`We got on because I wasn't frightened of him'
Sunday 14 March 1999
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.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Student jailed for hacking University of Birmingham computers to improve his grades
- 2 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
MasterChef 2015: Simon Wood named winner
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Sherlock series 4: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have to be 'persuaded' to return, says Steven Moffat
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election