PART TWO: NASA consultant and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) technical advisor Frederick Ordway III talks with TV STORE ONLINE about Stanley Kubrick's landmark science fiction film.
TV STORE ONLINE: Coming on board to work on the film...Did you have a preconceived notion of what a film's "technical advisor" actually did before you took the job with Kubrick?
ORDWAY: No I didn't. I had no idea what to expect the day Kubrick called me on the phone and after we began to exchange letters. My only idea was that I knew that we were developing the technology at NASA to go to the moon and that might be of help to him.TV STORE ONLINE: In your opinion, how did Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick get along with each other? Did they work well together?
ORDWAY: I think so. I didn't see any problems between them, but I wasn't privy to their private conversations. The one issue they ran into that I observed was with the book for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Stanley insisted that the film be released before the book and Arthur wanted it to be the other way around. They did butt heads on that. That's the only thing I saw from them regarding a disagreement with one another. The book, of course, came out after the film was released.
TV STORE ONLINE: It seems like I read somewhere in my research that it was you who designed the spacesuits for astronauts Bowman and Poole for the film...
ORDWAY: Harry Lange and I did. We took the design to a contractor for execution. Harry was the designer in that case and the artist. They were designed and Stanley approved them. They were designed before we left for England. They were designed when we were working in New York City still, but they were physically created over in England for the shooting of the film.
TV STORE ONLINE: How about the product placement in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY? We see many brand names in the film....IBM and Hilton Hotels come to mind instantly...Was that always something from the start that was to be intended...
ORDWAY: Yes, it was. But, it's intended in all films. In this case, the IBM, Whirlpool, even the Bell Telephone logos on the Space Station were inserted logically because of how we would progress naturally from earth out into space.
TV STORE ONLINE: Wasn't there something with IBM in the end? Like they weren't happy about having their company logo attached to anything in the film when they discovered that the narrative of 2001 was associated with a robot that kills humans?
ORDWAY: Well, we had many arguments over that. But in the end I think they were satisfied with how the film came out. I worked closely with their team then and after the shooting of the film was over, so the relationship wasn't strained because of 2001.
TV STORE ONLINE: How did the design for the Aries-1B ship for the film come about?
ORDWAY: That was also designed in New York. It was strictly a rocket that was never designed to go into an atmosphere. We knew it had to have balance for when it landed on the moon. It was a legitimate design. It was centered around four main propulsion units and it was designed to land on Clavius. We played around with all different sorts of designs for the Aries 1-B before we settled on how it appears in the film. We were projecting 40 years in the future, and that was assuming that the United States Space Program would continue on at the rate it was growing in the mid '60s. We were wrong, of course.
|Ordway on set of 2001. Photo: 2001italia.it|
TV STORE ONLINE: You mentioned Clavius a moment ago....Didn't yourself and Harry Lange originally try to come up with some sort of moon vehicle for the film 2001? I believe it was called the "Lunar Bus" but for whatever reason it never made it into the final film....
ORDWAY: We called that the “Lunar Bus” and sometimes the "Rocket Bus." That was our original design, but we eventually discarded it. It was to look like a standard research vehicle and it had all the requirements implemented that would be needed to research that environment.
TV STORE ONLINE: As a native Michigander it's pleasantly surprising to find out that you and your team on 2001 pulled some of your research out of Michigan. You worked with Michigan companies like Whirlpool, Lear, General Motors...Even portions of the camera rig that [Visual Effects Supervisor] Douglas Trumbull needed to shoot the “Stargate” finale for the film came from Michigan...
|Ordway with Wernher von Braun|
ORDWAY: We pulled our research from everywhere. We worked the system. I had many contacts in Michigan back then. We had to consult with as many companies as possible because of how important it was for everything to be utterly realistic looking.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did you consult with Trumbull on any of the designs for the Planets that were used for 2001?
ORDWAY: Well, all the photography that was used for research for all that, in particular, the photos that were used to aid in the creation of the moon surface in 2001 for example—NASA had acquired those photos as early as 1965.
