Stanley Kubrick (July 26, 1928 - March 7, 1999) was an American film director born in New York. His films are highly acclaimed for their technical perfection and deep, highly intellectual symbolism. As a director he was legendary for his relentless perfectionism, masterminding every scene down to the last detail and pushing those who worked with him to the very edge at times.
Kubrick started his career as a professional photographer: he entered the field by selling amateur photos to New York's Look magazine, then was hired by the magazine as a full-time photographer. An avid moviegoer, Kubrick was convinced he could make films better than the ones he saw in the theaters, and he set himself to prove his claim right. His first feature films, Fear and Desire and Killer's Kiss, caught the attention of Hollywood, and he won major acclaim for the classic film noir The Killing before making his mark with the award-winning Paths of Glory. Kubrick's unique filmmaking style developed with these pictures, and his trademarks became clear: long takes, extensive tracking shots, facial expressions, and a cold, distant style that tended to drain the tenderness and humanity out of the stories his films told.
Kubrick's one attempt to adapt to the Hollywood "epic" film, Spartacus, is considered a great film itself, but Kubrick was at odds with both the cast (especially its star Kirk Douglas) and the crew. The battles waged over Spartacus convinced Kubrick that he would never work within the Hollywood system again, and he remained an outsider to the end of his life.
He moved to England in the early 1960s to make Lolita and lived there for the rest of his life. He owned and resided at Childwickbury Manor in the district of St Albans. Much of the filming of his later movies involved careful reproduction of foreign locations, e.g., scenes in Full Metal Jacket were filmed at Beckton Gasworks. He was sometimes described as a recluse, but people who knew him have said that he spent much of his time in the company of others, while conducting his film work.
Kubrick was drawn to controversy in his choice of stories, as seen in his decision to film Lolita in 1960. He worked with the book's author, Vladimir Nabokov, to produce a screenplay that would allow the book to be filmed without being banned from theaters worldwide, and it was with Lolita that he discovered the talent of Peter Sellers. Kubrick asked Sellers to play four roles simultaneously in his next film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, and Sellers accepted (though he only ended up being able to play three of those roles).
Dr. Strangelove is considered by many to be one of the greatest motion pictures of all time. Kubrick's decision to film the movie as a jet-black comedy was a daring risk, one that paid off handsomely. His next two films, 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, are equally considered to be masterpieces of science fiction cinema. These three films have sparked an enormous amount of controversy over the years, and discussion concerning the themes, deeper meanings, and symbolism used by Kubrick to tell the stories in these movies continues to the present day.
However, Kubrick's next film, Barry Lyndon, was not as widely embraced. Despite a number of passionate defenders, this film was considered by many viewers to be cold, slow-moving, and lifeless. After Barry Lyndon, Kubrick's filmmaking pace slowed considerably. He made only four more films in the next twenty-five years; but his reputation and his "mystique" were such that the premiere of each new Stanley Kubrick film was an event hailed by audiences worldwide.
The Shining and Full Metal Jacket did not reach the heights of Dr. Strangelove and 2001 in the eyes of many critics, though they are still seen as exceptional examples of their genres nonetheless, and they contain many Kubrick screen moments. After Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick spent years planning a film entitled A.I, but he abandoned the project and chose to film Eyes Wide Shut instead.
Kubrick was also a chess enthusiast, and he approached many of his projects from the point of view of a chess strategist.
He had completed the filming of Eyes Wide Shut only days before his death, and the film was released to theaters as he had intended. However, film scholars believe that if Kubrick had lived to see the film's release, he might have edited the film further; he had edited parts out of both 2001 and The Shining after each of those films had been released to theaters.
Director Steven Spielberg, a longtime friend of Kubrick, filmed A.I based on Kubrick's screenplay. The film received a lukewarm response from audiences; while it was not a box-office flop, it was seen by many as more Spielberg's film than Kubrick's.
Kubrick died exactly 666 days before the year 2001, a fact noted by trivia buffs and conspiracy theorists.