From: The New Yorker - June 14 1999
Title: A KUBRICK ODYSSEY - The director's last screenwriter recounts his lahyrinthine adventure on "Eyes Wide Shut." by FREDERIC RAPHAEL
LIKE limousine drivers, screenwriters tend to wait for the call from prestige clients. When, in the autumn of 1994, my London agent called me with the news that Stanley Kubrick wanted to know if I was free to work with him, I cancelled my other plans. Kubrick was about the only English-speaking director for whose films (apart from "Lolita") I had unqualified admiration. As a young man, I had been stunned by "Paths of Glory." "Dr. Strangelove" and "Barry Lyndon" were the later masterpieces of a man who preferred never to repeat himself.
After a long preliminary talk on the telephone, Kubrick sent me a gray photocopy of a novella set in Hapsburg Vienna. The title and the author's name had been conspicuously excised, but after reading the story I guessed that it must be the work of either Arthur Schnitzler or Stefan Zweig. If the storys datedness was part of its charm, I assumed that the menace of its eroticism was what appealed to Kubrick. It centered on a doctor, Fridolin, and his devoted wife, Albertina, who are fond parents of a little daughter. Their conjugal tranquillity is shattered when they attend a masquerade ball at which they are separately propositioned. Prompted by his wife's confessions of her sexual fantasies about another man, Fridolin embarks on a dreamlike journey of sexual misadventures, culminating in an orgy where he is nearly murdered. Among the minor characters are a pimplike costumier and his retarded nymphet daughter; a pianist, Nachtigall, who plays blindfolded at the orgy; a charming prostitute who may be syphilitic; and a self-sacrificing baroness. The influence of Freud was manifest; Klimt or Schiele might have done the illustrations, had there been any.
In our next phone conversation, I learned that Kubrick wanted to transfer the action from fin-de-siecle Vienna to contemporary New York. Did I think it was possible? It was possible, I told him, but hadn't many things changed since 1900, not least the relations between men and women?
"Think so?" Kubrick said. "I don't think so."
I thought about it; and then I said, "Neither do I."
Kubrick called Ron Mardigian, my agent at the William Morris office in Beverly Hills, and a deal was quickly made. Screenwriters, like most Hollywood talent, are quoted on an almost official stock market. Kubrick did not haggle; Mardigian did not push him too hard. So far, so swift; then the lawyers came in. While they kept each other busy with mutually lucrative quibbles, Kubrick suggested that we meet at his house in St. Albans, twenty miles north of London, and talk. "Sooner the better," I said.
On the day fixed for me to go out to his house, in November, I took a couple of my books from the shelf to give to him. My latest novel was called "A Double Life." The title, and the fat text, could be taken as warnings that I was not merely a mechanic for hire.
KUBRICK sent a cab to pick me up at my South Kensington apartment at noon. Once in St. Albans, we passed the town's honey-colored cathedral. It was mounted in surroundings of suburban banality, like a beautiful thought in a crass paragraph. We drove along a country road, and, after many twists, turned left through ornate green metal gates. The grandiose surroundings recalled the country house where Fridolin goes to take part in the orgy.
We went past a Victorian Gothic lodge, down a private road through rustily white-fenced, empty meadows. Striped with damp sunlight, it was a scene of dignified autumnal melancholy. We forked left, past signs announcing "Private Property," and proceeded over some speed bumps to another gate, which was closed. The driver got out to press the necessary buttons. He had to do it again at still another gate, sixty yards farther on.
The house was a rather low, very wide Victorian pile, with a pillared facade. There was an ample gravel courtyard and an air of pungent desolation. The place was heavily protected, but what riches were there to protect? It seemed more like a gargantuan cottage than a mansion. Across from the main building was a large brick stable block which evidently contained offices. Several unpolished cars were parked on the gravel.
Kubrick himself opened the door. He was wearing blue overalls with black buttons, He might have been a minor employee of the French railways. He was a smallish, rounded man with a beard that blurred rather than defined his features. His black eyes were enlarged by big spectacles. His hands were curiously delicate and white.
