Filmworker Unveils Kubrick's Oz
Article by Aaron Haughton
While Leon Vitali is name you may vaguely recollect, there's a large change that you probably have never heard of him. The truth is, however, that Vitali is probably one of cinema's greatest unsung heroes, remaining relatively unknown until now, that is. A new documentary has emerged, titled Filmworker, which explores Vitali's rich past with the notoriously controlling perfectionist filmmaker, Stanley Kubrick, during the later portion of his oeuvre.
Vitali first caught the Kubrick bug after seeing A Clockwork Orange, and he immediately turned to the friend seated next to him and said, "I will work for that man." And, he kept his word, finding himself thrust into full Kubrick action as Lord Bullington in the period drama Barry Lyndon, which found Vitali at the other end of a brutal lashing by fellow thespian, Ryan O'Neil, subject to endless take after take, Kubrick all the while telling O'Neil, "You're not hitting him hard enough." You can view the scene in question below (at 3:48):
Kubrick even reportedly fed Vitali raw eggs and “semi”-raw chicken to induce vomiting in the film as well. But, Leon was willing to go at any lengths to be a part of Kubrick's glory, tossing what could've surely been a promising career as an actor to the wayside to clamber on permanent as Kubrick's assistant. And, it is because of this that we owe him a great deal of adoration and tumultuous gratitude, as he is the catalyst for many of the crucial elements of the late Kubrick pictures we hold so dear.
After all, Vitali is responsible for finding Danny Lloyd (Danny in The Shining), and the "Arbus twins,” an element that was not even in the script, amongst other things. Mathew Modine (of Full Metal Jacket) even describes Vitali on set as Frankenstein's lapdog, Igor.
Filmworker will surely satisfy anyone Kubrick crazy, but doesn't lose sight of the film's true hero, despite Vitali's extreme modestly and wax lyricism of his beloved old boss. Not much more is known about the film, which is surprising, especially since this is the first I've heard of it, and I consider myself a gargantuan Kubrick fan. I'm certainly looking forward to checking this one out when it makes it (probably select theater) run later this year.
What do you think? Were you aware of the man who lurked in Kubrick's shadow? Is the first you're hearing of this too? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and, as always, remember to viddy well!