To call the output, both realized and unmade, of Stanley Kubrick “vast” still somehow seems inexact, with every year since the filmmaker’s death in 1999 unearthing new scraps of information on discarded projects. And yet, as some of those ventures are now finding life in different forms (including an HBO miniseries of “Napoleon” with Baz Luhrmann in the mix to direct), it’s easy to forget the wry humor and personality of the man himself. Interviews with Kubrick are a rare occurrence, but now, through Kubrick’s love of chess, the stage was set for perhaps the most extensive and wide-ranging interview ever conducted with the director.
It was a matter of mutual appreciation that led author and physicist Jeremy Bernstein to first meet Kubrick in 1965, when The New Yorker sent him to interview the then 37-year-old director. Bernstein wrote a positive piece in the magazine on science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, and was then Clarke himself recommended that he talk to Kubrick. Bernstein and Kubrick met in the director’s Central Park apartment. Both men soon discovered that the other was a chess aficionado and soon a friendship was born , one which would later lead Bernstein to Oxford, where Kubrick was shooting “2001: A Space Odyssey,” or “Son of Strangelove” as it was amusingly codenamed at the time.
Bernstein recorded these meetings, and the result, a 76-minute audio interview with Kubrick (via No Film School), is a compelling, informal, and hugely informative look into the director’s life. He covers his early films’ origins from script to screen, but also space travel, chess, and the nuclear bomb, which he calls “as abstract as the fact that we are all going to die someday, which we usually do an excellent job of denying.”
Check out the full interview below, and also read Bernstein’s recollections of the meeting on the NYRB blog.