"You got here." He spoke as if unused to speech and not comfortable with company, even when he had invited it. I felt that he might have suffered some trauma that had made him lose confidence in his pcrson, though not in what he could do. His name was bigger than he was.
He led me into a long room at the back of the house where large windows looked onto a walled lawn: wide and deep but not formal. Was that a peacock out there? A black dog was asleep in a basket by the open French window. No other houses were visible along the low horizon. A yew hedge to the right closed off the view. He invited me to sit down.
I knew that Kubrick had been a ranked chess player. It was as if I had been summoned by a cinematic Kasparov, and it was time to get out the board. I had to start measuring up, if I was to be worthy of my opponent: chess is a game of bloodless sadism and polite execution. As the writer, I was saddled with the black pieces; my best hope was to respond effectively when under attack, as I expected to be.
I had little knowledge of Kubrick's reputation as a colleague. But he was a great filmmaker, and I wanted to see this thing through, whatever it was. To do so, I should have to combine tact with forth- rightness, deference with independence. All movie contracts these days tend to have "cutoff" clauses - points at which a writer can be paid off and flushed into oblivion. My business (and my sport) was to make myself indispensable.
We sat in upright chairs and talked. This, I recall, is how it went:
F.R.: For me the major... not problem... weakness is that it's a good story but it's not a great one. Its final irony is a little too neat. You start with the parents with their little girl, and you end with them and her. It's cute, but it turns all that happens into a dark tale that gets tied up with a bow. There's not much progression, is there?
S.K.: What else?
F.R.: Those dreams - that kind of stuff was fresh when Freud was. They don't read very convincingly to me. I wonder what Sigmund would have thought of them. Not a lot, I would guess. All that dialogue and such accuracy of recall, it's all so . . . literary....The author has to have read Freud, doesn't he?
S.K.: As a matter of fact, Freud and Arthur knew each other.... Damn!
Kubrick banged the flat of his hand on the table. He seemed seriously vexed at having revealed Schnitzler's name. How long had he hoped to conceal it, and why? I suspected that concealment was little more than a game he was playing with me - the warmup.
As I was to discover, I underestimated his obsession with secrecy. On this occasion, he did not remain piqued for very long. He looked at me through those large glasses as if I had achieved some petty victory. Strangely enough, after I had taken that first pawn, en passant, as it were, he became more relaxed.
I expected to hear specific notions of how he wanted the story transferred to New York, but evidently this was the problem I had been hired to handle. The only idea that came out of our first conversation was that there should be an incident at the masquerade ball which would require Fridolin - or whatever he came to be called - to display his medical skills on a female guest with whom his host had been having a clandestine erotic encounter upstairs. I imagined the host presiding over a showy Christmas binge in a mansion rather like the Frick. When I made the mistake of saying that the Frick was on "Central Park East," Kubrick grinned and said," Central Park East is Fifth Avenue." He collected my pawn with relish.
We talked and talked, and would have talked some more had I not looked at my watch and seen that it was nearly half past two.
He said, "Do you want something to eat?"
"Beats having a migraine."
"You suffer from migraine?"
"If I don't eat, and I have to... perform."
"Let's go in here, see if there's anything we can eat. Is that what you're doing? Performing?"
We walked from one long room into another. On a refectory table, next to stacks of books and boxes, was a tureen of soup, cold breasts of chicken, salad with cubes of Gruyere cheese cut into it, lettuce and watercress with raspberry vinaigrette. There was fruit salad in a big bowl.
Kubrick said, "Feel like eating any of this?"
"Looks fine," I said.
"Then let's eat it."
It was as if there might be some other rooms, with fancier meals in them, and I had settled for the first deal I was offered.
Kubrick said, "Do you like New Zealand wine?"
