Leon Vitali, Stanley Kubrick’s longtime associate who starred in “Barry Lyndon” and “Eyes Wide Shut” in addition to assisting the filmmaker throughout his career, his died at the age of 74. The news was revealed by the official Twitter account of Kubrick’s estate.
The official statement reads: “It is with the greatest of sadness that we have to tell you that the mainstay of a vast number of Kubrick’s films, Leon Vitali, passed away peacefully last night. Our thoughts are with his family and all that knew and loved him. 26 July 1948 – 20 August 2022.”
Vitali began pursuing an acting career after attending the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He had small guest spots on a variety of television shows in the early 1970s before pivoting to feature films in 1973. He starred in the Italian film “Super Bitch,” which was directed by Sergio Leone’s longtime cinematographer Massimo Dallamano, but his big break came when Stanley Kubrick cast him as Lord Bullington in “Barry Lyndon.”
Mesmerized by Kubrick after working with him, Vitali asked if he could observe the director’s editing process after filming was complete. Kubrick obliged, and it marked the beginning of an offscreen partnership between the two men that would last the rest of Kubrick’s life. When Kubrick set his sights on adapting Stephen King’s “The Shining” as his next movie, he sent Vitali a copy of the book and asked him to assist him on the production. Vitali is credited as a “personal assistant to the director” on the film, and famously cast Danny Lloyd, the actor who played the young Danny Torrance in the film.
Vitali became something of a right-hand man for Kubrick, helping with everything from casting to on-set logistics to post-production on each of his subsequent films. In addition to his assistant title, Vitali is credited as the casting director on both “Full Metal Jacket” and “Eyes Wide Shut.” His work ethic played a major role in allowing Kubrick to realize his famously meticulous visions. “I’d work 14, 16 hour shifts, seven days a week” Vitali said in “Filmworker,” Tony Zierra’s documentary about his life. “It wasn’t like that some of the time. It was just normal.”
For Kubrick’s final film, “Eyes Wide Shut,” Vitali stepped in front of the camera once again to play the infamous Red Cloak. His villainous performance serves as a reminder of the acting ability that led Kubrick to cast him in the first place. After Kubrick died just days after finishing the movie, Vitali largely retired from film production, though he helped launch the directing career of his “Eyes Wide Shut” co-star Todd Field. He spent many of his remaining years overseeing restorations of Kubrick’s films and giving interviews about the filmmaker’s life and work.