Interview: Director Tony Zierra Talks About His Stanley Kubrick Documentary FILMWORKER – Part 2

This is second part of Movies In Focus‘ interview with Tony Zierra, the director behind the excellent Stanley Kubrick/Leon Vitali documentary, Filmworker (read part one of the interview). This time around Zierra talks about the origins of the project and how it was born out of a soon-to-be released documentary about Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut.

What made you decide to make a documentary on Kubrick ti begin with?

It was the creative process and the puzzle of Eyes Wide Shut. I followed that movie and researched it for years and years and I wanted to know what happened on that film, specifically. I talked to a lot of people on the film and I wanted to really know if we have a mess or a masterpiece in our hands. Some people have said that he lost it, and couldn’t control the film and others have said its an incredible film – I wanted to really know the truth behind it, of what really made him do it because he had the material for over 30 years, he thought about it a lot. What was it about it that appealed to him and what was it that happened on the set?

I feel that it’s a Kubrick film that people haven’t seen yet, fully. Across Europe it’s revered and loved by so many people but it’s going to do what Barry Lyndon did, all the film in the beginning got shot down by the critics and then they became iconic. 

I think it’s one of his best  – I put it ahead of Full Metal Jacket. 

I wasn’t going to say anything, but I agree with you 100 percent. I agree with you 100 percent! I think there were a lot of things happened on it, the mystery in a way – I don’t mean mystery like the moon landing and all that crap. Lee Ermey said, Tom and Nicole, according to Lee, that Tom and Nicole destroyed the film for him because they were two big stars. I wanted to get down to the truth – was he really done, because some people said he wasn’t. 

The other documentary, is the focal point going to be Eyes Wide Shut?

Yeah. It’s titled SK13  – because it’s Kubrick’s 13 movie. I start in Vienna 1900 with the original material from Arthur Schnitzler and just keep chasing it. Leon would sometimes would go into areas that would have nothing to do with his story and I’d be like, ‘that’s going in the other one’. it was an intensive shoot in a way because you were getting material constantly that went here or there. It was quite a ride. 

I have to tell you, there were a lot of surprises with regards to Eyes Wide Shut. I was pretty surprised actually. Outside from the fact that i love the film I was surprised to find certain things about it and to see the level of freaking detail is shocking – shocking for a 70 year old man – that he’s paying attention t every little, tiny, tiny detail. And it wasn’t what really what people said. 

Eyes Wide Shut was the first Kubrick film of the internet age – the whispers probably affected its reputation before it even came out. 

That’s so interesting – yes, yes. Imagine if he was here now with the internet. 

Leon was a very charismatic man – he’s got a bit of a Mick Jagger vibe about him.  

Absolutely. That’s what they used to call him when he was younger, because of the lips and all that. He did have that look.

Leon had a lot of free reign with casting in The Shining and Full Metal Jacket. 

I think that was the brilliance of Kubrick. He saw that he had an assistant that was also a trained Shakespearian actor and talented and it was just a matter of training him further to managing the lab and film stock processing and these other areas. Then bingo – you have the perfect assistant who can handle anything. Leon brought a lot to the table, and Stanley knew that. 

Leon talks about that Full Metal Jacket was the turning point and that’s when Stanley changed. What was it about that film changed him. 

Leon said it was the first time that he didn’t feel that he had to worry about Leon’s sensitivities anymore. I always look at The Shining as the courtship in a way and once Full Metal Jacket started  – it was ‘you’re hear and you’re going to do it right’. 

What’s Leon actually doing now?

Since the film came out, because you know, it premiered last year at Cannes. Once it started to get coverage and get out there, it’s almost like he’s being honoured and acknowledged and people are seeing that he’s done so much. As you saw in the final card, which Warner and the estate agreed for me to put on there, is that he’s just worked on 2001 in 4k and he’s going to be working on the rest of the material, because they’re always going to be upgrading. He’s really officially involved now. 

I went to the estate and showed the film to Christiane Kubrick and Jan Harlan and at the house and that was quite moving for me being another crazy Kubrick fan. 

Read the Movies In Focus review of Filmworker