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Why did Stanley Kubrick abandon a film shoot in Ireland?

In 1973, the Clockwork Orange director arrived in Ireland to work on his next film. But why did he flee just months later?

IN 1973, STANLEY Kubrick, the enigmatic film director, arrived in Ireland.

His previous film, 1971′s A Clockwork Orange, based on the Anthony Burgess novel, was a commercial hit and nominated for several Oscars, but also courted much controversy due to extremely violent scenes.

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Stanley Kubrick is seen in 1975 during production of of the film “Barry Lyndon”.  Pic: AP/Press Association Images

Kubrick came to Ireland to make Barry Lyndon, a period drama based on the novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon, about an 18th century Irish explorer.

Though it went on to win four Oscars (all related to its production), and count among its fans directors such as Martin Scorsese and Lars von Trier, it has never achieved the same reputation as the late director’s other works like The Shining or 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A footnote to the making of the Barry Lyndon was that during filming in Ireland, Kubrick fled the country. The question of why he left is one that has always intrigued journalist Pavel Barter – so he set out to make a radio documentary about it.

Castles, Candles and Kubrick

The self-funded documentary, Castles, Candles and Kubrick, saw Barter travel to LA to meet people who worked with Kubrick on Barry Lyndon, and delve deep into what happened on the day he left Ireland. It will be broadcast next weekend on Newstalk 106-108.


(Stanley Kubrick/YouTube)

Kubrick arrived here in the summer of 1973, but on an overcast night the following January, he fled Ireland. Within 48 hours of him leaving by ferry in Dun Laoghaire, his entire production crew had also left.

“I love the film – it’s a beautifully exquisite film,” enthused Barter of Barry Lyndon. “It’s very slow paced and very melancholic, but incredible looking. Clockwork Orange and The Shining are renowned as cult classics, but Barry Lyndon has slipped through the cracks.”

“There was always this footnote about how Kubrick suddenly upped and left from the country and the crew were left high and dry,” said Barter.

Given that the shoot was four decades ago, many of the crew members had since passed, but Barter was able to speak to Brian W Cook (The Shining), Luke Quigley (Braveheart), Terry Clegg (Gandhi, Out of Africa), Patti Podesta (Memento), and Gay Hamilton (The Duelists).

“I wanted to sit down with people and get to know people who not only worked on the film but got to know Kubrick,” said Barter, as the director was known to be a hands-on perfectionist and not always easy to work with.

In Los Angeles, Barter visited the Kubrick exhibition, while he also visited some of the locations in the film such as Dublin Castle and Waterford.

“It was a very difficult time for the director,” said Barter, explaining that in the years following A Clockwork Orange’s release, there was a series of murders in Britain that were blamed on the film.

Though it was dubious as to whether the film was connected to them, Kubrick had even taken the step of removing the film from circulation, “effectively banning it himself”.

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Pic: AP Photo

“He was a complete and utter perfectionist  – he was the biggest perfectionist that has ever been in cinema,” said Barter of Kubrick. “He sent a letter to projectors when Barry Lyndon was in the cinema telling them how it should be screened, the aspect ratio it should be screened at, etc.”

Threat

Barter will explore in the documentary how Kubrick received a threat against him and his family while in Ireland, which perhaps explains why he left “pretty much overnight”. The threat came against the background of the Troubles, as well as the bad press for A Clockwork Orange.

“Everyone turned up to the set and asked ‘where is our director?’,” said Barter. “It was a sudden exit but it was probably necessary.”

His documentary will explore not just the film, which Barter thinks more people should see, but the reasons behind the threat and what exactly drove Kubrick to leave.

The remainder of Barry Lyndon was filmed in England and Germany.

Barter notes that the film came out in the age of the blockbuster, which could have detracted from its success. But its beauty means that to Barter, and its other fans, it is a classic worth watching today. This documentary could help to ignite a new passion for Barry Lyndon in Ireland – as well as set straight what really drove Kubrick to flee the country in 1974.

The documentary, Castles, Candles and Kubrick, will be broadcast as part of the autumn season on Newstalk 106-108 on Saturday, October 19 at 7am and will be repeated on Sunday October 20 at 6pm.

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