Movies | October 10, 2017 5:00 am

What It Was Actually Like to Work for Film Genius Stanley Kubrick

A new documentary follows the career of Leon Vitali, Kubrick's right-hand man.

Film subject Leon Vitali
Film subject Leon Vitali attends the photo call for "Filmworker" during Hamptons International Film Festival 2017 - Day Four on October 8, 2017 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Hamptons International Film Festival)

An intimate new documentary by Tony Zierra portrays the life and career of Leon Vitali, Stanley Kubrick’s right-hand man.

Filmworker, which debuts at the New York Film Festival on Tuesday, is a “study of both selfless devotion and self-destructive mania,” writes The Daily Beastas well as being a “much-deserved celebration of a true artist-behind-the-artist.”

Vitali told The Daily Beast that balance was not a word that came into his vocabulary frequently, whether it was working with Kubrick or somewhere else.

“I’m just one of those people who gets quite emotional once they got locked into something. And some things take on proportions of life and death,” he said, according to The Daily Beast. 

Vitali did say it was “a little bit weird” to watch himself on screen, but he said that the film did not exaggerate or sensationalize how “fraught or tense it could be. Or how time intensive,” writes The Daily Beast. 

Vitali and Kubrick’s relationship began on the set of Barry Lydon, a 1975 period piece. Vitali was a trained Shakespearean actor, and was enjoying significant success on the stage and screen, reports The Daily Beast. While on that set, Vitali asked Kubrick if he could work alongside the filmmaker in the future. This set in motion Vitali becoming Kubrick’s go-to guy. In clips from The Shining, you can see Vitali running alongside Danny Lloyd, coaching the young actor, writes The Daily Beast. Vitali took notes, created marketing materials, color-coded prints, cast roles, rehearsed with stars, and acted himself, according to The Daily Beast. 

The intensity of the work as well as the round-the-clock toil of always being on call, took an immense toll on Vitali’s health, writes The Daily Beast, and led to multiple hospitalizations and severe weight loss.

Zierra had a hard time convincing Vitali to participate in the film, writes The Daily Beast. His way in? Zierra offered to clean Vitali’s house, put away all his stuff, empty all his boxes, etc. So for the next three years, Zierra interviewed Vitali, as well as former colleagues.

Watch a 2011 interview with Vitalia on his relationship with Kubrick below.