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Stanley Kubrick’s modus operandi


How I upset Stanley Kubrick
Frederic Raphael Writer
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On we went and I wrote a lot more script. And he was never as thrilled as he had been because, of course, I had cracked it and you only crack it once. After that, you see if you can do something different and all the rest of it. So it was a very long process, conducted at a distance. Because Stanley was living in his castle surrounded with barbed wire and all the rest of it, and I was most of the time in France where I like to do my work because I don't like to be conscious of all of those other people. I don't wish them any ill. I don't wish them anything. I just don't want to be near people. That's why I became a writer. So I don't do clubs and I don't do committees and I don't do getting on in the world and I don't do careers. In fact I can hardly believe that anyone says that writers have careers, but they do. I thought writers stuck it to people. I thought that was what you did. And that's what I have intermittently, with blunt or sharp instruments, tried to do and continue to try to do. So anyway.

Eventually, draft after draft... When I finished the first draft, I made the mistake – if mistake it was – of sending it to my agent, the same one who had negotiated with Stanley. Because experience shows me that you have to register with your agent the fact that the end of the first draft has been done and, vulgar as it is, the payment is now due. The agent was not in the office and the assistant put a William Morris folder on Stanley's script for sending it on to Stanley. This excited great rage on his part because he was, of course, paranoid. He once said, and he meant it, 'Paranoia means knowing what's going on'. And his idea of what was going on was that people were trying to crib his ideas, to tell what he was going to do next, etc, etc. And that probably is quite true. I was... I had no intention that he should know that anyone else had seen it. But, of course, I did have a reason i.e. next stage please. So he called up in a great rage. Well, a sort of... sort of rage. He said, 'You know, it's... what you've done is unforgivable. I mean, you're... I'm very tempted to, you know... you know... kill the whole thing there and then'. And I said – because I was not a child and I wasn't particularly intimidated though I was certainly delighted by working with him – I said, Stanley, we all have our foibles. You don't want your script to be seen. I don't want anyone to say that I haven't finished the first draft in time when I have. 'Yeah okay, but I mean, you... you know, you sent it to people'. I said, Stanley, that's it. That's really how it is. I quite understand your being upset and I'm really sorry that you discovered that I did what I did. But I will not pretend to you that I'm sorry that I did it because that's what I always do. So he digested this and his letters, which had previously ended, 'Regards,' resumed being, 'Best regards.' That was a symbol of our reconciliation. And on I went into the second draft.  And on and on and on.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Stanley Kubrick

Duration: 3 minutes, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014