Stanley Kubrick — I started work on the screenplay with every intention of making the film a serious treatment of the problem of accidental nuclear war. As I kept trying to imagine the way in which things would really happen, ideas kept coming to me which I would discard because they were so ludicrous. I kept saying to myself: “I can’t do this. People will laugh.” But after a month or so I began to realize that all the things I was throwing out were the things which were most truthful. After all, what could be more absurd than the very idea of two mega-powers willing to wipe out all human life because of an accident, spiced up by political differences that will seem as meaningless to people a hundred years from now as the theological conflicts of the Middle Ages appear to us today? So it occurred to me that I was approaching the project in the wrong way. The only way to tell the story was as a black comedy or, better, a nightmare comedy, where the things you laugh at most are really the heart of the paradoxical postures that make a nuclear war possible.

Peter Sellers — One day Stanley suggested that I should wear a black glove, which would look rather sinister on a man in a wheelchair. “Maybe he had some injury in a nuclear experiment of some sort,” Kubrick said. So I put on the black glove and looked at the arm and I suddenly thought, “Hey, that’s a storm-tropper’s arm.” So instead of leaving it there looking malignant I gave the arm a life of its own. That arm hated the rest of the body for having made a compromise. That arm was a Nazi.

George C. Scott — Kubrick has a brilliant eye; he sees more than the camera does. He walks in in the morning and says, “This is awful!” and you get used to kicking things around. I used to kid him by saying, “I should’ve gotten the screen credit for Dr. Strangelove because I wrote half the goddam picture.” There’s no B.S. with him, no pomposity, no vanity. The refreshing thing is he hates everything… He is certainly in command, and he’s so self-effacing and apologetic it’s impossible to be offended by him.

Sterling Hayden — I had a terrible time the first day in front of the camera. I lost control and went 48 takes working with a cigar, chewing on a cigar, blowing my lines, and sweating. Finally, I couldn’t take it and went up to Stanley and apologized. I said, “I’m sorry.” He said the most beautiful thing: “Don’t be sorry. The terror on your face might just give us the quality we need. (He said, “Us.”) If it doesn’t work out, come back in six or eight weeks, and we’ll do the scenes then. Don’t worry about it.” I went back to my room with my wife, Kitty, got a little drunk that night, and had no more problem.

"It’s amazing how fast you get used to such a big place. I tell you, when we first came up here I thought it was kinda scary."

Filmmakers as children: Luis Buñuel, Ingmar Bergman, Yasujiro Ozu, Satyajit Ray, Akira Kurosawa, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jacques Tati, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Stanley Kubrick.

How much planning do you do before you start to shoot a scene?
As much as there are hours in the day, and days in the week. I think about a film almost continuously. I try to visualize it and I try to work out every conceivable variation of ideas which might exist with respect to the various scenes, but I have found that when you finally come down to the day the scene is going to be shot and you arrive on the location with the actors, having had the experience of already seeing some scenes shot, somehow it’s always different. You find out that you have not really explored the scene to its fullest extent. You may have been thinking about it incorrectly, or you may simply not have discovered one of the variations which now in context with everything else that you have shot is simply better than anything you had previously thought of. The reality of the final moment, just before shooting, is so powerful that all previous analysis must yield before the impressions you receive under these circumstances, and unless you use this feedback to your positive advantage, unless you adjust to it, adapt to it and accept the sometimes terrifying weaknesses it can expose, you can never realize the most out of your film.

Stanley Kubrick
July 26, 1928 — March 7, 1999


Do you have a preference for any one aspect of the whole filmmaking process?I think I enjoy editing the most. It’s the nearest thing to some reasonable environment in which to do creative work. Writing, of course, is very satisfying, but, of course, you’re not working with film. The actual shooting of a film is probably the worst circumstances you could try to imagine for creating a work of art. There is, first of all, the problem of getting up very early every morning and going to bed very late every night. Then there is the chaos, confusion, and frequently physical discomfort. It would be, I suppose, like a writer trying to write a book while working at a factory lathe in temperatures which range from ninety-five to negative ten degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to this, of course, editing is the only aspect of the cinematic art that is unique. It shares no connection with any other art form: writing, acting, photography, things that are major aspects of the cinema, are still not unique to it, but editing is.
Stanley KubrickJuly 26, 1928 — March 7, 1999

Do you have a preference for any one aspect of the whole filmmaking process?
I think I enjoy editing the most. It’s the nearest thing to some reasonable environment in which to do creative work. Writing, of course, is very satisfying, but, of course, you’re not working with film. The actual shooting of a film is probably the worst circumstances you could try to imagine for creating a work of art. There is, first of all, the problem of getting up very early every morning and going to bed very late every night. Then there is the chaos, confusion, and frequently physical discomfort. It would be, I suppose, like a writer trying to write a book while working at a factory lathe in temperatures which range from ninety-five to negative ten degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to this, of course, editing is the only aspect of the cinematic art that is unique. It shares no connection with any other art form: writing, acting, photography, things that are major aspects of the cinema, are still not unique to it, but editing is.