He was already opening a bottle. Again, I was aware of his delicate white hands. As he strained at the cork, I remembered Billy Wilder's doing the same thing and saying, "Fortyfive years of masturbation, and I still don't have a muscle in my hand." Kubrick poured me a glass of white wine. "Two twenty-five a bottle. What do you think?"
I sniffed and sipped. "I think it tastes like two seventy-five."
"O.K.," he said. "Help yourself to whatever you want. What's happening when he goes upstairs?"
"She's been having sex, and she's O.D.'d on something, and Fridolin - whatever we're going to call him -"
"He was Frederic in one version I had."
"Truffaut always said that actors never really lose themselves in characters who have the same first names as they do. I'm the same. I only use Frederic ironically, or Fred for comic relief."
"What's your wife's name, by the way?"
"Sylvia? You don't mean that."
"Don't I? Yes, I do. I call her Beetle. But that's another story."
"In that same version, the wife was called Sylvia," Kubrick said.
"Whose version was this? When?"
"Call him anything you want to call him. Her, too. Albertina's a little..."
"Fancy. So what happens when he goes upstairs? Why can't we see them having sex up there?"
"Don't we need to keep the real erotic fireworks for the other party?"
"O.K. Maybe we shouldn't have anything too much happen upstairs. Maybe it's enough that both of them have the experiences Arthur describes, and that's it."
"They can have those as well," I said.
"You like the idea of the girl upstairs?"
"I like it for what it can bring to the plot. It ought to lead to something."
KUBRICK was not being indecisive; he was postponing decision. Perhaps I was not alone in being nervous. As soon as I made a comment, he backed away; as if he had taken his finger off the piece he was about to move. He thinks, and then he thinks again. We ate and talked, and then we just talked.
Afrer a while, we went into what had evidently once been a billiard room. There were still markers and cue racks on the walls, but no table. Most of the floor was covered with newspapers with unfamiliar print. When Kubrick went to pee, I looked closely and saw that they came from Jakarta.
On his return, I asked him what particularly interested him about Indonesia. He looked puzzled. I indicated the newspapers. "Oh," he said, "not a lot. I was only checking the size of the ads for 'Full Metal Jacket.' Making sure they're as big as they should be according to the contract.
I said, "I wouldn't mind a pee myself"
He led me along corridors and down steps and around corners and into the kind of facility you would expect to find in a clubhouse. There were two cubicles side by side and a row of urinals. As he went to leave, I said, "How do I get back?"
"Stick to the left-hand wall," he said. "And keep coming."
The house had been built for a South African millionaire before the Great War, and he had, you felt, commissioned it by the cubic yard. It seemed nothing like a home whatever. It was a vast shell for the shrewd snail who found protection in it. Something about Kubrick's house had the allure of Bluebeard's castle. One did not know, or care to guess, how many screenwriters had died and been buried in its recesses.
S.K. (seeing FR. out): So how are we going to work?
F.R.: How do you want to? I'd really like to make a start, see what I can make of it.Unless you're careful, you can talk so much, you leave it in the dressing room.
S.K.: Are you happy to start right in working on your own?
FR.: Yes. I don't have to be happy, but it's the only way I ever am.
S.K.: So when can you start?
F.R.: As soon as I've seen a contract.
S.K.: Why can't you start right away? Suppose I tell you you can start, there'll be no problem with the contract...
F.R.: I'll believe you. I do believe you.
S.K.: And you won't write anything.
F.R.: I'll think. And we can always talk some more
S.K.: On the telephone?
F.R.: If you want. Talk isn't work. Work is when you have pages in the evening you didn't have in the morning.
S.K.: Pages. Reminds me. I understand you want to... go work by yourself. But...you know what I'm going to ask you, don't you?
F.R.: Only too well.
S.K.: So when you've done a chunk- thirty, forty pages-will you send them to me?
F.R.: You're the only director in the world I'd say yes to on that, and I say it with great reluctance.
S.K.: I just don't want you to go a long, long way down some road I don't want to follow. It's a waste of your time and...
F.R.: Pages. Jesus.
