‘Spartacus’: behind the scenes of a Kubrick classic.
“To have been a professional photographer was obviously a great advantage for me, though not everyone I subsequently worked with thought so. When I was directing ‘Spartacus,’ Russel Metty, the cameraman, found it very amusing that I picked the camera set-ups myself and told him what I wanted in the way of lighting. When he was in particularly high-spirits, he would crouch behind me as I looked through my viewfinder, holding his Zippo cigarette lighter up to his eye, as if it were a viewfinder. He also volunteered that the top directors just pointed in the direction of the shot, said something like, ‘Russ, a tight 3-shot,’ and went back to their trailer.” —Stanley Kubrick, Interviews 1948-1960
Above: Kubrick, his poncho, and his Sekonic Studio Deluxe Light Meter on the 1959 set of ‘Spartacus.’ Below: filming the huge rolling fire logs during the epic battle scene on the 1959 set of Kubrick’s ‘Spartacus.’
“The Americans have always depicted the West in extremely romantic terms — with the horse that runs to his master’s whistle. They have never treated the West seriously, just as we have never treated ancient Rome seriously. Perhaps the most serious debate on the subject was made by Kubrick in the film ‘Spartacus’: the other films have always been cardboard fables. It was this superficiality that struck and interested me.” —Sergio Leone
In his “Report on Spartacus,” Trumbo complained bitterly about the rewriting of many of his slave story scenes by persons unknown without his knowledge or consent. He felt these rewrites were responsible for the slow turn in the script from his concept of the Large Spartacus to the opposing concept of the Small Spartacus. Still blacklisted and working on the film in secret, he was unable to be present on the set or on location during the shooting of his scenes. Trumbo speculated that most of these rewrites had been done on the set at the last minute as part of a covert campaign by Stanley Kubrick to radically alter the nature of the script. —Dalton Trumbo vs. Stanley Kubrick: Their Debate Over The Political Meaning of Spartacus
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