That Time a Stanley Kubrick Movie Was Interrupted by a Terror Threat

Kubrick shares a joke with O’Neal and Berenson during 'Barry Lyndon'Credit: SK Film Archives LLC, Warner Bros. and University of the Arts London
Stanley Kubrick was known to work through some crazy on-set conditions, but not when terrorists were around. 

The stories around director Stanley Kubrick and his movies are the stuff of legends. He's an artist that gave everything he had to the cinema. He was an iconoclast and a great artist. One of the legends I did not know about Kubrick was his brief brush with a terror attack. 

One of my favorite Kubrick movies is Barry LyndonIt's a movie about society, cynicism, class, duty, and life. The director shot it with natural light, and it remains one of the most sumptuous films ever put on screen. 

The film was shot over 300 days from 1973-1974. They filmed in and around Dublin, Ireland. At the time, Ireland was going through massive change. This was the time of the intense national troubles that started in 1968. That meant rioting, a police presence, bombing, fighting, and unrest. 

On Jan. 30, 1974, the Barry Lyndon production was forced to cancel after 14 bomb threats were reported in the area. According to the executive producer of the movie, Jan Harlan, Kubrick was even called up by an alleged member of the IRA. They ordered the director to leave the country within 24 hours, or else. 

Kubrick took this so seriously he packed up himself and his crew and left within 12 hours.

Harlan told The Independent“Whether the threat was a hoax or it was real, almost doesn’t matter, Stanley was not willing to take the risk. He was threatened, and he packed his bag and went home.”

Elaborating on the entire shoot and the dangers they faced, the producer said, “The whole crew went with him. Within 48 hours, we were all back in the southwest of England. Luckily we had really what we needed: one or two shots we would have done in Dublin Castle, we then transferred to a stately home in England. But the bulk of the film was made in Ireland.”

Of course, the movie went on to be another masterpiece, incredible to watch and totally immersive.

I wonder if that caller ever stopped to watch it and regretted his actions. But probably not.

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Wow, I hadn't heard this before. One note on the lighting - the daylight interiors were heavily lit. The "all natural light" is a misconception that often gets repeated about this movie. I think I remember reading there were mini brutes (not sure what wattage) outside the windows, and the windows themselves were papered (as opposed to draped or gelled or clean). Obviously the exterior wides and the candle stuff was mostly natural. But even the candle scenes had reflectors in the ceiling to bounce the candle light back, and some of the candle scenes were augmented by small tungsten lights to bring up the fill in the room.

November 17, 2021 at 2:40PM, Edited November 17, 2:40PM

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