Everyone who loves films will know the films of Stanley Kubrick who died in 1999 but despite only having made 13 films his influence is huge and even today’s big name film makers acknowledge the debt they owe him. Kubrick worked with a regular group of collaborators with perhaps his most devoted being Leon Vitali who was an actor appearing in 1975’s ‘Barry Lyndon’ an absolutely beautiful film to look at. He also appeared on screen as Red Cloak in the orgy sequence in Kubrick’s final feature Eyes Wide Shut.
Vitali went on to work with the director and was invaluable in his work on The Shining where he found the boy who would play Danny and rehearse with him on set.
It seems now that the man behind the man now has had a documentary made about him called ,’Filmworker’ as that is what he has on his passport. The film of the same title, directed by Tony Zierra, premiered in Cannes’ Classics strand this week. Vitali, who has accompanied the film to Cannes, was utterly devoted to Kubrick.
He put his acting career to one side in order to help the director and was involved with casting and was invaluable in his work on The Shining where he found the boy who would play Danny and rehearse with him on set. Our Deputy Editor, Simon, interviewed him a couple of years ago for an article on The Shining and found him to be an extraordinarily nice and utterly engrossing man with his tales.
‘He would do anything he could to help Kubrick. I was really fascinated by that – that somebody would give up fame and fortune to be behind the camera, to be an assistant to someone else’s creative art,” says the director, Zierra. Zierra was working on hos own documentary about Kubrick but quickly decided that Vitali could warrant a movie on his own.
Since Kubrick’s death in 1999, Vitali has continued to “carry the torch” on behalf of his former mentor and needs little prompting to talk about Kubrick and apparently has boxes and boxes of material from his time working with Kubrick including dozens of notebooks.
Vitali’s contribution has never been acknowledged properly so bringing Filmworker to Cannes was Zieerra’s way of putting him in the spotlight.
“This (Filmworker) is about the people behind the screen, the people who never get the exposure,” the director reflects. “It is an unusual case for Leon because he had that before but then, people like him, they live, they work and die in the shadows.”