(your voice) "...sends chills up my spine!"
...Dan Richter, "Moonwatcher" of 2001, after hearing my impressions of HAL 9000 and John Lennon

HAL 9000 talks live with Kier Dullea at 2001 40th

      On October 12th of '08, I had the honor of "trance-channeling" HAL 9000 while hosting the special 40th anniversary event for 2001: A Space Odyssey, as part of the Jules Verne Festival's Extraordinaire.

      I sat with microphone at hand, at a comfortable table in the Edison in Los Angeles -where the event was happening- sucking away on lemons to keep the voice in the right shape. HAL 9000 is hard to imitate well... because HAL's voice is quiet, one must be close to the microphone, and therefore, mouth noise is a risk. Lemons help.

     I looked off into the distance, at a stage tastefully outfitted with two Djinn chairs, a Djinn two-seater -all in space station red, of course- and my very own seven foot tall Monolith, that had itself seen action at the Trona Pinnacles on January 1st, 2001.

      After doing numerous announcements in what the script ironically referred to as the VOG ("Voice of God"!), I steeled myself for my impression of Douglas Rain's HAL... a performance that changed computer voices in Science Fiction movies forever. To me, Rain's characterization introduced a different kind of stoicism- less like the hackneyed "take me to your leader" sound, more like that of a psychiatrist talking a patient off the ledge, or a priest taking confession.

      Keir Dullea mounted the stage, looking great after 40 years. In fact, he looked more ready for the Blue Flight Suit than the Quilted Bathrobe. The Red Eye appeared on the screens above, and it was time. I hid behind my very best Kubrickian coldness- and whether people could tell how nervous I was, I don't anyone can truthfully answer. I / HAL began... "Good evening, Dave. Nice to see you again."

      Now understand, he did not have the advantage of a script in front of him, and he was supposed to correct me and say, "Call me Keir" -which he did, but not until accidentally calling ME Dave! HAL replied something like: "I see things haven't changed... you still flub your lines." Keir laughed. I knew I'd like this guy.

      We chatted a bit, then HAL introduced Vivian Kubrick, daughter of The Master. Vivian was as striking as she was intelligent, playing with her long, lovely locks as Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies appeared, introduced Dan Richter to the stage, and began an evening of insightful discussion about Kubrick and Clarke and their amazing creation.

      One of my favorite moments about Dan Richter, is Dullea's comments about his favorite scene from the film: when Moonwatcher stops, looks, and "the penny falls", as Keir put it. Suddenly, Moonwatcher "gets it". Dan replied by stating he knew what lens Kubrick was using. Playing to that lens and knowing how big his head was going to be on the screen, Richter tried for the subtlest expression possible.

      Later, Malcolm McDowell appeared and helped Keir present the Legendaire Award to Vivian on behalf of her late Dad. Vivian pointed out her dad was not breaking tradition by not being there to receive his award, and Malcolm was a hoot, saying "there, you can use this as a doorstop, Vivian".

      Robert Spellman, a fellow member of the “2001: a Space Odyssey” group (if you'd like to join, see the banner at the bottom of this page) and a Telescope Operator at Griffith Observatory, has some great videos of the event, at the bottom of his page located HERE.

      ...in which the guests really drilled into the details of Stanley's creative process. Check out, especially, Malcolm McDowell's comments about Stanley!

      After seeing the 35 millimeter print -still managing to see things in it I haven't noticed before- I returned to the Edison to pick up my Monolith, and felt something at my elbow. I turned, and it was Keir! He complemented me on my HAL, and asked if he could introduce me to Vivian. I was still disoriented... first I see this guy in person before the film, then I see him survive a space mission, grow old, die, get resurrected, now I'm seeing him in person again! What could I do, say "Hey, didn't I just see you in orbit?" I could just imagine him replying, "Yeah, I get that all the time". So I kept my mouth shut and followed him to where Vivian was hanging out.

      Vivian also had nice things to say about the HAL impression, and she and Keir were just in general approachable and easy to talk with.

      Funny how, after such a transcendent film, something so relatively minor as meeting famous people is still exciting. Perhaps because this film was no mere "blockbuster" and these people were no mere "stars", rather they were participants in a Cosmic Vision, and they know it.

      Dennis Gonzales and I talked with Vivian about the real Stanley Kubrick vs. our image of him. No, he didn't cultivate an air of mystery to get more from his actors, she said. "That's absolute rubbish!" He did his job, they did theirs. She painted a picture of a straightforward craftsman.

      Every so often during our conversations, it would hit me all over again- for one night, I was HAL 9000 for these people! Lest I regress into "gooey fan mode" about this, I realized Vivian and Keir didn't seem in a separate world from the rest of us after all. We were all beneficiaries of Kubrick and Clarke's creation, tiny compared to that vast edifice. And their "Shaggy God Story" was itself tiny compared to the vast span of time and space the film and book discussed... we are all common participants in this voyage.

      That's how Keir, Vivian, Dan, and Malcolm made us all feel that night.

      They are truly one of us.


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