2001: A Space Odyssey (Film)



Principal photography began December 29, 1965, in Stage H at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, England. The studio was chosen because it could house the 60 ft x 120 ft x 60 ft pit for the Tycho crater excavation scene, the first to be shot.[54][55] The production moved in January 1966 to the smaller MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, where the live action and special effects filming was done, starting with the scenes involving Floyd on the Orion spaceplane;[56] it was described as a "huge throbbing nerve center ... with much the same frenetic atmosphere as a Cape Kennedy blockhouse during the final stages of Countdown."[57] The only scene not filmed in a studio—and the last live-action scene shot for the film—was the skull-smashing sequence, in which Moonwatcher (Richter) wields his new-found bone "weapon-tool" against a pile of nearby animal bones. A small elevated platform was built in a field near the studio so that the camera could shoot upward with the sky as background, avoiding cars and trucks passing by in the distance.[58][59]

Filming of actors was completed in September 1967,[60] and from June 1966 until March 1968 Kubrick spent most of his time working on the 205 special effects shots in the film.[32] The director ordered the special effects technicians on 2001 to use the painstaking process of creating all visual effects seen in the film "in camera", avoiding degraded picture quality from the use of blue screen and traveling matte techniques. Although this technique, known as "held takes", resulted in a much better image, it meant exposed film would be stored for long periods of time between shots, sometimes as long as a year.[61] In March 1968, Kubrick finished the 'pre-premiere' editing of the film, making his final cuts just days before the film's general release in April 1968.[32]

The film was initially planned to be photographed in 3-film-strip Cinerama (like How the West Was Won), because it was a part of a production/distribution deal between MGM and Cinerama Releasing Corporation, but that was changed to Super Panavision 70 (which uses a single-strip 65 mm negative) on the advice of special photographic effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull, due to distortion problems with the 3-strip system.[62] Color processing and 35 mm release prints were done using Technicolor's dye transfer process. The 70 mm prints were made by MGM Laboratories, Inc. on Metrocolor. The production was $4.5 million over the initial $6.0 million budget, and sixteen months behind schedule.[54]

The Russian documentarian Pavel Klushantsev made a ground-breaking film in the 1950s entitled Road to the Stars. It is believed to have significantly influenced Kubrick's technique in 2001: A Space Odyssey, particularly in its accurate depiction of weightlessness and a rotating space station. Encyclopedia Astronautica describes some scenes from 2001 as a "shot-for-shot duplication of Road to the Stars".[63] Specific comparisons of shots from the two films have been analyzed by the filmmaker Alessandro Cima.[64] A 1994 article in American Cinematographer says, "When Stanley Kubrick made 2001: a Space Odyssey in 1968, he claimed to have been first to fly actor/astronauts on wires with the camera on the ground, shooting vertically while the actor's body covered the wires" but observes that Klushantsev had preceded him in this.[65]

For the opening sequence involving tribes of apes, professional mime Daniel Richter in addition to playing the lead ape was also responsible for choreographing the movements of the other man-apes, who were mostly portrayed by his standing mime troupe.[58]

Set design and furnishings

Kubrick involved himself in every aspect of production, even choosing the fabric for his actors' costumes,[66] and selecting notable pieces of contemporary furniture for use in the film. When Floyd exits the Space Station V elevator, he is greeted by an attendant seated behind a slightly modified George Nelson Action Office desk from Herman Miller's 1964 "Action Office" series.[67] First introduced in 1968, the Action Office-style "cubicle" would eventually occupy 70 percent of office space by the mid-2000s.[68][69] Danish designer Arne Jacobsen designed the cutlery used by the Discovery astronauts in the film.[70][71][72]

Other examples of modern furniture in the film are the bright red Djinn chairs seen prominently throughout the space station[73][74] and Eero Saarinen's 1956 pedestal tables. Olivier Mourgue, designer of the Djinn chair, has used the connection to 2001 in his advertising; a frame from the film's space station sequence and three production stills appear on the homepage of Mourgue's website.[75] Shortly before Kubrick's death, film critic Alexander Walker informed Kubrick of Mourgue's use of the film, joking to him "You're keeping the price up".[76] Commenting on their use in the film, Walker writes:

Everyone recalls one early sequence in the film, the space hotel,[77] primarily because the custom-made Olivier Mourgue furnishings, those foam-filled sofas, undulant and serpentine, are covered in scarlet fabric and are the first stabs of color one sees. They resemble Rorschach "blots" against the pristine purity of the rest of the lobby.[78]

Detailed instructions in relatively small print for various technological devices appear at several points in the film, the most visible of which are the lengthy instructions for the zero-gravity toilet on the Aries Moon shuttle. Similar detailed instructions for replacing the explosive bolts also appear on the hatches of the E.V.A. pods, most visibly in closeup just before Bowman's pod leaves the ship to rescue Frank Poole.[79]

The film features an extensive use of Eurostile Bold Extended, Futura and other sans serif typefaces as design elements of the 2001 world.[80] Computer displays show high resolution fonts, color and graphics—far in advance of computers in the 1960s when the film was made.

Special effects

Front projection

2001 pioneered the use of front projection with retroreflective matting. Kubrick used the technique to produce the backdrops in the Africa scenes and the scene when astronauts walk on the moon.[81]

The technique consisted of a separate scenery projector set at a right-angle to the camera, and a half-silvered mirror placed at an angle in front that reflected the projected image forward in line with the camera lens onto a backdrop made of retroreflective material. The reflective directional screen behind the actors could reflect light from the projected image a hundred times more efficiently than the foreground subject did. The lighting of the foreground subject had to be balanced with the image from the screen, making the image from the scenery projector on the subject too faint to record. The exception was the eyes of the leopard in the "Dawn of Man" sequence, which glowed orange from the projector illumination. Kubrick described this as "a happy accident".[82]

Front projection had been used in smaller settings before 2001, mostly for still photography or television production, using small still images and projectors. The expansive backdrops for the African scenes required a screen 40 feet (12 m) tall and 110 feet (34 m) wide, far larger than had been used before. When the reflective material was applied to the backdrop in 100-foot (30 m) strips, variations at the seams of the strips led to visual artifacts; to solve this, the crew tore the material into smaller chunks and applied them in a random "camouflage" pattern on the backdrop. The existing projectors using 4-×-5-inch (10 × 13 cm) transparencies resulted in grainy images when projected that large, so the crew worked with MGM's special effects supervisor, Tom Howard, to build a custom projector using 8-×-10-inch (20 × 25 cm) transparencies, which required the largest water-cooled arc lamp available.[82] The technique was used widely in the film industry afterwards until it was replaced by blue/green screen systems in the 1990s.


Other "in-camera" shots were scenes depicting spacecraft moving through space. The camera used to shoot the stationary model of the Discovery One spacecraft was driven along a track on a special mount, the motor of which was mechanically linked to the camera motor—making it possible to repeat camera moves and match speeds exactly. On the first pass, the model was unlit, masking the star-field behind it. The camera and film were returned to the start position, and on the second pass, the model was lit without the star field. For shots also showing the interior of the ship, a third pass was made with previously-filmed live-action scenes projected onto rear-projection screens in the model's windows. The result was a film negative image that was exceptionally sharper and clearer than typical visual effects of the time.[83]

For interior shots inside the spacecraft, ostensibly containing a giant centrifuge that produces artificial gravity, Kubrick had a 30-short-ton (27 t) rotating "ferris wheel" built by Vickers-Armstrong Engineering Group at a cost of $750,000. The set was 38 feet (12 m) in diameter and 10 feet (3.0 m) wide.[84] Various scenes in the Discovery centrifuge were shot by securing set pieces within the wheel, then rotating it while the actor walked or ran in sync with its motion, keeping him at the bottom of the wheel as it turned. The camera could be fixed to the inside of the rotating wheel to show the actor walking completely "around" the set, or mounted in such a way that the wheel rotated independently of the stationary camera, as in the jogging scene where the camera appears to alternately precede and follow the running actor. The shots where the actors appear on opposite sides of the wheel required one of the actors to be strapped securely into place at the "top" of the wheel as it moved to allow the other actor to walk to the "bottom" of the wheel to join him. The most notable case is when Bowman enters the centrifuge from the central hub on a ladder, and joins Poole, who is eating on the other side of the centrifuge. This required Gary Lockwood to be strapped into a seat while Keir Dullea walked toward him from the opposite side of the wheel as it turned with him.[85]

