He had known Stanley Kubrick in 1973 on the set of Barry Lyndon , where he held a secondary role, but decisive. Leon Vitali has been for nearly twenty-five years the right arm of the great british filmmaker. It was he who interviewed more than 5,000 children to find the rare pearl (Danny Lloyd) who played Dany in The Shining . With his draws old beatnik skinny with blue eyes, his long hair and his black bonnet, Vitali, 70 spring, emerges a look improbable, straight out of Easy Rider . He followed the filming of the last films of Kubrick, The Shining (1980) Full Metal Jacket (1987), by way of Eyes Wide Shut (1999). As soon as he speaks of his mentor, his eyes shine…
LE FIGARO. – Stanley Kubrick said about The Shining that he wanted to make “the film with the most terrifying in the world”. What do you think?
Leon VITALI. – I remember that at the time, horror movies had a bad reputation. But if Stanley Kubrick has made The Shining , this is not in the optical to make a simple horror film. What he really wanted to do, this is a film that speaks of the spirit, which shows how something can change you drastically and make you tumble down the slope until the irreversible, up to the murderous madness. In reality, the character of Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson is already crazy from the beginning, it was just that he needed the hotel for this insanity manifests itself in all its facets. In this sense, this film is a genuine attempt to create a work of art, and I think it was successful. You know, the United States, The Shining spends all the time on tv! Each time that I fall over, I can’t help but to watch it whole! Because there’s nothing superficial in this film, each image is essential, almost sacred. Stanley mastered the art of simplification and clarity. There are no more clues to psychological hidden look in his films, the actors played very simply with Stanley, while remaining themselves.
Is it that Stanley Kubrick was looking for perfection?
he knew that He never achieves perfection, like all of us. But he was trying to get closer as much as possible. I often repeat this phrase of Paul Valery: “An artist never finishes his work, he abandons it”. That sums up Stanley. He knew that to achieve perfection, he would have had to continue to work on his movies all of his life.
When have you seen The Shining for the first time at the cinema?
I was living in Stockholm at the time. Early in the film, one could feel a growing tension in the public. It was a collective emotion and very special, a bit like in the theatre.
What is the main theme of this film?
Stanley Kubrick never wanted to give a particular meaning to his films, he just wanted people to think about what the story means for them. He was very pragmatic in that sense. However, in The Shining , I think that there is a central idea which is to look at a breakdown of human destruction inner progressive. It is a journey that goes deep into the heart of madness. From the time that Stanley takes it, and puts it in a form, everybody can find his / her own interpretation.
What do you think of the choice of Stanley Kubrick, to grant the role to Jack Nicholson?
When I learned that it was Jack Nicholson who played the role of Jack Torrance, I obviously understood the choice of Stanley: because Jack is also crazy in his own way!
Stanley Kubrick never came to Cannes, but his film was screened. You remember?
Stanley never went anywhere (laughs)… And then, we did not stop to work!!! He was obsessed by his work, even once the film is finished. He absolutely wanted to adjust carefully the translations for the foreign versions, manage the advertising, follow the critics.