TV STORE ONLINE: In the earlier drafts for the screenplay for 2001, Arthur and Stanley had devised a sequence or shot that was to come after “Moon-Watcher” throws the bone up into the air. We get that jump cut from Moon-Watcher to that falling—what is often misconstrued as a satellite—bomb, and then we were to originally see several “bombs” in orbit, each with a different countries flag on them...
ORDWAY: You're talking about the orbital weapons? Stanley felt--with the need for realism and considering how the nuclear situation was going--that we should have those up in orbit for a means of retaliation and not on the ground hidden in silos. One of the arguments that was devised in the early '60s on the [Wernher] von Braun team at NASA for the reasoning behind wanting to go to the moon was so that the United States could secure the “high ground.” If we would've had a nuclear exchange...Let's say that back in the early '60s the Russians would have attacked us... They would have wiped out our weapons. So the idea was that we could retaliate from the moon. These discussions were had with Stanley and it became a debate about if by 2001 we, as a country, would be able to achieve that. Stanley said, “Let's assume that a number of nations by 2001 have totalitarian weapons in space as a means to keep the peace on earth....”
TV STORE ONLINE: Stanley Kubrick had once intended to open 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY with a fifteen or twenty-minute prologue which featured filmed commentaries from various leaders in the scientific community about the validity of what one was about to see in the film itself...but eventually decided to cut that portion out of the film... Did you have any involvement in the picking or choosing of the people that were interviewed for that?
ORDWAY: I suggested the people that I knew well. I gave their names to Roger Caras [2001 Publicist] and he set out to contact those people and then interview them for that prologue. Also, Arthur Clarke made of list of people that he though would be beneficial. All of the people that were contracted were very pleased to participate.
TV STORE ONLINE: I'm frankly surprised that, you yourself, were not interviewed for that? Stanley was an admirer of your book Intelligence in the Universe...That was one the important books to him when it came to his own research for the 2001...
ORDWAY: It was the book of mine that introduced us. I don't know why I wasn't interviewed. He didn't interview Arthur Clarke either. Maybe he thought that we were too close to the film. It was important to him that he speak to outsiders.
TV STORE ONLINE: When 2001 came out....One of the most audacious things I think that anyone could do if they were associated with the film or Kubrick... You wrote a letter, that's since been published, to Stanley suggesting to him where you thought the film went wrong...
ORDWAY: I felt that there had been too many people that had seen the film that didn't understand it. Plus, it got mixed reviews. I just thought that he should amend it to include little captions or transitions here or there that would help explain it.
TV STORE ONLINE: How did Stanley respond to your letter?
ORDWAY: He never did. I thought it was a friendly letter.
TV STORE ONLINE: How long did you end up working on the film?
ORDWAY: I was there until the last day of August 1966. Harry Lange stayed on with Doug Trumbull to work on the special effects with him. That wasn't my area of expertise, so I left. Stanley asked me to come back however some time later. It was around the time that Stanley was talking about allowing myself and a colleague of mine to take possession of the left over models from the shooting of the film because we wanted to display them at the NASA museum in the United States. We had spots all picked out in the museum for the display, and Stanley asked me to come back to England so I could supervise the packing and the shipping of the models. Then, one day, I got a telegram from Stanley that said, “I've changed my mind. We can't display these in the United States or anywhere in England, because I don't want to disturb the reality of the film itself. “ He felt that if people saw the models in a display at a museum that it would effect how people saw the film. The models were kept in a storage at MGM studios for years after the film was finished until the studio was sold off. Years later, Victor Lyndon [2001 Associate Producer], sent me a photo from a newspaper in London where some of the models were given to a local high school in England for something or other. And then there's the photo of the space station laying in the yard at the studio...Most of the models were destroyed, lost, or ended up in collector's hands.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
This interview was conducted in 2012. Frederick Ordway III passed away in the Summer of 2014. Part One of this interview can be found HERE.