Interview: Jan Harlan, Producer for Stanley Kubrick


Producer Jan Harlan’s 30-year collaboration with legendary director Stanley Kubrick includes Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. Harlan has also co-edited the book Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made and made the 2001 documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures.

Shane Hennessy spoke to Harlan, who is in Dublin for the Jameson Dublin Film Festival to present a Masterclass in Producing and will attend a special screening of Barry Lyndon to mark its 40th anniversary.


Welcome to Ireland Mr. Harlan. Having Barry Lyndon screened at the Jameson Dublin Film Festival is bound to bring a unique energy to it having been so heavily shot in Ireland. Are you looking forward to it?

Yes, it’s nice to be here. I have seen Barry Lyndon a couple of times since but it’s very nice to return to the locations where we shot again. I’m very much looking forward to the screening.


You worked as Kubrick’s researcher on the never completed Napoleon film, which as a concept sounds incredible. You also wrote a book about it, do you think that completing a film on such monumental material would have had a significant effect on his legacy?

Well, he was ready to make Napoleon right after he finished 2001. Stanley was fascinated by Napoleon, the enigma surrounding his character, what drove him to be the historical figure that he now is. Stanley wanted to make a film to show how emotions, not politics, are the sole driving force behind any war. When Napoleon went to Waterloo it was his pride more-so than anything else which drove him forward rather than a love for his country. This is the story Stanley wanted to tell, because it’s such a timeless lesson that can be applied to so many different aspects of life, not just war. We are driven by our emotions, regardless of what other reasons we like to cover our actions up with. I suppose in many ways these were the same reasons that the film was never completed!


Kubrick is widely considered to be very provocative filmmaker, was there an element of mischief on his part surrounding the controversy of A Clockwork Orange, and it being banned from the UK upon release?

Well the controversy surrounding Clockwork Orange was only in England, it was made into this massive story but it was simply Stanley just interpreting what was some very strong and controversial source material in the best manner that he could. I suppose it didn’t help that he rarely, if ever talked to the press at this time. Stanley didn’t like being interviewed because he said they may misquote him or, even worse, quote him exactly! He found this incredibly frustrating so declined to speak to the press at all. I think this was a mistake on his part and I think that even he realized that later on. Perhaps, if he was more open with journalists, Clockwork Orange wouldn’t have generated the controversy which it did.


In today’s age with the likes of Twitter and social media taking over, do you think he would be just as successful today with that outlook?

Stanley was a very adaptable person so I imagine so. Although I would love to hear his thoughts about Twitter!


Kubrick was known to be incredibly meticulous with his sets. Did he always keep you in the loop as to what exactly he was setting out to do? For instance, there are some conspiracy theories that Kubrick left certain hints in The Shining that he actually produced the U.S moon landing…

Well the theories about moon landing are absolute nonsense, obviously. The timeline doesn’t even add up! (Laughs) A man of Stanley’s intelligence would never be so silly as to give clues in his films about that. It was always difficult to know exactly what he was thinking, but generally when we went about designing each set he would make it very clear exactly where he wanted each item and for what purpose. Occasionally he would walk around to amend certain things here and there for whatever reason, but he always placed tremendous trust in the team he assembled to carry out his instructions.


Full Metal Jacket is often considered to be his most commercially-friendly piece of work. Was there a feeling when making it that it was going to appeal more to the mainstream than the likes of Barry Lyndon?

Well we knew that war was such a pervasive topic that it was going to appeal to more people than his other films. It was obviously set in the backdrop to the Vietnam war but really it could have been about any war, like Napoleon. The abuse and death of young men in the name of their country is tragic and I think that is what Kubrick wanted to show. The complete pointlessness of war and its total lack of resolution. So in a sense yes, it was a slight shift for Stanley but it was the sort of film that I feel he always wanted to make.


When Joker kills the Vietnamese girl to put her out of her misery at the end of Full Metal Jacket, the recoil of the gunshot causes the peace symbol on his jacket to be covered over for that split second. Can you tell me whether this was intentional by Kubrick?

