Tuesday, July 8, 2014

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY INTERVIEW SERIES: IVOR POWELL - Part Two

Next up in our 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY Interview Series....

PART 2: Producer Ivor Powell (Alien, Blade Runner) talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his first job in the film industry....Working for Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey... 

 TV STORE ONLINE:   Did you get to experience the centrifuge set?

POWELL:  Of Course. Absolutely.  It was stunning.  I can remember that the iron work was built in South Wales by a company called Vickers.  I remember when it shipped out and I remember when it arrived at the studio.   When it was assembled on the soundstage it weighed over 90 tons.    We were on that set for so very long.   We had hired a crane and normally when you hire a crane on a movie you have it for a couple days and then you get rid of the thing, but that wasn't the case here.   That crane, and it was the biggest crane known to man, sat in a corner of that soundstage for a very long time.  It sat there for as long as Stanley wanted it to be there.  I also remember the pod bay set and we worked on that for a very long time as well.   We had some members of the Press visit the pod bay Discovery set as well as some foreign dignitaries.   I remember when Louella Parsons came to the set, and she was one of the oldest film critics in America.  I was like a lamb thrown out to slaughter because I had to have lunch with her and she just didn't have a clue about anything associated with science or Science Fiction.

TV STORE ONLINE:  That centrifuge set would actually turn while the actors were working on the inside of it....

POWELL:  That's right, and when that thing was turning it was incredibly noisy.  There were 16mm Bell & Howell Projectors mounted on various spots on the outside of it and those would project the screen read-outs that you see on the computers on the ship in the final film.   When you went inside of the set and stood there you would feel nauseous when it would start to turn.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Where you around on the set of 2001 when the Studio Executives from MGM came to watch some of the footage from the film?

POWELL:   Yeah, I was.  I sat in during that.   In fact, I got to walk around with Robert O'Brien who was the head of MGM at the time and he was asking me all kinds of questions about the production. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  What was their reaction to the footage?

POWELL:  I thought that they were happy with it.   You couldn't help but walk away from seeing any of that footage and not having been captivated by it.     There was a day when the press came and I remember all of them standing on the pod bay set and [First Assistant Director] Derek Cracknell was standing in the back with a microphone saying, "Okay...Open pod bay door number one please Hal..."   Then the door would open up.  It was amazing because it really felt like you were on a ship.  Stanley really spared no expense on the film, and it was the same on all of his films as you could imagine.     If something was required to be stainless steel on any of those 2001 sets,  then it was, and it wasn't spray painted silver or anything like that to save a few pounds. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you remember about shooting on the Hotel Room set with Keir Dullea?

POWELL:  I was acting as Assistant Director on some of that...If you want to talk about hot film sets...That set was intensely hot.  There were these photo flood lights under each of those tiles on the floor that you see in the film.   Those lights would get so hot that they started to warp and melt those floor tiles of the set.   We had to do a take with Keir, kill the lights, and then re-set everything, turns the lights back on and go again.  Those lights couldn't be on for very long whatsoever.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Do you remember seeing any of the shooting of any scenes that didn't make the finished movie?

POWELL:   Sure.  One would have seen a great deal of that being privy to all of the numerous screenings that Stanley would have asked all of us to attend over the course of the making of 2001.   I have a clear memory of watching the Dawn Of Man sequence with the Tapir as it was set to Mahler's Third Symphony.  I was quite taken with that sequence when I saw it for the first time and I ran right out and bought Mahler's Third because I hadn't been familiar with it.  I remember seeing all of the helicopter footage that was shot for the Star Gate sequence over the highlands in Scotland.   

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you remember seeing the scene of the kids at the painting lesson on the space station that was cut from the film?

POWELL:    I don't remember seeing that particular scene, but I do remember the scene that was shot with the Bush Babies.   Roger Caras, being an animal expert, acquired some Bush Babies from somewhere in England, I sincerely doubt that quarantine would have allowed them through from the States at that time. 

I went over to Roger's flat and walked in and there were these Bush Babies living in the main room of his flat. Roger asked me to look after them when he had to leave.  My wife and I spent a few days at his flat and these things were beautiful but they'd shoot all over the room like a ping pong ball.

I also spent quite a bit of time with Martin Balsam when he came to London to see Stanley about voicing Hal for the film.  I remember meeting Keir Dullea at the docks in Southhampton when he first arrived by boat to work on the film.   He arrived with his brand new Mercedes-Benz and I remember him driving us back to London in this incredible car. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   Why do you think that Stanley decided not to use Martin Balsam's voice for Hal in the film?

POWELL:  You know, I'm not quite sure.   Very early on during the making of the film, we were all shown the Canadian short film UNIVERSE (1960) and Douglas Rain did the commentary for that.   I'm sure it was just one of those things that was in the back of Stanley's mind where he always knew that he was going to use Douglas Rain for the voice of Hal, but he was also interested in Martin Balsam and brought him over to London just to see what he was like in person.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you remember Nigel Davenport being considered for the voice of Hal?

POWELL:  I do remember that, but I don't remember now exactly how far that idea went.

TV STORE ONLINE:  After the shooting of 2001...Were you asked to work with Stanley again in any capacity?

POWELL:  Yes, I was.   He had asked me to be the Location Manager for BARRY LYNDON (1975), but he wasn't paying as much as I thought that he should be, and also I was just getting ensconced into some work with Ridley Scott.   When 2001 was over, I went on to work on a film called THE ADVENTURERS (1970).   We shot the film in Rome.   Victor Lyndon, who I had worked for on 2001 had gotten me the job on that.    Andrew Birkin, who had worked for Stanley and helped me on 2001 went on to work for Stanley while he was preparing to do NAPOLEON.   Andrew had come to Rome to do some research for Stanley.   My wife and I went to see him and have dinner with him.   Our casting lady [Isa Baralini] on THE ADVENTURERS was also working on WATERLOO (1970), which was a film about Napoleon that featured Rod Steiger.     For whatever reason, and this is something I did that was very stupid,  I had asked her if I could read the script for WATERLOO and she got me a copy of it.    Andrew took the script back to Stanley and he was so angry at him.  Stanley wouldn't even touch the script.  He kicked Andrew out of his house with the script in hand because he was terrified that if anyone knew that he had seen the script that he could be accused of plagiarism. 

Did you miss Part One?  Check it out HERE:
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung in 2011