Another rotating set appeared in an earlier sequence on board the Aries translunar shuttle. A stewardess is shown preparing in-flight meals, then carrying them into a circular walkway. Attached to the set as it rotates 180 degrees, the camera's point of view remains constant, and she appears to walk up the "side" of the circular walkway, and steps, now in an "upside-down" orientation, into a connecting hallway.[86]

Zero gravity effects

The realistic-looking effects of the astronauts floating weightless in space and inside the spacecraft were accomplished by suspending the actors from wires attached to the top of the set, and the camera was placed underneath them. The actors' bodies blocked the camera's view of the suspension wires, creating a very believable appearance of floating. For the shot of Poole floating into the pod's arms during Bowman's rescue attempt, a stuntman replaced a dummy on the wire to realistically portray the movements of an unconscious human, and was shot in slow motion to enhance the illusion of drifting through space.[87] The scene showing Bowman entering the emergency airlock from the E.V.A. pod was done in a similar way: an off-camera stagehand, standing on a platform, held the wire suspending Dullea above the camera positioned at the bottom of the vertically configured airlock. At the proper moment, the stagehand first loosened his grip on the wire, causing Dullea to fall toward the camera, then, while holding the wire firmly, he jumped off the platform, causing Dullea to ascend back up toward the hatch.[88]

Star Gate sequence

The colored lights in the Star Gate sequence were accomplished by slit-scan photography of thousands of high-contrast images on film, including op-art paintings, architectural drawings, Moiré patterns, printed circuits, and crystal structures. Known to staff as "Manhattan Project", the shots of various nebula-like phenomena, including the expanding star field, were colored paints and chemicals swirling in a pool-like device known as a cloud tank, shot in slow-motion in a dark room.[89] The live-action landscape shots in the 'Star Gate' sequence were filmed in the Hebridean islands, the mountains of northern Scotland, and Monument Valley. The coloring and negative-image effects were achieved by the use of different color filters in the process of making dupe negatives.[90]


Main article: 2001: A Space Odyssey (soundtrack). See also: 2001: A Space Odyssey (score).

Music plays a crucial part in 2001, and not only because of the relatively sparse dialogue. From very early on in production, Kubrick decided that he wanted the film to be a primarily nonverbal experience,[91] one that did not rely on the traditional techniques of narrative cinema, and in which music would play a vital role in evoking particular moods. About half the music in the film appears either before the first line of dialogue or after the final line. Almost no music is heard during any scenes with dialogue.

The film is notable for its innovative use of classical music taken from existing commercial recordings. Most feature films then and now are typically accompanied by elaborate film scores or songs written especially for them by professional composers. In the early stages of production, Kubrick had actually commissioned a score for 2001 from Hollywood composer Alex North, who had written the score for Spartacus and also worked on Dr. Strangelove.[92] However, during postproduction, Kubrick chose to abandon North's music in favor of the now-familiar classical pieces he had earlier chosen as "guide pieces" for the soundtrack. North did not know of the abandonment of the score until after he saw the film's premiere screening.[93]

Also engaged to score the film was composer Frank Cordell. Cordell stated in interviews that the score would primarily consist of arrangements of Gustav Mahler works.[94] This score remains unreleased. Like North's score, Cordell's work was recorded at the now demolished Anvil, Denham studios.[95]

2001 is particularly remembered for using pieces of Johann Strauss II's best-known waltz, The Blue Danube, during the extended space-station docking and Lunar landing sequences. This is the result of the association that Kubrick made between the spinning motion of the satellites and the dancers of waltzes.[96] It also makes use of the opening from the Richard Strauss tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra[97] performed by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan. The use of Strauss's Zarathustra may be a reference to the theme of mankind's eventual replacement by supermen (Übermensch) in Nietzsche's work Thus Spoke Zarathustra.[34][98] Gayane's Adagio from Aram Khachaturian's Gayane ballet suite is heard during the sections that introduce Bowman and Poole aboard the Discovery, conveying a somewhat lonely and mournful quality.

