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Six Things That Are Out of This World at Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey

Brian Sloan
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Stanley Kubrick’s solar-system-spanning epic 2001: A Space Odyssey got its start in this corner of the universe; New York City was the director’s hometown. In 1964, the Bronx-raised auteur wrote novelist Arthur C. Clarke in Sri Lanka, asking him to come to New York and meet about a new project. Over the course of a few months, Clarke stayed at the Chelsea Hotel as the two met at Kubrick’s office, went to movies in Times Square and strolled through Central Park to discuss ideas for a film that would take a groundbreaking approach to science fiction.

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The Museum of the Moving Image’s Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey, which runs through July 19, takes a comprehensive look at the remarkable story behind the movie masterpiece, 52 years later. The exhibit, which debuted in Frankfurt, charts Kubrick’s creative process from the late 1950s to the film’s release (and famously trippy ad campaign) in 1968. It covers all aspects of 2001’s production and distribution, including Kubrick and Clarke’s collaboration in 1964 and ’65; special effects whiz Douglas Trumbull’s conceptual art for Clavius moon base in 1966; filming in London in 1967; the mixed response to its premiere in 1968; and its commercial and critical success in the 1970s. It also examines 2001’s impact on filmmakers like Steven Spielberg (who later hired Trumbull for Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and the public perception of space exploration.

If you’re heading to Queens for the exhibition, here are six things you have to see there:   

1. Kubrick and Clarke’s official report of a UFO sighting  
Shortly after agreeing to work together on the movie in New York, Kubrick and Clarke were out one night when they thought they saw a UFO flying over the City. They were both so convinced what they saw was otherworldly that they filed an official report with the US Air Force (which you can see exhibited, in their handwriting). In the end, the authorities determined that Clarke and Kubrick had actually spotted NASA’s Echo 1 communications satellite.

Hotel Room set of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Director Stanley Kubrick at center behind the camera, with Keir Dullea in the spacesuit (left). Courtesy, Warner Bros.

2. A 1966 draft of the script, then titled Journey Beyond the Stars
An early draft of the 2001 script, heavily annotated by Kubrick, carries this older title. It was one of numerous names that he and Clarke considered, including the ominous Farewell to Earth and the ultra-literal Jupiter Window.

A section of “Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey” devoted to the production of the Star Gate sequence. Courtesy, Museum of the Moving Image

3. A side-by-side score comparison
Richard Strauss’ thundering classical composition “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” in 2001’s famous opening shot was at first meant to be a temporary track, used only for editing. Kubrick hired Alex North (who scored his Spartacus) to compose an original score—but ultimately opted to drop it in favor of the Strauss piece. On two monitors, you can watch and listen to both scores, comparing and contrasting.

A frame still from the Star Gate sequence, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), directed by Stanley Kubrick. Courtesy, Warner Bros. & Museum of Moving Image

4. Douglas Trumbull’s conceptual drawings for the Star Gate
The movie’s wildly inventive Star Gate sequence used cutting-edge photographic techniques developed by Douglas Trumbull. In 1965, before heading to London for production, Kubrick did some Star Gate test shoots at an old brassiere factory on the Upper West Side using blobs of ink and colored lights. These helped inspire detailed conceptual drawings on view at the museum.

Model of the Orion III space plane, designed by Harry Lange. ​Photo: Skye Morse-Hodgson. Courtesy, Museum of the Moving Image

5. A digital edition of The New York Times
Production designer Roy Carnon sketched out an iPad-esque New York Times for 2001. You can see designs for the paper (though it was not in the final film) and read proposed 2001 headlines like “LAST GRIZZLY BEAR DIES IN CINCINNATI ZOO: SPECIES NOW EXTINCT.” Overall, Kubrick’s team worked with 40-plus companies on future versions of their products; they included Pan Am’s spaceship and Hilton’s orbiting hotel.
 

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Ape mask (1967), designed by Stuart Freeborn, and Discover spacesuit helmet (1965), designed by Harry Lange. Courtesy, Museum of the Moving Image

6. Dan Richter’s furry ape suit and mask
Richter may not be a household name (Clarke called him “the most famous unknown actor in the world”), but he made history with his role as an ape who discovers how to use bones as tools and flings one into the air in the film’s iconic transition shot from earth to space. After you see his costume, listen to him discuss studying ape behavior in a zoo and shooting on a London soundstage under Kubrick’s direction.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), shown in Redstone Theater. Courtesy, Museum of the Moving Image

To fully prep for the exhibit, you can also watch 2001 on the big screen at MoMI’s Redstone Theater, shown every Saturday at noon, or at monthly screenings of a 70mm print made for the film’s 50th anniversary. Additionally, throughout the exhibit’s run, MoMI will present a film series focused on movies that influenced Kubrick and vice versa, along with Q&A sessions. For the full schedule of screenings and events related to Envisioning 2001, visit the exhibit’s website.

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