Stanley Kubrick: A director who didn’t care how many takes it took

The key to working with Stanley Kubrick, who died this week, was not to be frightened of him, says actor Philip Stone

The Shining was my third film with Stanley Kubrick. Back in the 1960s he'd seen me on the London stage, in a David Storey play called The Contractor. He told me I acted like an American actor, in that I didn't really do much acting as such. He liked the way I listened.

So I turned up at Brunel University in Uxbridge, west London, where he was on location, and was given a part in A Clockwork Orange, not knowing it would turn into this cult movie. He told me, "We could do some great work together." He worked you incredibly hard. I'd be on the set from 6 in the morning until 6 in the evening, and then it was back into London to go on stage.

A few years later I was in a production of An Inspector Calls in the West End, and Stanley's people contacted me again. He wanted me to go out to Ireland for Barry Lyndon. I couldn't just walk out on the production I was in, so I had to decline. Months later, he was still working on Barry Lyndon, and he tried me again. So I went off on location in Wiltshire. "It's good see you again, Phil," he said. "Stick around." I was supposed to be there for six weeks. It took 18. Once I spent a week in my caravan, made up and in costume, and he never used me.

Stanley simply went on and on. There seemed to be no limit on how much time he could spend on anything. He was rather quiet, with an utter dedication. He spent a lot of time looking at scenes through his spyglass. He was such a perfectionist, and so on the ball, though he never seemed to say very much. He had this tremendous authority, and a slightly wicked sense of humour

You didn't mess with Stanley. I saw him get upset and swear, and at least one famous actor fell foul of him. The thing was not be frightened of him. I was never frightened of him, which was why we got on so well. For The Shining I spent two weeks on the set in Elstree. My scene with Jack Nicholson lasted about eight minutes. We shot it 50 or 60 times, I should think - always in one take. Then Jack Nicholson, Stanley and I would sit down and look at each take on a video. Jack would say, 'That was pretty good, wasn't it, Stanley?' And Stanley would say, 'Yes it was. Now let's do it again'.

It took a long time to get the confidence to do it right. Stanley wanted the sense of me as a ghost. "Don't go too quickly," he told me. "Slow it down, slow it down." I never minded how long anything took with Stanley. I was an actor. It was my job to do it if that was what was wanted. I remember Jack Nicholson turning to me and saying, "I'm told you've been in three Stanley Kubrick films. That must be some kind of a record."

In the book the encounter takes place in the ballroom, surrounded by people. Stanley felt that wouldn't work. He wanted somewhere quieter. So it was his idea that Delbert accidentally spills his drink on to Jack Torrance, to give him an excuse to take him to the gentlemen's room to clean him up. One time I somehow managed to get the drink to lodge in the crook of Jack Nicholson's arm without it spilling. Stanley said, "I bet you can't do that again, Phil." And of course I did.

Stanley was only really interested in whether you could do a job well. In that sense it was as if one was just a plumber. He wasn't like, say, Lindsay Anderson, with whom I'd worked on O Lucky Man! But then Lindsay had a background in theatre, he had sympathy with actors. You couldn't expect Stanley, who'd only ever worked in film, to understand what strange people actors were.

Still, you had to have a tremendous amount of patience. If you did a film with Stanley, you were married to him. There was nothing else in your life.

Philip Stone was talking to Jon Gee

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power