DATELINE: Alternate Ego?
We won’t quibble with you. At first, we were put off by the idea that someone had done a documentary on Stanley Kubrick’s assistant. We thought it was chutzpah to call this man a partner or more in Kubrick’s career.
Leon Vitali prefers to be labeled “Filmworker,” and how wrong we were about his contributions to the works of the grand master after 1976. For 30 years, Vitali became more than an assistant: he was an alter ego, a shadow to Kubrick’s Peter Pan.
To work in such proximity to a whirlwind dervish genius takes its toll. He went from stunningly beautiful boy to haggard and wizened old man. He was there for Full Metal Jacket and The Shining, doing everything with Eyes Wide Shut.
Kubrick met Leon Vitali as an actor on the movie Barry Lyndon. The beautiful young man so impressed Kubrick that he revised the film and made him a featured actor. He is brilliant, trained by the Royal Shakespeare troupe, etc.
Yet, he threw it all away when given the chance to work as a Doppleganger to Kubrick.
Not many actors would toss away potential movie star status to become lost in the voracious appetite for work that was Kubrick. When you look at Vitali today in his old age, you cannot find the pretty boy he once was: the Kubrick perfection disease has ripped him to shreds.
We were surprised that he had time to procreate a family. For 30 years, on every film, he worked 20 hours per day, doing whatever Kubrick wanted: casting, lighting, sound, editing, scripts, and jack of all trades. Leon Vitali puts to rest the rumor that Kubrick filmed a fake Moon landing for NASA.
He had the enviable job of being on the right hand and left hand of Kubrick. He took startling photos of the reclusive genius. We liked see James Mason with Jack Nicholson on the set of The Shining.
It was Vitali who came up with the idea of twin girls murdered by axe. He was child star Danny’s acting coach, and the lines between Kubrick and Vitali disappeared over the years. Kubrick would send out messages in Leon’s name, would call him for impossible and constant errands.
Vitali was more than an assistant. He was joined at the hip with the great auteur. You might suspect they were gay lovers, but their love was strictly the film business and mostly the art.