Jan Harlan In Conversation…..
Another day, another Kubrick event in ole London town. I can’t remember how I heard that some film appreciation collective had managed to get Executive Producer, production lead and brother-in-law Jan Harlan under their hallowed roof, but I’ve certaintly had less illunminating Monday nights. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Jan now, five or six times I guess in attendance at various screenings and panel discussions, but it never hurts to revisit some of the novers and shakers who worked as closely as possible with Kubrick for the last thirty years of his career.
Now, I don’t wish to be negative, or overly critical but I can’t escape the fact that the interviewer was, well, he was terrible. To be fair I’m sure he wasn’t a professional – in fact I don’t actually know under which hipster collective they even convinced Jan to come and make this appearance in this backwater of Stoke Newington – but it might have helped if you had someone you didn’t feel necessary to field questions such as (and no, I’m not kidding) ‘What do you think of Star Wars?’ Luckily Mr. Harlan is a skilled raconteur and a mere subject on any of the 13 film pantheon would ignite him to rattle off a ten or minute monologue, with a few fascinating anecdotes and insights which even the deeply initiated like yours truly still find fascinating.
So just to paraphrase the usual revelations – Eyes Wide Shut was Stanley’s favorite of his films, but as it took him 30 years to make that’s not surprising. After seeing video footage of the practice drills that R.Lee Emery was conducting for his Paris Island recruits – remember he was only employed as a consultant who actually worked in basic training earlier in his career – Stanley was blown away, ditched the script segment and the originally cast actor and elevated Ermery as the on-screen drill instructor and the rest, as they say, is history…..
One small snippet that was new concerned the insane manuscript for The Shining, and the inevitable remarks that ‘oh it must have taken them months to type up that prop over hundreds of pages, what legendary perfectionist attention to detail’ which goes deeper when you consider that some foreign language prints of the film had different language versions, and you can see Kubrick himself typing up some pages in the famous behind the scenes documentary. Well, yes 1980 was before widespread computer printing but Script & Production supervisor Margaret Adams did type out different typeset combinations of ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’, photocopied them, and just shuffle mixed them up to provoke the illusion of hundreds of pages of sanity shredding delusion.
Finally Jan remarked that it was the kids and teenagers who literally saved 2001 back in 1968, all the critics and intelligentsia disliked it and it was going to be pulled from exhibition until the theater owners started to feed back to MGM that something was happening and crowds of ‘yoof’ were starting to coalesce around the movie, before it become the undisputed masterpiece that it is known as today. I’ll just add to the choris by making my oft-remarked point that this film was designed, conceived, executed and released before we went to the moon, before we had those photographs taken from the Apollo lander, between 1964 and 1968. People always forgot that…..