It’s said that when director Stanley Kubrick first reached out to Arthur C. Clarke to pitch a collaboration, he simply told the sci-fi writer he wanted to make a “really good” science fiction movie.
Inspired by Clarke’s 1951 short story “The Sentinel,” Kubrick wanted his film to explore “the reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life.”
But before the duo could begin on the film, they decided they should write a full novel version of the story they would eventually film. Kubrick frequently preferred working with novels are source material, and it seemed that his novelist counterpart was quick to agree.
“If you can describe it, I can film it,” Kubrick told Clarke.
With keen attention to technologies and scientific detail, Clarke’s work is considered “hard” science fiction. And yet, his stories frequently combined these grounded, concrete ideas with the metaphysical, exploring themes of organized ritual and humanity’s desire for a connection to higher intelligence.
Together the pair set out to create the world of 2001 in classic Stanley Kubrick fashion. The duo created concept sketches of potential alien designs; Clarke taught Kubrick how to operate a telescope; and dinner breaks featured Kubrick frying up steaks for the pair. All the while, a team of visual effects pioneers began the process of developing film techniques they would need to pull off Kubrick and Clarke’s vast, cold, and often psychedelic vision of space.
While the approach may have been unorthodox, the result is a film that stands apart from others in the genre both in its cool, detached style and in its expansive, mythological storytelling.
Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick, and 2001 A Space Odyssey were inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1997, 2014, and 2016, respectively.
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