NOVEMBER,1994 (journal entry): We talked, but what did we achieve? Well, we lubricated the lines of communication. What does Stanley want this movie to be? Is it that he can't say, or that he won't? Why this movie? He won't even say that.Perhaps it is a puzzle that he has to solve, like a chess master who recognizes that the answer has to be a queen sacrifice but cannot yet see how or why.
He seems a little more human - commercial - than I might have hoped of a very great director, he likes stars because they know what they're doing, and because they fill theatres. My problem with him is that he is resolutely apprehensive of disclosing himself even if it would serve his own ends.
IN one of our many subsequent talks, I pointed out to Kubrick how deeply Schnirzler's novella - entitled "Dream Story" in English -is infused with Jewishness. Schnirzler was pitilessly perceptive about the nuances both of anti-Semitism and of Jewish responses to it. For example, the episode at the orgy, in which Fridolin is literally unmasked and called on to say who he is, seems to emphasize his alienation from the "gent(i)lemen" who manhan dle him. When I suggested that transferring the story to New York offered an amusing opportunity for retaining - although modernizing - the Jewishness of the story, Kubrick was firmly opposed; he wanted Fridolin to be a Harrison Fordish goy, and he forbade any reference to Jews. Did he imagine that this would keep the theme buried and hence more subtle? His main motive was, I am pretty sure, the wish not to alienate his audience.
NOVEMBER, 1994: Stanley says that he does not want jokes (as if he has heard something disreputable about my cooking and is saying, "No garlic, O.K.?"). He told me that he admired David Mamet's "House of Games." Was he hinting that I should adopt Mamet's anorexic allusiveness?
What is most elusive about excellent directors is what, specifically, they are excellent at. In the case of the second-or third-rate ones it is easy to say: they are good at getting films to direct. In S.K. there is no sign of conceit except in the intensity of his anxieties and the wariness with which he greets every idea I offer. S.K.'s aversion to wit spares me the most professional of all obligations - being funny is no joke - but, beyond eroticism, what does he want of me? Our subject is desire. He refuses to be concerned with the mechanics ot copulation - what Nabokov called "the porno-grapple." Instead, he wants to photograph feelings, to catch the impalpable and palp that. I think back to the sunbeams in the chateau of "Paths of Glory"; Stanley dreams of capturing the air in Schnitzler's world and breathing it, furtively, into our New Yorkers.
I DECIDED to christen Fridolin "Bill." He had to be called something ordinary, and along came Bill. Albertina could be Alice. Once alone with that first blank page, I tried to imagine a film that Kubrick would want to make. I had played the willing scribe -as the Hollywood Reporter terms every screenwriter - but I was also a secret Pharisee: I hoped to show Kubrick that I was better than others whom he might have recruited. I also wanted to induce him to make a movie I should like him to make.
We had not discussed what kind of man our New York doctor would be, except that he should not be (manifestly) Jewish. I gave him the family name Scheuer in order to convince myself of his reality. (I had had a buddy named Jimmy Scheuer when I was at Ethical Culture, my first school, on Central Park West. I appropriated Jimmy's parents' apartment for Bill and Alice's residence.)
I began, as usual, with the credits sequence - an area in which the writer can warm up without undue anxiety, since whatever he proposes can be, and often is, jettisoned. I suggested that, with the screen black, we hear the voice of Bill Scheuer as a young medical student, whispering to himself the Latin names for parts of the female anatomy while he studies for an examination. As the screen lightens, we find ourselves in an apartment on Central Park West. Bill is in his father's den, looking at detailed textbook illustrations of the female body. I imagined, intercut with this evidence of the young man's serious interest in medicine, glimpses of the kind of erotic displays in the porno peepshows around Forty-second Street. One of these images - a dark woman wearing a garter belt and suspenders and caressing herself - is particularly arousing. This reverie is interrupted by Bill's father, a respected surgeon, who looks in on his son. Bill quickly turns a page in the textbook, as if to conceal the image of the masturbating woman, and we sense the double bind of his dutiful clinical studies and his frustrated longings for erotic experience. What I wrote was meant to make me believe in Bill's reality, and also to stimulate me into living his life. I told myself that Stanley would be seduced into believing that I knew what I was doing. I went ahead speedily; dialogue, in particular, never goes well if it goes slowly.
