25 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’


We’ve seen a major resurgence of Stanley Kubrick’s work in the last few years. Rodney Ascher’s atmospheric documentary, Room 237, explored the strange conspiracy theories surrounding The Shining. Speaking of the horror opus, based on a 1977 novel by Stephen King, a sequel book was released by King last year, Doctor Sleep. The recent Kubrick retrospective at LACMA offered viewers an intimate look at the director’s scripts, models, costumes, and more.

This week, we have cause to celebrate Kubrick again as the 46th anniversary of his cosmic epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, is upon us. Critics were initially divided on the unusual science-fiction tale, featuring a sentient computer and a mysterious monolith, but the 1968 film’s influence still resonates today. 2001 helped make room for the thinking person’s sci-fi story in Hollywood and displayed a technical prowess still copycatted in contemporary cinema. In honor of Kubrick’s landmark movie, we’ve gathered some interesting facts about 2001 that you might have missed.

Kubrick and co-screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke (whose short story “The Sentinel” provided partial inspiration for the film and who wrote a novelization of 2001 that was developed concurrently with the movie) gave 2001 the working title, How the Solar System Was Won (referencing the classic film How the West Was Won). The project was announced in a 1965 press release as Journey Beyond the Stars, but other titles considered were Universe, Tunnel to the Stars, and Planetfall. The duo didn’t arrive at the final title until 11 months later.

2001’s Discovery set, featuring a massive centrifuge (the rotating wheel-like structure), was built by high-profile aircraft manufacturer Vickers-Armstrong, costing the production a whopping $750,000.

Famous science fiction authors were as divided on the film as movie critics. Writers such as Ray Bradbury and Lester del Rey felt 2001 lacked humanity, while Isaac Asimov and Samuel R. Delany were greatly impressed.

Some conspiracy theorists are convinced that the Apollo moon landing, completed by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, was totally faked. They believe Armstrong’s footage was a hoax film directed by Kubrick using leftover scenes from 2001.

Always the perfectionist (and consumed by the technical demands of his movie), 2001 wound up being $4.5 million over the initial $6 million budget and 16 months behind schedule.

Kubrick had a hand in almost every aspect of the production, including design. He chose most of the fabrics for his actor’s costumes and selected most of the furniture. His picks became trendsetting and many of those designers and pieces (like the Herman Miller Action Office desk and the Olivier Mourgue Djinn chairs) saw a rise in popularity after the film was released.

Danish designer Arne Jacobsen created the cutlery used by the Discovery astronauts. It’s still sold to the public to this day.

Special photographic effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull once indicated that the total footage shot for 2001 was about 200 times the length of the final cut.

Kubrick often burned his negatives after completing a film, but 17 minutes of lost footage was recently discovered in a Kansas salt mine in perfect condition. The material comes from the post-premiere cut of the movie, and no plans have been announced to release it yet.

The inclusion of HAL’s song “Daisy Bell” was inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s visit to Bell Labs in 1961, where he witnessed the IBM 704 “sing” the song. John Kelly and Carol Lochbaum programmed the vocals for the demonstration, and Max Mathews programmed the accompaniment. “Daisy Bell” is the earliest known song performed using computer speech synthesis.

The film won a single Oscar (it was nominated 13 times), for Best Effects/Special Visual Effects. All credit went to Kubrick, which upset some of the technicians who worked on the film. Kubrick was not present during the ceremony.

Audiences thought the apes in the film were real. All primates were played by humans (or models were used), except for two baby chimpanzees.

The last line spoken by Frank Poole’s father during Poole’s videophone conversation with his parents is, “See You Next Wednesday.” Blues Brothers and Animal House director John Landis adopted the saying as a gag (usually in the form of a fictional movie title) in most of his films.

Some film historians believe Russian documentarian Pavel Klushantsev’s film Road to the Stars heavily influenced 2001‘s cinematography and effects.

HAL 9000 is often quoted as saying, “Good Morning, Dave,” but he doesn’t actually say that in the film.

2001 almost opened with a 10-minute, black-and-white, 35mm prologue featuring interviews with scientific experts (like Freeman Dyson) discussing the possibilities of extraterrestrial life. Kubrick removed the opening after screening it for MGM execs, but the text survives in The Making of Kubrick’s 2001 by Jerome Agel.

George Lucas admitted in 1977 that he thought 2001 was a better movie than his Star Wars: “Stanley Kubrick made the ultimate science fiction movie, and it is going to be very hard for someone to come along and make a better movie, as far as I’m concerned. On a technical level, [Star Wars] can be compared, but personally I think that 2001 is far superior.”

According to Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick wanted an insurance policy from Lloyd’s of London to protect himself against losses in case extraterrestrial intelligence was discovered before the film’s release. Publicity stunt?

The floating pen effect was achieved by taping it to a sheet of glass, suspended in front of the camera. Kubrick and his effects team tried to come up with a more savvy way of executing it, but nothing seemed to work.

During the premiere screening, 241 people walked out — including Rock Hudson who wondered “what the hell” the film was about.

Kubrick’s daughter Vivian appeared in the film as the daughter of Dr. Floyd (William Sylvester). See her recently published photos from the sets of her father’s movies over here.

Keir Dullea spent 12 hours in old-age makeup for his scenes as an elderly man.

Stanley Kubrick imported several tons of sand for the moon scenes.

HAL 9000 was originally a female persona named Athena. The 2001 sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact featured a female version of HAL, called SAL 9000 (voiced by Candice Bergen).

Kubrick’s scientific consultant Frederick Ordway once revealed that Kubrick had almost all of the props for the film destroyed, because he didn’t want to ruin the illusion of 2001 for people — and, reportedly, so they wouldn’t wind up in future films.