2007: A Myspace Odyssey
A random encounter via the internet leads to a Conversation with acclaimed actor Gary Lockwood.
In 1965, Stanley Kubrick assembled a brilliant cast & crew as they embarked upon what has been heralded as one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time. Three years later the production ceased and 2001: A Space Odyssey hit the theatres. Jack Reher recently had the opportunity to ask star Gary Lockwood a few questions.
Jack Reher: Hmmm…where do I begin? Mr. Lockwood—if Stanley Kubrick was alive today he would…?
Gary Lockwood: Definitely he would be preparing a picture of some kind –With the real possibility that it would be Napolean. We had discussed that over several years. In detail… we discussed what would be the best way to go about it… I mean it’s all guess but that would be my bet.
JR: What do you think he’d have to say about the current selection of films in our cinemas?
GL: Stanley was a very unique person so it’s very hard to speculate that.
JR: You’re no stranger to science fiction. In fact, you did an episode of Star Trek before embarking upon 2001. What was it like working on the original series?
GL: Well, it was really kind of humorous since I did the whole thing blind. It was a dreadful job from the physical point of view, painful on the eyes. Those contacts sucked. With today’s technology it would be a much easier task. I was sadly mistaken about the future of that project…I had no idea it would become such a cult phenomenon.
JR: Do you think the Star Trek franchise has run its course? Or is there life in it now that JJ Abrams has signed on to direct the next installment?
GL: I have no idea. There are always new people who seem to be interested in Star Trek.
JR: 2001 is quintessentially one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made. At the time it came out, people seemed to have been divided regarding Kubrick’s vision and the film itself. What was that like?
GL: Um. I was a bit apart from the crowd on that one. I thought it was one of the all time best things I’d ever seen. Obviously I had an axe to grind since I was in it…and I …I was quoted as saying “it was one of the best films ever” and in a derisive manner at that… and my rebuttal to that is: I just came back form a trip to Australia where I was on a 3 week lecture tour talking about the movie with Kier Dullea. I’ve never been on any film that did that. None. Not even my pictures with Elvis. That says something. Don’t you think?
JR: Of course. It says quite a bit. How about the process of the film itself? Divulge anything and everything you desire that no one knows.
GL: I was dating one of the secretaries. No one knew that.
JR: Ha! What was your experience like as Kubrick directed you?
GL: I don’t recall him ever actually directing me. But then, the good ones don’t do much of that… that will just piss everyone off…that’s the way I feel about that. I think the better directors make most of their decisions in the casting. After all, when an actor appears on screen and he or she looks right and carries him or herself right for that particular character that’s the bulk of the work right that. I’d like to quote one personal experience of … he cast me in the TV version of Bus Stop the old Marylyn Monroe and Don Murray movie… he said “when you walked in the room, you were Bo Decker” then he said he thought “now if the guy can just talk.” As I’ve told my daughter Samantha once– it’s just a matter of the right time on the right day.
JR: I’m sure the material was dense for your first read, but what was your reaction to the script for 2001?
GL: It was not a normal script. In the sense of what we consider a screenplay, it was not a normal script. It was more like a headline at the top of the page and then the rest of the page was blank. We pretty much filled in the dialogue along the way. And the movie on occasion followed the meanderings of our improvisations. What remained a constant was the geography of the set.
JR: In hindsight, did you ever think the film would become such a benchmark and cinematic phenomenon that it has turned into?
GL: Absolutely. My answer to that is a very simply one: You have two situations running parallel that met in the brilliance of this film: one was the genius of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clark and two Science Fiction. Up until 2001 there had never been such an astute science fiction film. There’s been some nice science fiction since then but it’s normally based on cowboys and Indians. And if nobody gets that then they probably shouldn’t be reading this article anyways.
JR: You’ve been a part of some great television series over the years. From Bionic Woman to Gunsmoke to Mission: Impossible to The Six Million Dollar Man. What are your thoughts on the current crop of television?
GL: I dare say I don’t watch it. I really don’t it’s not my thing… I like movies. So does my kid.