After four weeks, I was at the bottom of my - many times revised - forty-second page. I had reached the stage where Bill goes to see a patient whose daughter is in love with him. It would make a sweet downhill point from which to resume after Christmas. I took a deep breath and sent the pages to Kubrick.
F.R.: How are you, Stanley?
S.K.: O.K., so listen. I've read the pages and I'm absolutely thrilled.
F.R.: What did you say?
S.K.: I've read the pages. I'm absolutely thrilled.
F.R.: Well, that's...that's a relief.
S.K.: Are you still working?
F.R.: They have this thing called Christmas in this country.
S.K.: You're stopping work for Christmas?
Doubtless, I gave Kubrick's words an oracular significance that would have amazed him. After all, it's a producer/director's job to encourage the troops. A general may be sincere, if it serves his purpose, but his purpose is never sincerity. As it turned out, my credit sequence was jettisoned, and Stanley vetoed "Scheuer" as Bill's last name. "Give him some name that doesn't ... identify him, O.K.?" he instructed me. Kubrick wanted to escape into myth and inhabit an alien character who, nevertheless, would be close to him. In the end, Fridolin was given the surname "Harford," which - with Freudian neatness - does not sound very different from Hertfordshire, the county in which Kubrick lived (or, indeed, from Harrison Ford).
S.K.: Happy New Year.
F.R.: You, too.
S.K.: Did you see the new Woody Allen yet?
F.R.: "Husbands and Wives"? Yes, I did. I liked it. Except for the bilious beginning. Did you?
S.K.: Pretty good movie. Did you notice something?
S.K.: The size of the apartment they live in? Guy's supposed to be some kind of a book editor or something, and they live in this huge apartment. Notice how wide that hallway was? Nice for moving cameras through but a little expensive for a guy works for a publlsher. We'd better not make that mistake. You know what a doctor like Bill makes today in New York City?
F.R.: No, I don't. Who cares? A hundred and fifty grand?
S.K.: I'll try and check. We're going to have to think about that orgy scene. I mean, what happens out there in that house? Arthur doesn't tell us a lot.
HAVING, it seemed, given Stanley what he wanted, I resumed the script with less anxiety. I suspected that the orgy at which Fridolin is almost murdered would offer an opportunity to indulge in the kind of elegant blue movie that Kubrick bad once talked about with Terry Southern, who had been the co-screenwriter of "Dr. Strangelove." When it came to the scene with the prostitute, I thought I had to diverge from Schnitzler's gemutlich tone. In contrast to Schnitzler's sensitively forlorn girl, my New York whore was quick-tongued rather than shy, more demanding than wistful.
S.K.: Freddie? Can you talk?
F.R.: Of course.
S.K.: Because I don't like the scene with the hooker. I mean, she sounds like she's Barbra Streisand, know what I mean? The dialogue kinda goes boom-boom and a boom-boom, which I don't.. . I don't want that. How about we just follow Arthur?
F.R.: We're talking about New York City today.
S.K.: Another thing: that scene where Bill and the other guy walk away down the street. You say they're talking. What about?
F.R.: What does it matter? It's the end of the scene and they're a long way from the camera, with their backs to it.
S.K.: But what are they talking about?
F.R.: What would you like them to? They're a couple of doctors, right? So what do doctors talk about? Golf; the stock market; the tits on that nurse who's on nights...uh...holidays.
S.K.: Coupla Gentiles, right?
F.R.: That's what you wanted them to be.
S.K.: And we're a coupla Jews. What do we know about what those people talk about when they're by themselves?
F.R.: Stanley, come on, "those people"! You've heard them talking. At the next table, in the subway -
S.K.: Maybe, but I'll tell you something: they always know you're there. The Holocaust - what do you think?
