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(Credit: MGM)


Why Stanley Kubrick destroyed all the '2001: A Space Odyssey' props

American auteur Stanley Kubrick is undoubtedly one of the most influential figures in 20th-century cinema. The creator of several masterpieces including 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange among others, Kubrick’s work has inspired some of the most prominent filmmakers of our time like Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan. The cinematic magic constructed by his genius remains completely intact even after all these years.

Although every single addition to his illustrious filmography has sparked extensive discourse, it is generally agreed that Kubrick’s greatest cinematic achievement is his 1968 sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is the perfect voyeuristic experience that takes us along on a journey to the origins of our consciousness, tracing a winding path from our historical ancestors to the next step in the evolutionary ladder: post-humanism.

While describing the philosophical and spiritual elements embedded in the subtext of his work, Kubrick commented: “2001 is basically a visual, nonverbal experience. It avoids intellectual verbalisation and reaches the viewer’s subconscious in a way that is essentially poetic and philosophic. The film thus becomes a subjective experience which hits the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does, or painting.”

For a project that is as ambitious as 2001, it is only natural that the production process would be long and arduous. Innovative production, as well as photography techniques, had to be pioneered in order to make the special effects believable. The film’s star Keir Dullea later revealed: “Not one foot of this film was made with computer-generated special effects. Everything you see in this film or saw in this film was done physically or chemically, one way or the other.”

In the process, many memorable props were created to sustain the beautiful composition of the mise-en-scène. These props and materials were so unique that they pushed Stanley Kubrick to give an unusual order following the close of production.

Kubrick is known for his on-set quirks, but this one is still a little odd. The director asked his team to destroy all of the props after the project was complete. It might seem like a strange decision at first but Kubrick had deeper fears about how his genius would be exploited by scavengers looking for quick profits.

Kubrick’s fears were founded in reality because the props of the 1956 sci-fi film Forbidden Planet were also re-used in a similar fashion. As a consequence, Kubrick commanded his crew to destroy everything: ranging from props and blueprints to unseen footage as well as miniatures. Some of these artefacts survived and are now auctioned as highly expensive memorabilia.

One such example is a model of a shuttle from the film which sold for a staggering price of $344,000 in 2015. The auction house claimed that “it’s one of the few props left from the 1968 film” and it’s so expensive because “Stanley Kubrick reportedly destroyed almost all of the props, sets, models, and costumes so that they could not be used in other productions.”