In a recent interview for the 4K release of Full Metal Jacket, Matthew Modine explains the real reason for the many repeated takes that Stanley Kubrick asked his actors.
He was a perfectionist, of course, otherwise Stanley Kubrick it could not have gotten where no one else has.
Cinema is an expressive art that requires the collaboration of a large number of people. The ultimate goal is to support the vision of the conductor, or the director, whose job is to take the best possible decisions to carry on the work of all the collaborators, according to the story to be told. The best decisions net of the compromises between artistic needs and production possibilities.
Why the films of Kubrick are they undisputed masterpieces? Because he didn’t compromise. Never.
After Spartacus, in the early 1960s the American director moved away from Hollywood and moved to England, where he had identified the ideal environment to carry out his projects with the minimum interference from the production and commercial logic behind the production of a film. Kubrick he had managed to obtain the most precious value of all for an artist: time to the bitter end.
And that meant having complete artistic control over the film.
Every decision made was the right one. And if after two weeks it turned out to be a little less right, no problem, we started again and corrected the game. The whole team of technical and artistic collaborators was aligned with his work methodology, undoubtedly obsessive. And yes, the actors were also among the collaborators.
Stanley Kubrick: the origin and the real motive of the infinite takes that made his actors repeat
With the release of Full Metal Jacket in a new remastered version in 4K UHD, Matthew Modine, who plays the Joker soldier in the film, gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter recalling something interesting about directing Stanley Kubrick. The actor tells of a chat with Kubrick in which the latter said that everyone was angry with him because he had the scenes redone many times. “Do you know why I do it? Because the actors don’t know the lines,” said the director.
When Kubrick was on the set of Spartacus he was 31 years old. Kirk Douglas who, in addition to being the protagonist, was also one of the producers of the film, had fired the director once the shooting had begun Anthony Mann and had offered the direction to Kubrick. The latter suffered from the lack of total control over some artistic aspects, from script to photography, and suffered a certain skepticism from the great British interpreters that he had to direct, from Peter Ustinov a Laurence Olivier. Kubrick he saw those actors chatting to each other often and when he approached they fell silent, as if they thought “what does this kid from the Bronx know about how British actors manage?”.
One day Kubrick he understood that they repeated each other’s lines, to memorize them. “They wanted to get to that point where you recite from memory without knowing what you’re saying, that point where nothing happens but the logical continuation of what is written in the script,” he said. Kubrick.
Matthew Modine explains that the director’s job, if he were an orchestra conductor, would be to go to the violinist, double bassist or percussionist who can play the notes of their score, and tell them “a little louder, a little more slowly or a little more angry “. “This was what he did Stanley Kubrick” dice Modine, “he was not a great manipulator, on the contrary, he was one who did not know where he would position the camera before understanding how the actor would play his part”.
Stanley Kubrick he wouldn’t let go of an actor until, for every single scene, he had given what the story needed. And without any compromise. Modine continues telling an anecdote involving another actor of Full Metal Jacket, Arliss Howard who plays the soldier Cowboy, words that still echo in his ears.
At the end of the shooting, Stanley he said to Arliss “You’ll miss me, I’ll spoil you when you’re on another set the director will shout stop, good, we have it, let’s go on, you will think of me, because you will know well that you do not have that scene. “So it was for Arliss Howard, so it was for Matthew Modine who admits to often thinking “that due to limited time, many directors have said stop, good, we have it, let’s go on, even if the scene wasn’t really as good as it could have been. ”
In a film by Stanley Kubrick it never happened and this is the testament he left us in his films.