Stanley Kubrick’s Rare 1965 Interview with The New Yorker

Stan­ley Kubrick did­n’t like giv­ing long inter­views, but he loved play­ing chess. So when the physi­cist and writer Jere­my Bern­stein paid him a vis­it to gath­er mate­r­i­al for a piece for The New York­er about a new film project he was writ­ing with Arthur C. Clarke, Kubrick was intrigued to learn that Bern­stein was a fair­ly seri­ous chess play­er. After Bern­stein’s brief arti­cle on Kubrick and Clarke, “Beyond the Stars,” appeared in the mag­a­zine’s “Talk of the Town” sec­tion in April of 1965, Bern­stein pro­posed doing a full-length New York­er pro­file on the film­mak­er and his new project. For some rea­son, Kubrick accept­ed. So lat­er that year Bern­stein flew to Eng­land, where Kubrick was get­ting ready to film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bern­stein stayed there for much of the film­ing, play­ing chess with Kubrick every day between takes. When the piece even­tu­al­ly ran in The New York­er it was appro­pri­ate­ly titled “How About a Lit­tle Game?”

One thing Bern­stein learned about Kubrick was that he loved gad­gets. He had a spe­cial fond­ness for tape recorders. In the pro­file, Bern­stein quotes the film­mak­er’s wife Chris­tiane as say­ing, “Stan­ley would be hap­py with eight tape recorders and one pair of pants.”

So when it came time to do the inter­views, Kubrick took con­trol as direc­tor and insist­ed on using one of the devices. “My inter­views were done before tape recorders were com­mon­place,” Bern­stein lat­er wrote. “I cer­tain­ly did­n’t have one. Kubrick did. He did all his script writ­ing by talk­ing into it. He said that we should use it for the inter­views. Lat­er on, when I used a quote from the tape he did­n’t like, he said, ‘I know it’s on the tape, but I will deny say­ing it any­way.’ ”

Kubrick talked with Bern­stein on a range of top­ics relat­ed to his ear­ly career. In the near­ly 77 min­utes of audio pre­served in the record­ing above, Kubrick dis­cuss­es his bad grades in high school and his good luck in land­ing a job as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er for Look mag­a­zine, his ear­li­est film work pro­duc­ing news­reels, and all of his fea­ture films up to that point, includ­ing Paths of Glo­ry, Loli­ta and Dr. Strangelove. He talks about his work­ing rela­tion­ships with Clarke and Vladimir Nabokov, and his views on space explo­ration and the threat of nuclear war.

The exact time of the inter­view is dif­fi­cult to pin down. Sources across the Inter­net give the date as Novem­ber 27, 1966, but that is cer­tain­ly incor­rect. While it’s true that Kubrick gives the date as Novem­ber 27 at the begin­ning of the tape, Bern­stein’s profile–which includes mate­r­i­al from the interview–was pub­lished on Novem­ber 12, 1966, and Kubrick made cor­rec­tions to the gal­ley proofs as ear­ly as April, 1966. The inter­view was appar­ent­ly con­duct­ed in mul­ti­ple takes start­ing on Novem­ber 27, 1965 and end­ing some­time in ear­ly 1966. Film­ing of 2001: A Space Odyssey com­menced on Decem­ber 29, 1965 (a month after the taped con­ver­sa­tion begins), and near the end of the tape Kubrick men­tions hav­ing already shot 80,000 feet, or about 14.8 hours, of film.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Stan­ley Kubrick­’s Fil­mog­ra­phy Ani­mat­ed

Stan­ley Kubrick­’s Pho­tographs: Browse Them or Own Them

Stan­ley Kubrick­’s Very First Films: Three Short Doc­u­men­taries

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