`We got on because I wasn't frightened of him'

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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions