THE LATE FILM DIRECTOR STANLEY KUBRICK CAME AS CLOSE to being the total creative person as anyone ever gets—Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining are all tributes to his obsessive mastery of his art. So it was dismaying that in the eulogies at his death last February, you often heard this or that Hollywood honcho saying that if only Kubrick had been a little more like other directors—if only he’d lived in Hollywood (rather than on a secluded English estate), gone to more parties, not been afraid to fly—he might have made even more and better movies.

In fact, the opposite is true: much of his achievement seems to have been the direct result of his odd lifestyle. Consider his habits yourself, and decide if he was Dr. Strangelife—or if any of us could benefit a little from Learning To Stop Worrying And Live Like Stan.

Take living in England (and refusing to fly back for meetings). In part this was a way to escape the crass politics of Hollywood; any ex-Burnetter can tell you how many more productive hours the day has when you don’t spend it all scheming. But England’s lower per-day production costs also enabled Kubrick to have more days on the set with his actors, getting things just right. There’s nothing eccentric about accommodating the money men in some areas to buy yourself more of the most precious thing, creative time.

By staying out of the Hollywood social circuit, Kubrick also avoided time-and-brain-sucking studio flunkies. Instead he spent his days picking the brains of directors and writers he admired, effects guys whose toys he wanted to play with. What’s odd about preferring to spend your days in the company of thinkers and doers—rather than schmoozers?

Just as he immersed himself in other minds, Kubrick also kept himself neck deep in the latest tools of his trade. He knew so much about lighting he lit his own sets. He knew so much about cinematography that he designed new lenses for Barry Lyndon. You trust others to give you what’s in your head? Kubrick was the rare perfectionist who could make it perfect himself.

Even his notoriously slow productivity—12 films in 47 years, a mere 3 in the last 20—was an essential part of his method. More films might not have meant more great films—in fact, quite the opposite. Would a movie as revolutionary as 2001 have been possible if Kubrick had been under contract to deliver Lolita II and Son of Spartacus in the same period? True, we ad people rarely have the luxury he had, of choosing fewer projects. But we can choose not to paper the room with mediocre ideas—if there’s a chance at creating one perfect one.

You know, perfect. Like Stanley Kubrick would have done it.


Go to Good Book Filler