Superproducer Ted Hope on...

July 27, 2013

Kubrick's Long-Time Confidant, Producer Jan Harlan, Opens Up About the Iconic Director

We can read books, watch their films, and view their biopics, but there's nothing quite like learning about famed filmmakers from the ones who knew them best. Stanley Kubrick's right-hand man and brother-in-law, producer Jan Harlan, sat down with the British Film Institute to help compile a dossier of all of Kubrick's favorite films and viewing habits. Through the interview, though, Harlan reveals much more about Kubrick than a list of Kubrick's techniques and all-time favorite films. Hit the jump to learn seemingly slight facts about the iconic filmmaker that reveal a great deal about his character as an artist.

I don't like to go to go to tourist spots if/when I travel. (Yeah, just stay with me.) There's something about the tourist façade that I just can't stand -- maybe it's the fact that so many other people have already seen, touched, heard, or experienced what I would have had I visited them. It takes all of the romance away for me.

Bringing that train of thought back around, it explains why I get easily frustrated learning about filmmakers. I read the books, watch the movies, and do my research from the same sources that many others before me have studied. It almost feels as though I'm not learning anything new or exciting. I want the raw material!

I think that's what is offered in this interview with Jan Harlan -- a rare glimpse inside the intimate, personal areas of Kubrick's life taken by someone who knew him well. He realized and appreciated his talent just like many of Kubrick's fans:

I wasn’t up to his speed or intellect. The only area where I could be on a level playing field with him was music and table tennis. But I loved my job and working with him. It wasn’t always a walk in the park, but it was most satisfying.

Here are a couple of excerpts that I found particularly interesting:

Kubrick was known for being a perfectionist, the result of which isn't more sorely felt than when you hear the that original vision of a project was scrapped and reformed. I can't help but wonder what might've been. In terms of Traumnovelle, the 1926 German novella that served as the basis for Eyes Wide ShutKubrick had very different plans for the film.

Did you know that his first contract with Warner Bros. was for Traumnovelle in 1970? – the film that became Eyes Wide Shut almost 30 years later. He ‘postponed’ it because he wasn’t happy with his script -- he was on cloud nine with the idea of doing Traumnovelle as a low-budget arthouse film in black and white with Woody Allen in the lead – filming in London and maybe Dublin to mock New York. It was always New York and present time. Woody Allen, straight, as a Jewish doctor in New York: that was his plan. He abandoned it again because he was not satisfied with his script.

MSDEYWI EC015

Harlan talks about Kubrick's viewing habits:

Stanley usually watched films on the weekend and he often invited his family or friends, me and my wife, etc. He saw so many films and was able to borrow prints old and new at weekends from most London distributors -- We sometimes had up to seven prints in the projection booth, particularly before a long weekend. There were a lot of films he would give up after ten minutes. Many times he would only see the first reel because if that somehow leaves you totally cold, the risk is too great to go on and waste another hour and a half.

The interviewer mentions that Kubrick "equated greatness in other filmmakers with longevity" and asked if "the fear of mediocrity drove him."

It would be wrong to say it ‘drove him’. He just felt strongly that enough films are being made, he didn’t want to add to the pile of ‘just okay’ movies. That’s why it took him so very long to decide, to plan and prepare, to film and to edit. Fast he was not – neither was Vermeer – and then there were the films he prepared and abandoned.

The BFI article is full of great information, so definitely give it a read. I walked away feeling as though I learned much more than what the academic standard teaches about Kubrick and his character as a filmmaker. No tourist trap here!

What do you think about the interview with Jan Harlan? What sources have you found that offer great information about filmmakers?

Link: The right-hand man: Jan Harlan on Stanley Kubrick -- BFI

Your Comment

12 Comments

I can't wait to read the interview. Please fix the broken link ...!

July 27, 2013

0
Reply
Ted

July 27, 2013

0
Reply
Anon

Sorry about that! The link works now.

July 27, 2013

0
Reply
avatar
V Renée
Managing Editor
Writer/Director

Please stop hitting me.

July 27, 2013

0
Reply
The Jump

July 27, 2013

0
Reply
avatar
V Renée
Managing Editor
Writer/Director

If you want to learn more about Kubrick after reading this, you can spend the next month reading stuff from http://kubrickfilms.tripod.com/

They have some really great stuff on that site. Just the "imperfect symmetries" article about The Shining is amazing.

July 27, 2013

0
Reply
Julian

An except from the Ian Watson / A.I. article :

" An hour later Warner phoned back: Stanley had ordered them to offer me $3000 a week right away because he wanted me to start as soon as possible; and the bonus carrot would be $100,000."

Now THAT is power...

July 28, 2013

0
Reply
maninthehat

I feel I have strong similarities with the late Stanley - if a film sucks after the first 10 minutes, I move on as well.

OK, there are some dissimilarities as well ... you know, the multiple Oscar noms and the global accolades as a filming genius ... that I am still working on.

July 28, 2013

0
Reply
DLD

Well, there's the great unwritten, but not exactly hidden, rule that no one in Hollywood would read more than 10 pages of a script. And most don't even read that far if the qualities of writing isn't up to snuff. And since a page is usually equated to a minute screen time, he's not that unique in that regard. Though it's not often I would say anything wasn't exceptional about the man.

I myself rarely give up that quickly. Though I have noticed that when I do find myself bored to exhaustion I look at the time and almost always it's just about 30 minutes into it. I have been told that this is where the second act is supposed to kick in but if no overarching motivation has been clearly defined by that time, the story will just flatline and die.

I also would hazard a guess that the Parker & Stone motto of "'but's and 'therefore's, NEVER 'and then's" would remedy most of those stories.

July 30, 2013

0
Reply

Bet you missed a few great Films as a result.

August 2, 2013

0
Reply
Dheep'

He was a rare bird, indeed.

July 28, 2013

0
Reply
Natt

mcmバックパック

August 21, 2013

0
Reply