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Colleagues Salute Kubrick's 'Absolute Mastery'

Movies: Memorial recalls 'the most fiercely independent director this industry has ever known.'

May 18, 1999|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With recollections both poignant and amusing, friends and colleagues reminisced warmly about the late director Stanley Kubrick at Sunday's Directors Guild of America's tribute.

"He was one of the greatest film directors of all time," said DGA President Jack Shea to the near-capacity crowd gathered for the memorial at the DGA Theatre in West Hollywood. "He was truly worthy of the word 'genius.' He had absolute mastery of the art of filmmaking."

Kubrick died March 8 in his sleep at the age of 70, having just completed his final film, "Eyes Wide Shut," starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, which is set to open in July.

Chuck Workman edited a marvelous montage of clips that opened the ceremony, featuring footage from all of Kubrick's films: "The Killing," "Paths of Glory," "Spartacus," "Lolita," "Dr. Strangelove," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "A Clockwork Orange," "Barry Lyndon," "The Shining," "Full Metal Jacket" and "Eyes Wide Shut."

Besides discussing his control and expertise in every aspect of filmmaking--"Stanley was all of the guilds rolled into one," said Warner Bros. Chairman Terry Semel--speakers offered insight into the filmmaker, who also was a great chess hustler, a fanatic for gadgets and a warm family man.

"We all know that he never slept," said Semel, who had worked with Kubrick since 1975. "He was the most fiercely independent director this industry has ever known. We were all proud to call him a friend."

Being his friend meant receiving hundreds of phone calls and faxes from Kubrick. "He was unrelenting," Semel said. "He was always pushing for more than excellence. He made each of us continue to stretch."

Kubrick talked several times over the phone with Semel about "Eyes Wide Shut" the day before he died. Semel recalled the director was excited about the project. "He went to sleep with a big smile on his face. He had finished everything. Stanley was probably the smartest human being we've ever met."

Keir Dullea, who played Dave the astronaut in "2001," recalled that the director was a "very quiet, very gentle" man who "always knew what he wanted. He had the cutest humor. He was truly a renaissance man."

Vincent D'Onofrio credits Kubrick with giving him a movie career when the director cast him as the heavy, psychologically scarred recruit Leonard in "Full Metal Jacket."

"He hired me over the telephone," said D'Onofrio, who previously had worked in the theater. He described shooting the movie as "going to film school for 13 months."

Steven Spielberg described himself as a "long-distance" friend. Although they had known each other for 19 years, Spielberg said he had seen the reclusive Kubrick only a couple of dozen times. Spielberg revealed that before Kubrick's death, the two had discussed doing a film project together.

"He was very kind to me," recalled Spielberg, who added that he would often receive faxes in the middle of the night from Kubrick about some new lens or gadget he had discovered. "He was not stingy in his compliments."

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