Leon Vitale could have had a solid career working as an actor. Instead, the young actor would go on to become Stanley Kubrick’s right hand man. His story is told in Filmworker.
One role in a film can make a big difference in a career. In the case of Leon Vitali’s career, this couldn’t be more true. Director Stanley Kubrick selected the British television actor to play the part of Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon. The rest, as they say, is history. A rising talent at the time, Vitali could have gone on to a lengthy career in front of the camera. He was only in his 20s so there’s no telling what could have happened. Parts were rolling in left and right for on-screen and stage opportunities for the young actor.
Life had other plans for the actor who once wanted to work for Kubrick after seeing A Clockwork Orange. What Vitali ended up doing was work for Kubrick in whatever capacity he was needed, such as casting director, acting coach, location scouter, sound engineer, color corrector, and assistant director. With technology in recent years making it easier to restore older films, Vitali has spent time doing that of late. Most recently, he worked to help restore a digital print of Kubrick’s classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Given the various occupations that Vitali held while working under Kubrick, it was best to just call him a filmworker. It’s no different than the utility man in baseball filling in whatever position on a given day. Director Tony Zierra profiles the filmworker about the days in which he worked with Kubrick. The legendary director could be both obsessive and erratic to say the least. Some of the stories Vitali has from working with Kubrick are outright shocking. Other stories come off as funny.
In profiling the Kubrick’s right-hand man, Zierra has access to never-before-seen photos, videos, letters and notebooks in Vitali’s collection. Zierra also interviews actors, family, and members of the industry who have worked with both of them. This is one way to tie the two stories together.
When it comes to Hollywood documentaries, most of them tend to profile directors, actors, and the occasional film composer. Leon Vitali’s story is so unique that I’m surprised it wasn’t told yet–not even as a memoir! For the amount of time that he worked under Kubrick’s direction, there’s bound to be a written memoir under his sleeve.
A complex relationship between the two men, Filmworker offers a look at cinematic history that’s so rarely discussed with credit to Leon Vitali.
DIRECTOR: Tony Zierra
FEATURING: Leon Vitali, Stanley Kubrick, Ryan O’Neal, Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, Stellan Skarsgård, Daniel Lloyd, Marie Richardson, Pernilla August
Following the world premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Kino Lorber released Filmworker in theaters starting on May 11, 2018 with a theatrical expansion to follow.