In addition to the majestic yet fairly traditional compositions by the two Strausses and Khachaturian, Kubrick used four highly modernistic compositions by György Ligeti that employ micropolyphony, the use of sustained dissonant chords that shift slowly. This technique was pioneered in Atmosphères, the only Ligeti piece heard in its entirety in the film. Ligeti admired Kubrick's film but, in addition to being irritated by Kubrick's failure to obtain permission directly from him, he was offended that his music was used in a film soundtrack shared by composers Johann and Richard Strauss.[99] Other music used is Ligeti's Lux Aeterna, the second movement of his Requiem and an electronically altered form of his Aventures, the last of which was also used without Ligeti's permission and is not listed in the film's credits.[100]

Hal's version of the popular song "Daisy Bell" (referred to by Hal as "Daisy" in the film) was inspired by a computer-synthesized arrangement by Max Mathews, which Arthur C. Clarke had heard in 1962 at the Bell Laboratories Murray Hill facility when he was, coincidentally, visiting friend and colleague John R. Pierce. At that time, a speech synthesis demonstration was being performed by physicist John Larry Kelly, Jr., by using an IBM 704 computer to synthesize speech. Kelly's voice recorder synthesizer vocoder recreated the song "Daisy Bell" ("Bicycle Built For Two"); Max Mathews provided the musical accompaniment. Arthur C. Clarke was so impressed that he later used it in the screenplay and novel.[101]

Many non-English language versions of the film do not use the song "Daisy". In the French soundtrack, Hal sings the French folk song "Au Clair de la Lune" while being disconnected.[102] In the German version, Hal sings the children's song "Hänschen klein" ("Johnny Little"),[103] and in the Italian version Hal sings "Giro giro tondo" (Ring a Ring o' Roses).[104]

A recording of British light music composer Sidney Torch's "Off Beat Moods Part 1" was chosen by Kubrick as the theme for the fictitious BBC news programme "The World Tonight" seen aboard the Discovery.[105]

On June 25, 2010, a version of the film specially remastered by Warner Bros. without the music soundtrack opened the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the Royal Society at Southbank Centre in cooperation with the British Film Institute. The score was played live by the Philharmonia Orchestra and Choir.[106]

On June 14, 2013, a repeat presentation of the film accompanied by live orchestra and choir was performed at Symphony Hall in Birmingham, again accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Wallfisch together with the choir Ex Cathedra.[107]


Kubrick filmed several scenes that were deleted from the final film. These fall into two categories: scenes cut before any public screenings of the film, and scenes cut a few days after the world premiere on April 2, 1968.[108]

The first ('pre-premiere') set of cuts included a school-room on the Lunar base—a painting class around a decorative fountain that included Kubrick's daughters, additional scenes of life on the base, and Floyd buying a bush baby from a department store via videophone for his daughter. Additionally, a ten-minute black-and-white opening sequence featuring interviews with actual scientists, including Freeman Dyson discussing off-Earth life,[109] were removed after an early screening for MGM executives.[110] The actual text survives in the book The Making of Kubrick's 2001 by Jerome Agel.[111]

The second ('post-premiere') set of cuts included details about the daily life on Discovery: additional space-walks, astronaut Bowman retrieving a spare part from an octagonal corridor, elements from the Poole murder sequence including the entire space-walk preparation and shots of Hal turning off radio contact with Poole, and a close-up of Bowman picking up a slipper during his walk in the alien room.[112]

Kubrick's rationale for editing the film was to tighten the narrative. Reviews suggested the film suffered too much by the radical departure from traditional cinematic story-telling conventions. Regarding the cuts, Kubrick stated, "I didn't believe that the trims made a critical difference. ... The people who like it, like it no matter what its length, and the same holds true for the people who hate it".[110] As was typical of most films of that era released both as a "road-show" (in Cinerama format in the case of Space Odyssey) and subsequently put into general release (in seventy-millimetre in the case of Odyssey), the entrance music, intermission music (and intermission altogether), and postcredit exit music were cut from most prints of the latter version, although these have been restored to most DVD releases.[113][114]

According to Kubrick's brother-in-law Jan Harlan, the director was adamant the trims were never to be seen, and that he "even burned the negatives"—which he had kept in his garage—shortly before his death. This is confirmed by former Kubrick assistant Leon Vitali: "I'll tell you right now, okay, on Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Barry Lyndon, some little parts of 2001, we had thousands of cans of negative outtakes and print, which we had stored in an area at his house where we worked out of, which he personally supervised the loading of it to a truck and then I went down to a big industrial waste lot and burned it. That's what he wanted."[115]

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