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'2001: A Space Odyssey': 5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Film

by Oliver Lyttelton
April 2, 2012 11:38 AM
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Forty-five years ago today, "2001: A Space Odyssey," Stanley Kubrick's classic science-fiction movie, premiered at the Uptown Theater in Washington D.C. While neither commercially or critically successful to begin with (the legendary Pauline Kael called it a "monumentally unimaginative movie"), it soon took off with audiences, in part thanks to its psychedelic closing sequence, and is now rightfully regarded as perhaps the greatest, and most prophetic science-fiction movie ever made.

To mark the occasion, below you'll find five key bits of info that you may not have been previously aware of about Kubrick's masterpiece. The film is currently available on DVD & Blu-Ray, and can be seen on Netflix: what better day than today to watch it?

1. The Film Was Originally Called "Journey Beyond The Stars" 
While it was based principally on author Arthur C. Clarke's short story "The Sentinel," the book "2001: A Space Odyssey" was actually written by Clarke at the same time as he wrote the screenplay with Kubrick. The duo originally referred to it as "How The Solar System Was Won," and it was initally announced under the name "Journey Beyond The Stars." Clarke wrote in his behind-the-scenes book "The Lost Worlds Of 2001" that they also considered "Universe," "Tunnel To The Stars" and "Planetfall" before landing on the eventual winner.

2. Kubrick Delivered The Film Sixteen Months Over Schedule, Having Nearly Doubled The Budget
Kubrick's last film, "Eyes Wide Shut," was a famously endless shoot, but this was not exactly something new. The famous perfectionist often went massively over budget and schedule, and particularly so on "2001: A Space Odyssey:" he went over the $6 million budget by $4.5 million (roughly equivalent to $25 million today), and arrived sixteen months late. Which should be a comfort to Andrew Stanton, if nothing else.

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More: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick

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  • Cos | May 6, 2012 3:33 AMReply

    Can't be too critical of Kael. As Sidney Pollack said in the documentary "Kubrick A Life in Pictures", all of Kubrick's films opened to mixed reviews; then 10 years later they're all classics. Woody Allen says in the same doco that it took him 3 viewings to realise 2001 was a masterpiece.

  • Larry Russo | April 6, 2012 3:46 PMReply

    Even the controls and displays in 2001 (on Discovery) were visionary. As flat screen monitors didn't yet exist, they used rear projection film to simulate futuristic computer displays (rather than using rounded tv tubes, insert fx shots or static graphic displays). For her to use the word "unimaginative" in describing this movie, Pauline Kael only proved herself shamefully useless.

  • walt milos | April 6, 2012 2:25 PMReply

    H.A.L was chosen as the name for the Computer because each letter was one letter away from I.B.M!

  • Cos | May 6, 2012 3:29 AM

    Arthur C Clarke always denied this; he claimed HAL was short for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer

  • Huffy | April 3, 2012 5:02 AMReply

    Does anyone know how Kubrick managed to secure basically complete creative freedom so early in his career? I know it wasn't unusual in the 70's but Kubrick had final cut all the way back in the early 60's, when Hollywood was still very much studio-driven. To deliver a film that late and that over-budget, especially a film as unconventional and experimental as 2001, would have been a death sentence to most careers. So how did Kubrick become so trusted?

  • Kimar | April 2, 2013 2:39 PM

    Watch Room 237 for one theory... :)

  • Mark | April 3, 2012 9:48 PM


    Kubrick had taken over the failing, huge studio film Spartacus and saved it. He then made the relatively modestly budgeted (and brilliant) film Dr. Strangelove, which was both a critical and financial success. Then, rather shrewdly, Kubrick parlayed this celebrated status into a green light on 2001. I believe he was very specific in his demands for independence. We're all lucky Kubrick wss so shrewd ...and capable.

  • Miles | April 2, 2012 8:00 PMReply

    Seventeen Minutes Of Footage - hope we get to see this someday.

  • gary meyer | May 27, 2013 8:28 PM

    I always understood that Kubrick watched the film with paying audiences during the first week in New York and made the cuts because he didn't like the way it was playing. And supposedly his contract with MGM stated that the cut scenes were never to be shown again, thus no reissues or future formats with an "uncut version." What you see now is the "Director's Cut."

    Kubrick and associates reportedly watched each print before it was shipped to theaters to make certain they had no flaws. Of course as they kept playing they got torn, scratched and tattered making it a painful experience to watch the film that way. During the 1970s-1990s I programmed many rep cinemas at Landmark and this became an issue. One night a friend invited me to dinner and another guest was Kubrick's lawyer who suggested I write the director and send it to him to forward it. In February, 1981 I wrote Stanley Kubrick about both the print situation on 2001 and the fact that Warner Brothers refused to take bookings on BARRY LYNDON. Soon I got my letter back with hand-written notes from Kubrick making suggestions that resulted in success on both fronts.

  • Terry | April 2, 2012 4:44 PMReply

    The only major critic at the time who came out swinging for the film was Penelope Gilliatt, Pauline Kael's cotenant for many years at The New Yorker. Gilliatt, as always, was prescient whereas Kael wanted nothing to do with the film, couldn't understand it, and went behind Gilliatt's back to complain to others regarding Gilliatt's review. Thank the gods that Gilliatt was there, since Kael had an appetite only for junk and could not understand films of any complexity. Kael was the junk queen at the New Yorker, whereas Gilliatt got to the core of films' deepest meanings, something Kael couldn't have done if her life depended on it.

  • a | April 2, 2012 4:38 PMReply

    Well, Pauline Kael disliked a lot of generally acclaimed films. Polarizing is a better word for the critical reaction, and a good modern analogy would be, well... The Tree of Life.

  • Terry | April 12, 2012 5:48 PM

    NO, I do not believe that Bonnie and Clyde was a great film, and if you read the first review of the film in The New Yorker, Penelope Gilliatt got to the core of the film's successes and failures far better that Pauline Kael did in her hyperbolic, long, long, overly long, response. There are flaws in the film, and Kael preferred to write about the film's future influence rather than those flaws. As for its influence, what movie today has an earlier source of influence in Bonnie and Clyde? The Tree of Life was more like a Tarkovsky meditation than an action film. Kael was simply biased against films that required thinking. She was a pure sensualist who had no interest in thoughtful film making, experimental film making, next to no interest in documentaries, and on and on. As time goes on, Kael's over-the-top hyperbole makes for almost comic rereading of her work. Gilliatt's criticism just stands higher and higher in comparison.

  • Thomasi | April 4, 2012 3:49 PM

    Sorry, that was meant to be a reply to Terry, above.

  • Thomasi | April 4, 2012 3:48 PM

    "Bonnie and Clyde" is junk?

  • Gian | April 2, 2012 12:36 PMReply

    Thanks for this. I had the film in my Netflix queue and had been planning to rewatch at some point so I now have a great excuse. I actually live 3 blocks from the Uptown here in DC and I supposed I could even head to the coffee shop across the street from there and at least recreate the geographic experience! LOL.

  • Nik Grape | April 2, 2012 12:06 PMReply

    Forget just the genre, this is one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time, period.

  • Dave | April 5, 2012 3:53 PM

    Agreed. I've seen 2001 many times and I'm always amazed at how well it stands up. The special effects, the sets, the story are all absolutely visionary. Small case in point. I watched it a few weeks ago and during Dr. Floyd's voyage to the moon a stewardess (ok, flight attendant but it was released in '68) is watching a wrestling match on a wide screen monitor. That's right, HDTV in 1968!

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