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The Stanley Kubrick film that was disrupted by a terrorist threat


When it comes to the greatest films of the classic Stanley Kubrick, often it is the same titles that are brought up, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. Though lovers of the iconic director will know there is so much more to his back-catalogue than his most famous films, with projects such as Eyes Wide Shut, Paths of Glory and particularly Barry Lyndon that remain cornerstones of the director’s career. 

Perhaps his most visually stunning film, Barry Lyndon is often praised as being one of the most cinematic of all the director’s films. Originally intended as a biopic of the great French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte, the film instead tells the story of an 18th-century rogue who assumes the passion of an aristocrat after winning the heart of his widow. As one of Stanley Kubrick’s most powerful movies, Barry Lyndon is a dark and deeply cynical intellectual conversation, and certainly one of the director’s most subtextually rich works. 

Just like many of Stanley Kubrick’s productions, the director spent a substantial amount of time in the planning phase with principal photography lasting 300 days from 1973-1974. Filming in and around Dublin, Ireland during the violent and intense national Troubles that started in 1968, Kubrick and his team experienced multiple incidents of unrest during their time in the country. 

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Whilst shooting in Dublin City’s Phoenix Park on January 30th, 1974, the production was forced to cancel after 14 bomb threats were reported in the area. Worse still, according to Jan Harlan, the executive producer, one day Kubrick was called up by an alleged member of the IRA who ordered the director to leave the country within 24 hours, resulting in the filmmaker and his crew leaving in 12. 

As Harlan recalls to The Independent, “Whether the threat was a hoax or it was real, almost doesn’t matter,” he said, before adding: “Stanley was not willing to take the risk. He was threatened, and he packed his bag and went home”.

Elaborating, the producer explained, “The whole crew went with him. Within 48 hours, we were all back in the southwest of England. Luckily we had really what we needed: one or two shots we would have done in Dublin Castle, we then transferred to a stately home in England. But the bulk of the film was made in Ireland”. 

Ever superstitious, it is no surprise Kubrick fled the country so quickly, particularly as he has shown similar fears on the sets of many of his other films. This included the director’s crippling fear of flying that saw the 1987 Vietnam war film Full Metal Jacket being shot in the Norfolk Broads among other locations in the English countryside. 

In a conversation with Stanley Kubrick’s daughter, Katharina Kubrick Hobbs, she discussed her father’s superstitions, noting, “I think he believed in something, if you understand my meaning. He was a bit of a fatalist actually, but he was also very superstitious. Truly a mixture of nature and nurture. I don’t know exactly what he believed, he probably would have said that no-one can really ever know for sure”.

Take a look at the trailer for Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, Barry Lyndon, below.

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