The final scene in A Clockwork Orange, known as the “Ascot fantasy” sees a young woman writhe in ecstasy on top of Malcolm McDowell. Prior to the filming of the scene, director Stanley Kubrick was introduced to the girl in her trailer. “Could you, erm, drop your robe,” he asked. She did. Kubrick walked out. “I thought she was blonde,” he said to his crew. “I can fix this,” piped up a make-up artist. And so filming was delayed while the pubic hair of an actress was bleached. In Kubrick films, every detail was important.
This pathological attention to detail is part of the reason his legacy is so enduring, his influence so ubiquitous, not just among film makers but in wider popular culture. Every item on his sets was scrutinised and agonised over. Kubrick had a vision, and woe betide anyone who tried to keep him from realising it.
The legacy of Kubrick’s career is the focus of a new exhibition at Somerset House, featuring works from top artists responding to a film, scene, character or theme from the Kubrick archives. Both historical and new works will be on display by artists and musicians including Doug Aitken, Gavin Turk, Haroon Mirza and Anish Kapoor, Iain Forsyth and a piece by Jane Pollard featuring vocals by Jarvis Cocker and Beth Orton.
Turk’s submission is a take on the famous maze from Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, while Doug Aitken has made an eerie glowing phonebox reminiscent of the scene in Dr Strangelove where Mandrake attempts to make a collect call to the President. Installation artist Paul Fryer, meanwhile, has made a waxwork of Kubrick dressed as Jack Nicholson’s character in the Shining suspended in a freezer.