Well that peace sign is certainly a motif throughout the film. The girl is begging to be shot. ‘Kill me, kill me’. So Joker obliges. But this is an act of mercy in a film told entirely about the horrible and ruthless nature of war. This was Stanley’s main aim when he set out to make a war movie, to show the utter futility of war, its profound contradictions. Earlier in the film, Joker is asked what the peace symbol represents, he says it represents the duality of men. What does he say when he’s asked what side he’s on?


‘Our side’

Precisely, he is a man conflicted. He isn’t sure that what he is doing is serving any purpose. So to answer your question, I don’t know whether the peace symbol disappearing was intentional, although Stanley did place a great deal of emphasis on Joker’s peace symbol in production, so I would not be surprised.


When A.I. was in production and Kubrick so sadly passed away, were you worried about how the film would turn out with Spielberg directing it?

No, not at all. Spielberg was the only director whom Stanley trusted to make A.I. and to do it in the way that Kubrick envisioned. I sat with him through all the meetings where we saw this stunning art-work as the film was taking shape. It was going to be an immense piece of work, but as Kubrick had to prioritize things he realised that he would be unable to make the film. It is a testament to Spielberg as a director that Kubrick gave him his blessing to complete it, but he would never have done so if he felt that Spielberg wouldn’t be able to do it justice. I personally think A.I. is wonderful piece of work. A masterpiece.


You made Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. Despite your close relationship with him throughout the years, did the making of that documentary give you another insight into his work and character?

That’s a good question. Well I had the pleasure of speaking to the likes of Jack Nicholson and Woody Allen who had such love and respect for what Kubrick and what he had done in his career. So in that sense it did give me another perspective to our relationship as I got to see first hand how Stanley’s work had influenced such huge figures in the industry. However, one regret from the making of that film was that we never managed to speak to Ingmar Bergman, as Stanley was such a massive fan of his and it would have been amazing to get an idea as to what Bergman thought of his work. But to answer your question; upon completing the documentary, and giving myself the opportunity to look at Stanley’s immense body of work and how it affected such influential people, I was even more honored to have worked so closely with him than before.


Book tickets:

Barry LyndonSaturday, 21st March 2015 @ 1:30pm in the Savoy


Producing With Jan Harlan –  Sunday, 22nd March 2015 @ 11:00AM in the  Light House Cinema



Radio Doc on Kubrick’s ‘Barry Lyndon’


A radio documentary for Newstalk 106’s Different Voices season, produced by Pavel Barter.

Newstalk 106, Saturday, Oct 19, 7:00am. Repeated Sunday Oct 20, 6:00pm

The story behind the making of Stanley Kubrick’s period masterpiece Barry Lyndon in Ireland 40 years ago.

In the summer of 1973, Stanley Kubrick arrived in Ireland to make his period masterpiece Barry Lyndon. On an overcast night the following January, the director fled Ireland on a ferry from Dun Laoghaire. Within 48 hours the entire production also abandoned their stations.

‘Castles, Candles and Kubrick’ tells, for the first time, the story behind the making of Barry Lyndon in Ireland, featuring interviews with cast and crew from the film.

What role did Ireland play in Barry Lyndon? Did Kubrick’s preceding film, A Clockwork Orange, affect the production? What was it like working with arguably the greatest, notoriously perfectionist, director of the 20th century? Why did Kubrick flee Ireland? And why is Barry Lyndon considered the greatest movie of all time by fellow directors such as Martin Scorsese and Lars Von Trier?

‘Castles, Candles and Kubrick’ features Brian W. Cook (The Wicker Man, The Shining), Luke Quigley (Braveheart, In The Name of The Father), Terry Clegg (Gandhi, Out of Africa), Patti Podesta (Memento), and Gay Hamilton (The Duelists).


Cinema Review: The Shining

DIR: Stanley Kubrick WRI: Stanley Kubrick Diane Johnson  PRO: Stanley Kubrick DOP: John Alcott • ED: Ray Lovejoy • DES: Roy Walker • CAST:  Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers

It’s no surprise that, with Stanley Kubrick directing and Jack Nicholson starring, that The Shining is often considered the greatest horror film ever made. Time and changes in the zeitgeist have done little to diminish the film’s incredible quality. If anything, it’s reinforced. Given how Hollywood regularly churns out by-the-numbers horror films with alarming frequency, it’s good to know that it’s not the genre that fails – it’s the directors and actors of these poorer films that do so. The Extended Cut – or for purists, the American version – features just under half an hour of extra footage that elaborates on key areas of the film that were left out in the European releases. While it’s fascinating to see certain elements explained more thoroughly and key scenes given more depth and time to develop, it’s obvious why they were cut from the film.