F.R.: I think we probably don't have time for what I think.
S.K.: As a subject for a movie.
F.R.: It's been done a few times, hasn't it?
S.K.: I didn't know that.
F.R.: Did you ever see a movie that Munk did -half did - called "The Passenger"?
S.K.: Wasn't that Antonioni? With Jack in it.
F.R.: The Munk came first.
S.K.: O.K., so what else is there?
F.R.: (knowing damn well what he is being urged to get to): Well, there's "Schindler's List," isn't there?
S.K.: Think that was about the Holocaust?
F.R.: Wasn't it? What else was it about?
S.K.: That was about success, wasn't it? The Holocaust is about six million people who get killed. "Schindler's List" was about six hundred people who don't.
KUBRICK did not seem interested in words. He might admire the sharpness of my dialogue, but it was not something he wanted to film, and film alone was his art. A great director wants to minimize whatever impedes him from using the available space - and budget - for what he regards as the heart of the matter. Kubrick left motive or "psychology" to be divined by the spectator.
I came to realize that he didn't even want the characters to have any particular personality: he would as soon have types as individuals with specific histories or sensibilities. He did not want the scenes to carry any authorial mark but his. I was there to prepare the way for him to do his stuff Anything that was markedly mine was never the stuff he was going to do.
Stanley's patience was both polite and implacable: I could see no end to it. The writer on a movie is like someone running the first leg of a relay race. He has to set off at full speed while everyone else stands around and wonders if it's going to be worth his while to remove his tracksuit. I ran my leg, arrived exhausted, and was promptly asked to run it again and again.
TOWARD the end of March, 1995, following my usual routine, I sent the whole first draft to the William Morris office in London, asking them to have copies made and sent to Stanley, to me, and to Ron Mardigian, in California.
Sylvia and I went off for ten days to Venice and Trieste. Upon our return, I discovered in the post a fat copy of the script from the William Morris office. To my amazement, it had been jacketed in a blue folder with a brazen W.M. logo on it. Underneath was an unfat envelope with a St. Albans postmark. Inside was a single yellow sheet. It announced that Stanley was so upset - "I could scarcely believe my eyes," he wrote - at finding the script in a William Morris folder that he had put it aside rather than read it in a "negative frame of mind."
We have just walked in the door, after a few days in Italy, and found your "letter." Great homecoming. Let me set the record straight: it is my habit, when a script is finished, to send a copy to my agents in London for forwarding to L.A....Alas, I forgot about those bloody awful folders.... However, I cannot accept that I am forbidden to file a text with my agent as evidence of what I have done as a result of his deal-making....
We all have our foibles and yours, in the present case, are both understandable and paramount.... However, I have waited in rather pathetic hope for your endorsement of the new work on the script. Instead, I find that I have committed a "crime' as inadvertent as that well-intentioned steadying of the Ark of the Covenant which led to G-d striking Uzzah dead. I always felt sorry for Uzzah, and now I find I am Uzzah.
Stanley's response was remarkably patient and friendly. He denied, rightly, that he had ever accused me of a crime. His dread that the source and nature of the project would become known was - I now realize from the number of calls I have since had from inquisitive journalisrs - well founded. Although I had assured him that there was no risk that anyone in the William Morris office had read the script, since I had never had any indication that any of them could read, I had underestimated the curiosity that anything to do with Kubrick was likely to excite. He was afraid that I had "compromised his dealmaking and casting efforts on the film." Furthermore, he told me, "even if you don't understand why this is so," his credentials as a "producer" entitled him to more than having his concerns dismissed as "foibles." Nevertheless, he was quite ready to "put all this behind us." The fax was signed "Regards." His letters preceding the William Morris folly had always ended "Best regards."
The fact that Stanley had referred to himself as a producer prompted me to add a rider to my otherwise penitent assurances: "R.M. may bear the odious title of 'agent' but he has never broken faith with me... . I wish I could say as much of producers, executives, and directors (I have been swindled out of credit and money).. . . The best sentence, for me, in your letter, is 'I am quite ready to put all this behind us.' I'm for that, as you can well imagine."
