In 1966 I was commissioned to do some illustrations on the set of Kubrick’s 2001. This was an extraordinary blessing and huge responsibility for a young art school graduate. I’d previously taken my drawings to Town Magazine and the art director had really liked them and I could not believe it when I got the call to do this job. I was a SciFi addict and also I was aware of Kubrick’s work in Hollywood, as a student I had been in charge of the Film Club at Kingston School of Art.
It seemed surreal to find myself on the set of 2001. It felt like I was in a SciFi movie myself, the sets were unbelievable and so realistic. I remember looking at the lettering on one of the pods which was in the minutest type (which you would probably not even see on camera) and just being stunned at the meticulous attention to detail. I had limited amount of time on set and I was allowed to take my camera purely for illustration purposes and below are the images that appeared in Town Magazine, which was a very well read and respected title at the time. An English Esquire before Esquire existed.
The extraordinary synchronicity was that after my first pictures appeared in Harpers in 1969 (before I’d ever shot for Vogue), David Puttnam (later to become Sir David Puttnam) called me to say ” I want to take you to lunch at Wheeler’s Restaurant in Soho. At that time he was still a photographic agent (the best in London) representing Richard Avedon, Hiro, Terence Donavan and David Bailey and a few other amazing photographers. I was the new kid on the block and all the others were very well established and I felt amazed to be joining this talented group of photographers. After lunch he said to me “We’re going around the corner to see 2001 with Terence Donavan, Duffy, you and me. What do you reckon Clive?.” I was really excited and said “Great, I’ve been a big Kubrick fan since Paths of Glory and Town Magazine sent me to do illustrations on set”.
I was totally overwhelmed by 2001 when I saw it (it had taken a long time to reach the cinemas from when I was on set). The story of Hal the AI computer wanting to take over the mission and then the mystical reincarnation of the child. I think this must have been the influence of Arthur C. Clarke who lived in Sri Lanka which is of course a Buddhist country.
I thought back to my half day on set where I rushed about taking pictures with no lighting and tripod and really appreciated the end result of the amazing film itself. It has remained one of my all time favourite films. I should make clear that at this point I was just starting out as a photographer and my skills had not yet developed. I share these images because they are of historic interest and was persuaded by my daughter to do this. 2001 is an epic film that has grossed to date over 190 million dollars and will continue to enthral all audiences around world and is more relevant now in a lot of ways.
When I was on set I also met this really friendly and quietly spoken American actor pictured below (Kier Dullea) and I didn’t appreciate at the time that he was the lead actor. The way Kubrick masterfully directed his relationship with HAL the computer was incredible. His portrayal of normality in outer space gives the film so much credibility, just an astronaut doing his job.
Below is an unintentional selfie of me reflected in an escape pod window on the set of Kubrick’s 2001 – A Space Odyssey, for me it was my odyssey into the world of photography and an inspiration for life.