It’s not that they’re superfluous, it’s more that the film isn’t greatly served by their inclusion. It adds and contributes more to the tension with the additional knowledge. As well as the additional and extended scenes, the film itself was put through rigorous digital remastering and adds a great amount of colour and removes the traditional grain. Some might argue that it makes the whole film process soulless, but this is seeing The Shining in all its intended glory. None of the film’s performances have been lost or been dampened over the past thirty-two years. From Jack Nicholson’s near-comedic frenzy to Shelley Duvall’s teeth-grinding hysteria, The Shining continues to impress. This is a classic that is definitely worth revisiting.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
143 mins

The Shining is released on 31st October 2012


Bloody Countdown to Halloween – The Shining

As the spooky season raises its sharpened axe to soon fall upon us, the ghouls and goblins of Film Ireland wallow in the terror of the films that embrace the nutty freaks, bloody psychos and raging spoonatics with our ‘Bloody Countdown to Halloween’ – cue Vincent Price laugh…


The Shining

(Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

Scott Townsend

For any misguided soul who views the horror genre as inferior, The Shining is probably the definitive response. Stephen King’s lengthy novel provides a cheap pulpy premise: a writer takes a job as a caretaker in an abandoned hotel for the winter with his family. The hotel, however, has a dark past, and begins to cloud his mind. King’s book took this premise and filled it with literal monsters and the supernatural. Kubrick, meanwhile, threw out the hokier parts of the book (living hedge-monsters anyone?) and instead focused on the family and psychological elements. Famously, King wasn’t impressed, calling Kubrick a man ‘who thinks too much and feels too little’. It’s this rejection of horror-movie grammar, however, that makes the film great. Almost every scene takes place in either a brightly lit area or in daylight. There are no shadows for anything to hide in, no darkness. In Kubrick’s world, evil is perfectly visible, staring you straight in the face. There is no direct antagonist, with the only villain being the hotel itself and the madness it brings out it in the characters. Kubrick’s mastery of atmosphere, compostion and editing brings out a chilling quality in the most ordinary things – a ball being bounced against a wall, a child’s tricycle. Case in point – the scariest image isn’t the tidal wave of blood, or the hag in the bathtub, but simply two twin girls standing in a hallway with dodgy wallpaper.

Kubrick’s subliminal Lego message

Despite lukewarm critical reaction at the time, and King’s dismissal of it, The Shining endures as one of the greats. It remains terrifying despite one of the finest ever Simpsons‘ spoofs (‘That’s odd. Usually the blood gets off at the second floor’). Even on television, its chilling composition and electrifying sound design can haunt your dreams. The final shot raises a fascinating, head-scratching mystery that haunts you the more you think about it. And those twins are unspeakably creepy.

Scott Townsend

Check out our blood-soaked countdown of Halloween Horror here


Cinema Review: Room 237

DIR: Rodney Ascher PRO: P. David Ebersole, Todd Hughes ED: Rodney Ascher CAST: Jay Weidner, Geoffrey Cocks, Bill Blakemore

Stanley Kubrick had, according to Room 237‘s retinue of commentators, an IQ of over 200. As such, his arc of vision was far more wider than the average cinema punter. The argument set out by Room 237 is that The Shining – easily the finest horror film ever made – is riven with hidden codes, subliminal messages and esoteric meanings. Some of these are reasonably well by film buffs and Kubrick enthusiasts. It’s well documented that Stanley Kubrick wanted to make a film on the Holocaust and that The Shining was, according to some, a way of Kubrick making a film about it. However, this isn’t the only theory about The Shining. Each of the film’s commentators set out their own individual theories and use archive footage from the film to back up their arguments. Some, naturally, seem more plausible than others. For example, the constant use of Native American iconography suggests that the film was commenting on the genocide of Native Americans throughout history. Others are more outlandish. Jay Weidner, a noted conspiracy theorist, sets out a baffling theory of both The Shining‘s hidden meaning and Kubrick himself. Without revealing too much, the theory is out of this world and is, surprisingly, very well evidenced throughout the film.