JR: What’s your favorite show on television right now and why?
GL: Well… admittedly I did watch the Sopranos. I first saw Gandolfini in True Romance and thought.. “Alright… this guys’ got some stuff”. So yeah I like that.
JR: Regarding films of today in comparison, well, there’s no real comparison to “back then”…but the quality seems to be going down and audiences don’t seem to have the attention span for a slow burn of a film-going experience anymore. Am I correct in that assumption?
GL: I absolutely concur with your assumption. But I do believe that there is a real reason for everything. And I believe that MTV type filmmaking undermines story. But, there are exceptions as in Kill Bill 1 and 2 — great characters and a lot of fun to watch the story unravel …absolutely brilliant characters. I have an old sort of extremely left winged writer friend of mine who said to me they used to site around and think of great characters and the stories would kind of write themselves. I think that’s pretty cool. Don’t you?
JR: Most definitely! What’s your favorite science fiction film of all time?
GL: That’s a split decision “2001” and “Blade Runner” are my runaway favorites.
JR: I love Blade Runner…good stuff there. Do you think the genre is slowly dying? The current slate of sci-fi films haven’t been performing that well. Sorry, I don’t consider The Transformers to be in that genre.
GL: Well, my answer to that is that if somebody writes a good sci-fi story and doesn’t cop it out with a bunch of computerized action then maybe ah…we can rekindle some interest. One thing I’d like to say about going to the movies, is that, you know you pay your money, then you go sit in a dark room with a lot of people. It’s an intimate relationship between your mind, your subconscious mind, the people around you, and the movie … and when you’re watching a movie that really holds your interest a lot of things really have to come together.. that is photography, characters, story, geographical locations etc. I recently watched the “Bridge on the River Kwai” and it’s a long film and holds your interest every bit of the way with beautiful shots, interesting character and nice dialogue. And it was over I thought “my god how nice to watch something of epic qualities” and we all know this is not available today. It’s just not available. There’s a constant desire to hit to target the nineteen year old male at the box office.. did you ever go to a Starbucks and watch the nineteen year old male inline? Enough said. It’s sort of a chicken shit answer but look at how they behave at that age — they’re out of it. There are exceptions-that’s true, but I’m not talking them. The main target is that young audience that spends their money freely and is a fool for all kinds of trendy merchandise. And if that remains the basis for motion picture development, then what more needs to be said. I mean it’s true you can get in to all sorts of film schools… You can go to all sorts of lectures and learn all your want about this director or that writer but it’s all bullshit … all of it is bullshit if the basis is money. After all, if you are making chicken soup, somewhere in the recipe it should call for chicken. For those who can’t apply that to something …fuck em… it’s funny.
JR: Let’s chat a bit about what you’ve been up to lately?
GL: Been remodeling my house in Malibu. I get up in dirt and I go to bed in dirt. For those of you who have done that.. you know what I mean. I spend time with my daughter when I can and I go to the gym and Starbucks everyday… (laughs) … in that order.
JR: I have to be honest and say thanks to Tom from Myspace for making this connection possible. Without that, I would’ve never made contact with your beautiful and talented daughter Sam. Odd that Tom from Myspace is so similar to HAL… I was curious to know your thoughts on the entire Myspace frenzy?
GL: Okay I really don’t understand that question. I don’t have a computer.. my wife and daughter do that for me. The funny thing is I was the first of all my friends to own a computer and now I’m sort of over that. I know a lot of people my age are afraid of computers, and brag about being computer illiterate but the truth it’s no different from a toothpick: A useful tool, a great invention.
JR: Final thought…if Dr. Frank Poole were to rule the world, how would things be right now?
GL: (Laughs) Well, I think I have something smart ass to say about that. I guess I would make it compulsory, because I’m fond of sports, that all professional athletes would be required to have a minimal amount of education. I mean we’re just going to the ghetto, and I think we should help educate them in the process, not just recruit them for sports. Education in this country and around the world may be the only salvation or saving grace. I love athletes; I want to see them be smart too.
JR: Until next time, Dr. Poole.
– Jack Reher
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