Sunday, December 1, 2013


Actor Keir Dullea has made a career playing emotionally disturbed teenagers and troubled street gang members.  He graduated from juvenile delinquents and adolescent schizophrenics and took on scarred psychological portrayals of a soldier on the brink of committing murder to capturing the role of the Marquis De Sade, a French nobleman with perverse preferences.

Don't make the mistake of dismissing his sensitive side: he played a compelling blind man in "Butterflies Are Free" as well as U. S. Senators, judges, General Custer and even Audrey Hepburn's father.  Perhaps his most iconic role was as Dr. David Bowman, the daring astronaut in Stanley Kubrick's epic science fiction film "2001: A Space Odyssey" and later in "2010: Sequel the Year We Made Contact."

Recently Keir Dullea took the stage of Westville's 100 year old vaudeville and silent movie house, Lyric Hall, to have a conversation with noted film historian Foster Hirsch.  The occasion was a fundraiser for Lyric Hall, a campaign launched by Bernie Kaufman of Bethany, a long time devoted friend of Lyric Hall.  The goal was to buy new seating, in this case velvet folding chairs, to replace the hard and unforgiving previous ones.

After a showing of the revolutionary film, noted for its special effects,  musical Richard Strauss score and unusual story line,Mr. Dullea and Mr. Hirsch conversed on the meaning of the movie.  Foster Hirsch reminisced about being at the opening night screening in New York in 1968, that initially was not a success financially or artistically.  Mr. Kubrick was forced to cut 15 minutes from the film which helped, as well as improving the end of the film and the Jupiter sequence.

Hirsch called "the storytelling elliptical," with collaborator Arthur C. Clarke wanting to explain what was happening and Kubrick refusing.  Hirsch noted "Kubrick's tolerance for ambiguity and mystery" and the giant gaps in narrative.  Despite its faults, Hirsch feels, unlike the recent film "Gravity," "2001" will be remembered, stand the test of time and be studied by film students for decades.

"2001" opens with scenes of The Dawn of Man, where chimps discover a large black monolith, a symbol that will repeat itself throughout the film.  Dullea calls this sequence "my favorite part," maybe because "I'm not in it."  The monolith is thought to have been deliberately buried four million years, during the dawn of civilization, and today, in 2001, a mission is planned to go to Jupiter and Dr. David Bowman, Keir Dullea's character, is heading the voyage.

On the spaceship, a computer HAL 9000 is helping to guide the odyssey.  When HAL goes rogue, the mission is put into jeopardy. To Dullea, who has been acting for more than five decades, he felt Kubrick was a "wonderful, low key director, with a quiet sense of humor."  You knew you were in the "presence of genius" and he was always "prepared."  The script was easy to follow and most science fiction had not been very good up to that point. Kubrick didn't want "cliche characters," but he did want perfection.  According to Dullea, one scene could take 8-9 hours to shoot and yet improvisation was encouraged.  A scene at the end of the film, when a aging Dr. Bowman reaches up one hand took 12 hours to record.

The film was shot north of London in the MGM studios.  One of the biggest problems was finding the proper voice for the computer HAL.  Kubrick didn't want a voice too New York or too British.  The actor Douglas Rain who won the role never gave interviews about his part, citing his vast Shakespearian background, especially King Lear.  He complained that the day and a half as a computer was all interviewers wanted to talk to him about portraying.

Dullea noted that "you never see the aliens, only their effect.  They were introduced millions of years in advance of man."  He was also enamored of the trip to Jupiter where no computer generated effects were utilized and also the brilliant makeup that aged his character so startlingly in the last scenes.  Dullea admitted the rooms in the final frames, a suite set in the 18th century was originally set as a "Sheraton Hotel room, blank and modern and nondescript."

Dullea is still riding the rockets of "2001," traveling all over the world to this day, promoting it.  Calling it a "film for the ages," he knew it was a very important release for MGM the year it was produced but "I didn't know it would be iconic."

Following the film and the conversation, a Tuscan style buffet was prepared by Chef Arlene Ghent at the Westville home of Kas and Patricia Kalba. Artist Joel Spector gifted Keir Dullea with a beautiful portrait.
In addition to the silent auction and delicious food, Keir Dullea literally passed the hat and performed a ten minute monologue as Big Daddy, a role he just played with his actress wife Mia Dillon of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."  All in all, it was quite a remarkable day in outer space and on earth.

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