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Meaningful standards do exist!


Jerry Weinstraub – the man who tamed Kubrick
Frederic Raphael Writer
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I don't know what does matter. Does love matter? Oh, yes. But, of course, it renders you vulnerable. And people would like to find a way of not being vulnerable. I'm quite tearful about my children and about my wife. I'm not very tearful about anything else. The Marseillaise can get me on a good day. It's odd what makes you cry. Poor films make you cry. Noël Coward said, 'Strange how... Strange, the potency of cheap music'. And that is, of course, perfectly true. Why are we nervous about love? I think it's because it demands... it demands, as they always say, commitment, and commitment scares us. Because what if you commit to the wrong thing? Well, I haven't committed to the wrong thing. I'm not going to pretend – and I don't pretend – that I haven't imagined sleeping with more women than I have and lots of other things. In fact, somebody reviewing a book of short stories of mine immediately assumed that I must have lived a pretty rackety life in the London of 1960s and 1970s. I didn't, but I do have a head and I do have eyes and I do notice, and all the rest of it. And also, back to William Maugham, you don't have to eat the whole sheep to know what it is like to have a piece of... to eat roast mutton, but it's a good idea to have a lamb chop. I do have lamb chops.

I met a underwater diver in Belize. A Jewish guy, actually. I think his name was Writer, I can't remember. And he said, 'All the guys are going to the cat house around the corner. But, he said, you know, why do I want a cheap hamburger when I got the best steak at home?' It's not a particularly elegant image, but it sticks in the mind.

He was a tough Jew. I rather wish I was a tough Jew. There are some in America. Quite a lot, actually. In fact, Jerry Weintraub, was a producer that I worked for, at the time when I'd just finished Eyes Wide Shut – they were shooting it. Have I told you this story? Jerry called me up. He said, will you... will you come and do a movie with me? So I said, yes. I went down to Chelsea. That was the way it was in those days. So he said, what do you think? I'd like to do this and this and this. I said, okay. So he said, fine, let's do it. So how's it... what's it like working with Stanley Donen? So I said, oh... Stanley Kubrick. I said, Oh, fine, you know, he's shooting. Yeah, I know. As a matter of fact, he said, we've been shooting on the stage next to his... where he's shooting. And one day I came down to the set and my cameraman was like, you know, pretty well in tears, you know? I said, 'What's the matter with you?' So he said, 'Well, you know, I had a call from Stanley Kubrick. He says my lights are interfering with his lights on the next stage', which is impossible. I mean, it...you know, it can't. But that's what he was saying. And he said, you know, that I was, you know, incompetent and didn't know what I was doing and... So Weintraub said, okay. Jerry Weintraub said to me, you know, I came up... you know, one of the things I did was I organised concerts, you know, big venues like, you know, the big Astrodome in... down in Dallas, or wherever it was, you know.

Well, anyone who does venues in big concert halls in big cities in America has to be in with the mob, you know. I'm not saying he was good or bad, but he was in with the mob. He was a tough Jew, of the kind that only – I think Sidney Bernstein had that kind of quality and the... and the, kind of, broken non-Jewy nose to go with it. Anyway, so Weintraub went and called Kubrick's office and he said, 'I want to talk to Stanley Kubrick'. So the guy said, 'Well, I'm terribly sorry but he's not... he can't come to the phone'. 'So when can he come to the phone?' Said, 'Well, he can't. He's on... he's busy shooting his... his new film'. 'Yeah', he said, 'I hear... so I hear. So listen, you got a pencil? Take this down. Dear Mr Kubrick, if you speak to my cameraman or anybody else on my set or in my unit from now until we've finished shooting, I will come round and do you bodily harm. My name's Jerry Weintraub. You put that at the bottom and you give that to Mr Kubrick, okay?' So the guy's, 'Well...'. 'Yeah. You better do it. You better do it. What's your name?' Quarter of an hour later, 'Is this... is this Jerry Weintraub?' 'Yeah'. 'Stanley Kubrick. Listen, there was some kind of a misunderstanding, you know'. 'I don't think so'. 'Yeah. Well, believe me, I... there has been some kind of misunderstanding and...' 'I don't think so'. 'I just want to tell you that, you know, of course I... I wouldn't dream of upsetting your cameraman or anybody else on your unit. I mean, I... you know, I have absolutely no need to talk to... to anybody in... in your movie, okay?' 'Okay'.


Well, who's the big man here? I don't know. It's the rich comedy of alpha beats alpha minus or alpha plus beats alpha minus. I don't know. I have to say that... Stanley Kubrick's movie was probably better than the one that Jean Weintraub did, but that's another story. Jerry Weintraub, I think his name was. Jerry, yes.


I wrote a very interesting movie for him, actually, about the guy who killed Versace. He was a gay guy in... I think he came from San Diego, who went on a kind of killing spree – his name was Cunanan – killed a number of people, wound up eventually on Miami South beach and killed Versace who was also, of course, gay. Why he killed him, nobody quite knows. Perhaps in the usual... the same reason perhaps that Herostratus burned down the temple of Diana at Ephesus – because if you can't build the temple you can at least burn it down. I thought it was a nice movie because I started with Versace in Reggio di Calabria – the toe of Italy as it were – his journey to meet his own doom in Miami. Not very elaborately but that was the scheme of the thing. But it was quite an unpleasant story and in the end they didn't make it. Actually, Weintraub made that movie which they've just done about Liberace, with a wonderful performance by Michael Douglas as Liberace and not bad by Matt Damon. So he had a curious hang-up about homosexual themes. Don't ask me why; I don't know why. He was a rough, tough guy but there we are, who knows. A lot of movies don't get made. And I've written quite a few of them. And luckily, you get well-paid if they don't get made. Today you don't get well-paid if they do get made. So that's the way it goes. So I kind of timed it right.


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: Jerry Weistraub, Stanley Kubrick, Gianni Versace

Duration: 6 minutes, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014