Stanley Kubrick
July 26, 1928 — March 7, 1999


Stanley Kubrick during the filming of Killer’s Kiss in 1955.

Stanley Kubrick during the filming of Killer’s Kiss in 1955.


Stanley Kubrick on the set of A Clockwork Orange.

Stanley Kubrick on the set of A Clockwork Orange.

On the set of Barry Lyndon.


"I always say Fellini inspired me. I love being in Fellini’s worlds. And Billy Wilder and Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock. To revisit those certain films and go in that world is just—It’s a world that didn’t exist and now it exists. There are some people that are—I always say that they don’t like so much abstraction. They don’t like to feel lost. They like to know always, always, always what’s going on. And when they don’t feel that, they feel a little crazy. And they don’t like that. Other people—and I’m one of them—I love to go into a world, be taken into a world and get lost in there and feel-think my way and have these experiences that I know… I know that feeling, but I don’t know how to put it into words. I know that feeling and it’s magical that this cinema brought it out. This is what I love." — David Lynch

"I always say Fellini inspired me. I love being in Fellini’s worlds. And Billy Wilder and Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock. To revisit those certain films and go in that world is just—It’s a world that didn’t exist and now it exists. There are some people that are—I always say that they don’t like so much abstraction. They don’t like to feel lost. They like to know always, always, always what’s going on. And when they don’t feel that, they feel a little crazy. And they don’t like that. Other people—and I’m one of them—I love to go into a world, be taken into a world and get lost in there and feel-think my way and have these experiences that I know… I know that feeling, but I don’t know how to put it into words. I know that feeling and it’s magical that this cinema brought it out. This is what I love." — David Lynch


In previous films, you have worked within the conventions of specific genres (science-fiction, thriller, war film, etc.). Were you attracted to The Shining because it gave you the opportunity to explore the laws of a new genre in your career?
Stanley Kubrick: About the only law that I think relates to the genre is that you should not try to explain, to find neat explanations for what happens, and that the object of the thing is to produce a sense of the uncanny. Freud in his essay on the uncanny wrote that the sense of the uncanny is the only emotion which is more powerfully expressed in art than in life, which I found very illuminating; it didn’t help writing the screenplay, but I think it’s an interesting insight into the genre. And I read an essay by the great master H.P. Lovecraft where he said that you should never attempt to explain what happens, as long as what happens stimulates people’s imagination, their sense of the uncanny, their sense of anxiety and fear. And as long as it doesn’t, within itself, have any obvious inner contradictions, it is just a matter of, as it were, building on the imagination (imaginary ideas, surprises, etc.), working in this area of feeling. I think also that the ingeniousness of a story like this is something which the audience ultimately enjoy; they obviously wonder as the story goes on what’s going to happen, and there’s a great satisfaction when it’s all over not having been able to have anticipated the major developments of the story, and yet at the end not to feel that you have been fooled or swindled.

In previous films, you have worked within the conventions of specific genres (science-fiction, thriller, war film, etc.). Were you attracted to The Shining because it gave you the opportunity to explore the laws of a new genre in your career?

Stanley Kubrick: About the only law that I think relates to the genre is that you should not try to explain, to find neat explanations for what happens, and that the object of the thing is to produce a sense of the uncanny. Freud in his essay on the uncanny wrote that the sense of the uncanny is the only emotion which is more powerfully expressed in art than in life, which I found very illuminating; it didn’t help writing the screenplay, but I think it’s an interesting insight into the genre. And I read an essay by the great master H.P. Lovecraft where he said that you should never attempt to explain what happens, as long as what happens stimulates people’s imagination, their sense of the uncanny, their sense of anxiety and fear. And as long as it doesn’t, within itself, have any obvious inner contradictions, it is just a matter of, as it were, building on the imagination (imaginary ideas, surprises, etc.), working in this area of feeling. I think also that the ingeniousness of a story like this is something which the audience ultimately enjoy; they obviously wonder as the story goes on what’s going to happen, and there’s a great satisfaction when it’s all over not having been able to have anticipated the major developments of the story, and yet at the end not to feel that you have been fooled or swindled.