It’s true, Stanley Kubrick was a perfectionist. Nothing on the screen was happenstance. Everything was deliberate. And, as such, The Shining is scrutinised and dissected down to its very core. The film goes into massive detail about Kubrick’s earlier work and career, commenting on how Barry Lyndon – the film prior to The Shining – was ‘made by a bored genius’ and that he wanted to make something more subversive. A lot is made of how Kubrick used various subliminal messaging techniques adopted by advertising agencies throughout The Shining. However, the film doesn’t deal with the making of the film itself or the well-known difficulties that Jack Nicholson, Scatman Crothers or Shelley Duvall had with Kubrick. Little comment is made on the film’s reception or eventual cult status. This is a film for Kubrick enthusiasts and film historians. What’s more interesting is that the film, in a way, comments on how people can read into anything if it’s put under a strong enough microscope. Room 237 is an intriguing documentary that is worth seeing, both by fans of cinema and conspiracy theorists. However, given how the film makes extensive use of footage from The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut, it will be interesting to see if it gets a wide release as most of it was used under Fair Use legislation.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
102 mins

Room 237 is released on 26th October 2012

Room 237 –  Official Website


Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Light House


‘Stanley Kubrick: Taming Light’ is a group exhibition of 25 new works from Irish and international painters, photographers and illustrators paying tribute to the life and work of Stanley Kubrick, ten years on from his death. The exhibition will take place at Light House Cinema, Smithfield (Dublin) for the month of October, 2009.

The show is curated by film critic John Maguire, who has invited a roster of established and emerging Irish and international artists to pay tribute to their cinematic inspiration. “Ten years on from his death in 1999, Kubrick exerts a huge influence, not just on cinema, but on culture in general. For a new generation of artists, photographers and illustrators, Kubrick is more than just a director, consummate storyteller or technical genius. Kubrick stands as something greater; a genuine film artist; the master of composition, colour, movement and spectacle,” says Maguire.

The exhibition poster is a specially commissioned piece from Uruguayan illustrator Martin Ansin. Ansin’s hand-drawn retrospective of Kubrick’s classic characters, topped by a portrait of the director, is available as a collector’s item as a high-quality art print, in a limited edition of 250 only, at Light House Cinema.

The exhibition website has more information on the artists participating in the exhibition, including links to their websites. The site also contains a gallery of the artists work, and specially commissioned monographs on Kubrick’s visual genius from various film critics and commentators.

Participating artists include: Martin Ansin, Joby Hickey, Chris Judge, Francis Matthews, graffiti artist 2Cents, Mike Ahern, Annie Atkins, Ciaran Og Arnold, David Turpin, David Cleary, Jay Roche, Kiersten Essenpreis, Geraldine Doherty, Alan Lambert, Steve Doogan, Fergal Brennan, Scalder, graffiti artist Maser, Mark Wickham and Cliona O Flaherty.

The exhibition is free of charge and is organised on a not-for-profit basis. The show is not a sales event. Light House Cinema is a four-screen, 600-seat cultural cinema located at Market Square, Smithfield Plaza, Dublin 7.


Stanley Kubrick Season at the IFI

The Stanley Kubrick Season at the IFI continues into May with 2001: A Space Odyssey on glorious 70 mm with a special guest appearance from lead actor Keir Dullea on 21st May at 6.15 pm.

This year’s Stanley Kubrick season continues throughout May with many of the iconic filmmaker’s key films still to come, including The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Barry Lyndon, A.I. and a rare chance to see 2001: A Space Odyssey in the spectacular detail that only 70 mm prints can offer.

The IFI are pleased to announce that the star of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Keir Dullea, in Dublin to perform in the world stage premiere of The Shawshank Redemption at the Gaiety Theatre, will give a special introduction to his unforgettable performance that was filmed over 40 years ago in 1968.

For more information, or to book online, please click here.