before he got to a door.
He has this aura
of "Kubrickism" around him.
The apprentice that
all of a sudden one day
became the master
with all the answers.
You're proud and
you're happy of your journey.
Yeah. Yeah, of course.
Of course, I am.
It's been amazing so far.
The best way I could think of,
you know, leaving this world,
and it would be either,
you know, go to sleep and not wake up
or be in the middle of,
you know, I don't know
I guess dying on a flatbed Steenbeck, I mean
if you could find one nowadays.
I mean, maybe in a telecine suite
doing a new transfer.
Like a-- a 4K or an 8K
transfer of 2001.
Just as the music plays out,
I'd say, "I'm coming".
"I'm with ya, Zarathustra".
You know, maybe something like that,
romantic, you know.
It's okay. Mm.
So it's a happy ending?
Sure. Yeah.
Of course, it is.