Author takes Burbank crowd on a ‘Space Odyssey’ in library discussion

Author takes Burbank crowd on a ‘Space Odyssey’ in library discussion
Keir Dullea in a scene from the 1968 film, "2001: A Space Odyssey." (Warner Bros. via AP)

Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" premiered 50 years ago this month in 1968 and, when it was first screened in New York City, it polarized its audience.

The crowd erupted into jeers, booing the movie and shouting "next scene" at the screen. When Michael Benson's mother took him to see the film that same year when he was 6 years old, and after Kubrick had trimmed about 19 minutes from the film's running time, he was enraptured.


"It really got me and blew me away," he said. "It kind of influenced the way I perceived a lot of things."

This influence led the now 56-year-old author to publish a book detailing the film's four-year production, along with the relationship between Kubrick and sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke, who collaborated with the director on the movie's story.

Called "Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke and the Making of a Masterpiece," the book touches on the hours-long conversations Clarke and Kubrick had with each other as well as Kubrick's meticulous, bordering-on-obsessive, directing style.

On Tuesday, Benson visited the Buena Vista Branch Library in Burbank to talk about his book and the film. He was also joined by three people involved with "2001's" production — visual effects artist Bruce Logan, visual effects supervisor Con Pederson and Dan Richter, who played the lead ape-man in the film's opening sequence.

Fans of the film packed the library's auditorium for the talk, with many standing against the walls and sitting on the floor.

Librarian Hubert Kozak estimated around 250 people came out for the event.

Prior to his talk, Benson detailed one instance during the film's production that stood out to him while writing the book involving stuntman Bill Weston and a scene set in a zero-gravity environment.

Weston was suspended 30 feet in the air over a concrete floor in a sealed space suit with only 10 minutes of air and no way to vent the exhaled carbon dioxide.

"So, he was hanging up there and getting increasingly poisoned by carbon dioxide as he was doing very complex stunts," Benson said.

Attempts by Weston to convince Kubrick to allow for air holes in the suit's helmet were shot down because the director worried about light leaking through the holes and ruining the scene.

As a result, Benson said the stuntman passed out during filming and wanted to teach the director "a lesson" after he regained consciousness.

"This is a guy who was a mercenary in South Africa, you don't mess with Bill Weston," he said. "Stanley Kubrick fled the set and didn't come back to the studio for three days."

Kubrick's intenseness during production was also echoed during the library discussion, with Richter characterizing him as "relentless in a very caring way" while Pederson joked about having his office being at the other end of the hall to be away from the director.

Logan recalled a story about when he was sick during filming, and Kubrick called him up to say he was going to have an ambulance take him over to the studio to shoot some animation scenes.


"He was a very sweet, friendly man," Logan said. "When it came to this production, he was totally ruthless."

Benson's book is available in stores now.

Twitter: @Andy_Truc