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It is also essential to his work. For one thing, he finds it impossible to invent an entirely original story, something drawn out of his own experience or fantasy life. Indeed, the creation of fiction awes him. "It is one of the most phenomenal human achievements," he says. "And I have never done it." Instead, he must do "detective work find out about the things about which I have no direct experience." These, of course, offer metaphors in which to cloak such observations they are never direct mes sages that he cares to share with the world.
Research aids him in another way. Movie sets even the cool, orderly ones Kubrick is famous for running seethe with logistical, technical and emotional problems. As Kubrick mildly puts it, "The atmosphere is inimical to making subtle aesthetic decisions." He is unable to determine how to shoot a scene until he sees a set fully dressed and lit. This is a mo ment of maximum risk. Says Ryan O'Neal, who plays Barry: "The toughest part of Stanley's day was finding the right first shot. Once he did that, other shots fell into place. But he agonized over that first one."
It is precisely then that Kubrick's memory bank, well stocked with odd details, comes into play. "Once, when he was really stymied, he began to search through a book of 1 8th century art reproductions," recalls O'Neal.
"He found a painting I don't remem =ber which one and posed Marissa and me exactly as if we were in that painting."
Most of his performers seem to worship Kubrick. One reason is that he is always willing to give their suggestions a trial run Or two. He is also INtelligent about not overdirecting them. "Stanley is a great believer in the man," says Murray Melvin, who is superb in the role of a snaky spiritual adviser to Lady Lyndon. "You have to do it." Adds Patrick Magee, who plays a gambler: "The catchwords on the set are 'Do it faster, do it slower, do it again.' Mostly, 'Do it again.' "
Melvin did one scene 50 times. "I knew he had seen something I had done. But because he was a good director, he wouldn't tell me what it was. Because if someone tells you you've done a good bit, then you know it and put it in parentheses and kill it. The better actor you were, the more he drew out of you."
There is no sadism in Kubrick's insistence on huge numbers of retakes. He did not press Berenson or the children in his cast, only the established professionals he knew could stand up under his search for the best they had to offer. "Actors who have worked a lot in movies," Kubrick says mildly, "don't really get a sense of intense excitement into their performances until there is film running through the camera." Moreover, the "beady eye" that several insist was cast on them as they worked is merely a sign of the mesmerizing concentration he brings to his work.