STANLEY KUBRICK, BRIAN ALDISS AND A.I. (PART TWO)
At this point, Kubrick decided to try other writers. He faxed some notes to Arthur Clarke for his comments, and asked, How much do you want to work with me again? Clarke responded with a brief summary of how he thought the story might progress. However, as working with Kubrick again, he told Aldiss later, He hasnt got that much money. As an alternative, Clarke nominated Bob Shaw, an amiable Ulsterman with a reputation for low-key science fiction. Kubrick read some of Shaw's work, then rang and invited him to the house. 'I was very impressed,' Shaw says. 'His car picked me up at the nearest railway station and took me to the house. There were these electronically controlled gates. We ate in the kitchen, which was about the size of the average ballroom. He asked me, "Do you like Chinese food?" I said, "Yes." He must have given some invisible signal, because a door opened and a waiter came out and served us a Chinese banquet. I often wondered what would have happened if I'd said, "No, I prefer Indian." Maybe another door would have opened and an Indian would have come out.'
Kubrick said he'd been rethinking 'Super Toys', in particular another of its characters. Henry Swinton, David's 'father', is an android engineer who has just launched a new product, a synthetic 'serving man' with a computer brain 'capable of dealing with any situation he may encounter in the home'. Kubrick told Shaw he now believed that the serving man was the key to the story. He offered him a six-week contract to work on the script. Before Shaw left, Kubrick gave him copies of Aldiss's story, Pinocchio, and a book called Mind Children, about artificial intelligence, and said he wanted all these combined in the script.
Shaw started work on a treatment in which the serving man played a large part. A week later, he was back at Childwick Bury.
It was the same thing: the station, the car, the meal. Then he said, 'Well, what have you got for me?' I read him out my treatment, but I could see his face getting gloomier and gloomier. Finally he stopped me and said, 'What's this stuff about the butler?' I said, 'But we agreed that he was to be the main character.' Stanley said, 'No, no, he's peripheral. What else have you got?' Of course I didn't have anything.
Shaw rang Aldiss in desperation. 'Brian, he wants more ideas. I don't have any. Do you have any ideas?' Aldiss sent him three short drafts of possible new directions. Shaw continued:
After that, our relationship deteriorated. I kept coming up with story lines but he didn't like any of them. In the middle of the six weeks, I went to a science fiction convention in Vancouver. I was the guest of honour, and it had been publicised everywhere. When I arrived back I got a letter from Warner Bothers' solicitors telling me I'd done an unforgivable thing by leaving the country while under contract.
I fixed that up with Stanley, and offered to work a week or two longer to make it up. He kept asking me to write sample pages of script. But I couldn't write a script without having a story, and I think he formed the opinion that I was a pretty much useless sort of bugger.
After Shaw, Kubrick approached another British science fiction writer, Ian Watson. Aldiss and Watson are not friendly, and Aldiss wrote to Kubrick explaining that he would find it difficult to work with him. Kubrick immediately responded with a letter saying that, in view of his refusal to work with Watson, their deal was off again. Aldiss denied vehemently that he was refusing to work with Watson; he was merely pointing out that there might be diplomatic problems. But it was clear that Kubrick was once more looking for a way out, as he had five years before. He found it when Aldiss wanted to go on holiday to Europe with his family. Remembering their falling-out over his trip to Florida, Aldiss told Kubrick in advance this time. Kubrick's reaction was the same: Aldiss couldn't be spared.
'I'm going anyway,' he said.
'I'll get an injunction,' Kubrick threatened. He didn't, but Aldiss never worked on the project again.
Writing continued with Watson. He lived too far away to work at Childwick Bury, so Kubrick installed a fax machine in Watson's house so they could correspond quickly. Watson completed a first draft script, for which, he boasted, he was paid 'an eighth of a million pounds.'
In the writing, 'A.I.' expanded far beyond its original parameters as a surrogate E.T. The story is set in a future where New York city and large areas of the east coast of the United States are underwater, and where an artificial boy searches for a means of becoming human. Early in 1996, the rumour page on one Kubrick site on the Internet recorded: 'Kubrick has been filming two months of "A.I." every five years. He's using a young actor and filming his progress as he grows older. So far Kubrick has filmed four months/ten years.'
In 1991, after briefly reconsidering Perfume and a biography of Colette as possible subjects, Kubrick read and bought the rights to a slim novel called Wartime Lies by Louis Begley. It recalled the concentration camp theme of 'A.I.' and the forthcoming [ ] Schindler's List, which was going through a laborious process of adaptation with various screenwriters. Brian Aldiss feels Kubrick hoped to get in ahead of Spielberg.
But as Spielberg's production gained pace, and it became clear that it would open by Christmas 1993, Kubrick's interest [ ] waned. Instead , some European film magazines announced that he would revive 'A.I.' Then, utterly unexpectedly, in December 1995, Warners issued a press release that Kubrick would make Eyes Wide Shut, from a screenplay by British novelist Frederic Raphael, starring none other than Tom Cruise and his redheaded Australian wife Nicole Kidman. Principal photography of Eyes Wide Shut, which began officially on 7 November 1996 and ended late in February 1998, earned the dubious honour of being the longest continuous shoot in motion picture history.
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This article consists of excerpts from Stanley Kubrick - A Biography by John Baxter and is not meant as an infringement of copyright but rather as a recommendation of sorts. If you want to read a good biography of the man, then this is the book to buy. Well-written and very much up-to-date it is probably the book on the topic. Buy it today.
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