Stanley's response was to say that he would read the new pages and go over the whole thing carefully. The happiest omen was that his letter was once again signed "Best regards."
We began to make quicker progress. I had feared that the writing of this movie, which still had no title, would take longer than the Trojan War, but the stack of approved scenes grew more quickly. Concerned about the lack of a title, I faxed a suggestion: "The Female Subject." Kubrick did not acknowledge receipt. Some lays later he proposed "Eyes Wide Shut." I refrained from any response except that of refraining from response. It was his movie.
Joe Mankiewicz used to say that a good script had, in some sense, already been directed. That is not the kind of script Kubrick would ever want. Anything too finished left him with an obligation to obedience. The only kind of rebel he was, in fact, was a rebel against being told what to do.
The fourth or fifth version of the script was blanched of nearly all the duplicity that had made if alive for me. I was now compiling a color-it-yourself book in which the spaces might have seductive outlines but were not to carry any instructions. I recalled that when Henry James finally renounced working in the theatre a friend asked him whether he could explain why his plays were flops. Were they too intellectual? James doubted it. "After all," he said, "I tried so hard to be base."
If I often longed for release, it was a matter of professional honor not to show it. It was not until the end of June that I sent off the last batch of pages for the last time. I added a chattier letter than usual.I ended by saying, "Do you know the story about the man who was having a pair of trousers made by a Jewish tailor and it was taking forever? Two months, three months, six months. Finally he said to the tailor, 'It took the good Lord six days to make the world and you it takes six months to make a pair of pants?' And the tailor sald, 'So? Look at the world, and then look at this pair of pants.' Why does this story occur to me at this stage? Best regards, Freddie."
In mid-December, I received a fax from Kubrick; he had completed his work on the script and had cast Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as the troubled couple. Would I be able to "come out to the house one day during the holidays," have lunch, and then sit in a room with tea and biscuits for an hour or so and read what he had been doing on the script? "Best regards, Stanley."
Once again, a cab came for me at noon. Once again, I took the devious road to the Kubrick estate.
At St. AIbans, I read his draft. The longer we talked, the more there seemed to be things in the revised text that needed attention. By the end, I was reassuring Kubrick that I had no quarrel with the over-all shape. I had, after all, argued for it at great length. He asked, almost humbly, whether I was willing to go through it one more time.
"Of course I am," I said.
He seemed relieved, even grateful. I was not grateful, but I was relieved. He had digested my work, but its shape and much of its detail were there in his rescript. I understood very well, and without rancor, that he had had to possess the script - as cannibals do the force of their respected adversaries - by swallowing it. He had had to convince himself that what he would film was compatible with his artistic persona; it had, so to say, to pass through his gut.
Stanley came out onto the forecourt as my return cab approached the house through the last of the barriers.
"So listen," he said, "thanks for... coming out. And for everything you did."
"And will do," I said.
"Worked out pretty well, didn't it?" He put his arm around my shoulder. I was aware of the small white hand gleaming in the light from the front door. Show biz is full of insincere bear hugs; a lot of them leave teeth marks. Stanley had never been effusive. It was the first time he had done more than shake hands hurriedly. There was a wary warmth in his embrace which made it more unguarded - and more flattering - than anything he'd ever said to me.
I said, "I wouldn't have missed it, Stanley."
I got into the taxi and was driven toward the first gate. Then I realized that I didn't have his text with me. I got out and ran back to the house and rang the bell. He opened the door:
"I forgot the script."
"I have it for you."
"We could analyze that, if we wanted to," I said. "But we don't, do we?"
"I don't think so."
He smiled, and I went back to the cab and got in. I waved to him through the window as if - although I should never trade on it - we were now close friends.
I rewrote the script, several times, and I talked with him, always at length, on the telephone, but I never saw him again.