News Column

'2001: A Space Odyssey' star Keir Dullea lands at Lyric Hall in New Haven

November 21, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 21--NEW HAVEN -- Forty-five years ago, director Stanley Kubrick gave the world "2001: A Space Odyssey." The film became so iconic that people remember exactly where they saw it (Exeter Theater, Boston, for me), but some are probably still discussing just exactly what it all meant.

You might get some answers from as close to the source as possible when actor Keir Dullea, who played scientist/mission pilot David Bowman, appears at a special benefit screening of the iconic film and Q&A at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Lyric Hall, 827 Whalley Ave. (tickets $20, 203-393-0733).

Producer Bernie Kaufman of Woodbridge and Dullea have been friends for years, and when Lyric Hall owner John Cavaliere approached him about ideas for a fundraiser for new seats for the 100-year-old gem, he said, "Let me talk to Keir. He's an old friend, and I remembered that he once came to Bow Tie Cinemas to introduce '2001' and stayed afterward and signed autographs."

Dullea, 77, who lives in Fairfield, said sure. Film historian and author Foster Hirsch, who has interviewed Dullea several times, will handle the Q&A. There's a sold-out dinner and silent auction afterward in a private home, which Dullea and his wife, Tony Award-nominated actress Mia Dillon ("Crimes of the Heart"), will attend.

Dullea is the 1968 film's biggest booster -- as if it needed any more notoriety.

He's been appearing at screenings and ComicCon-type conventions and signings since 1998, when his co-star Gary Lockwood (Dr. Frank Poole) urged him to join him for a 30th anniversary event.

It's been nothing but a labor of love, he says by phone from his home.

What's the first question fans ask?

"I could tell you right off the bat that it's, 'What was it like to work with Stanley Kubrick?' My short answer is it doesn't get better than that. It was a wonderful experience. He was the most prepared director I ever worked with. A bit anal, you might say, but that's all right.

"He only averaged about four films a decade, if that. That's because he usually took two years or so to prepare for them.

"The second most-asked question is, 'What does the ending mean?'" he says with a laugh.

Dullea says he's always "amazed" at the number of young people who come to the functions, and notes that "it's Tom Hanks' favorite film of all time."

In a recent appearance with Lockwood on actor Alec Baldwin's talk show, Dullea says Baldwin asked if he would record his voicemail message on his iPhone.

"So I did. Guess what it was? 'Open the pod bay doors, HAL.'"

As for that ending, Dullea reminds that many of Kubrick's films are similarly open to interpretation. His personal favorite is Kubrick's "Paths of Glory," starring Kirk Douglas (1957).

"Kubrick never gave you a pat plot windup in his movies. And his visuals were extraordinary. The fact that '2001' has no computer-generated special effects, that it was all done physically, but never with a computer, is amazing."

Dullea calls the film's opening Dawn of Man segment when the ape tosses the bone into the air, and it morphs into a space vehicle," "one of the greatest jump cuts in film history ..."

Dullea, whose other notable films include "The Hoodlum Priest," "David & Lisa," "Bunny Lake Is Missing," says his first love is theater, calling his recent turn as Big Daddy in "Cat on a Hot Tim Roof -- 30 years after playing Brick on Broadway -- with his wife as Big Momma at Provincetown's Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, "the peak of my acting career."

Partly, it was because he says, "If I were a casting director, Keir Dullea would not be at the top of the list, but I never felt a role take me over as much. ... "

But Dullea is fine with the fact that most fans associate him with "2001," saying, "If one can only be remembered for one film, one can do a lot worse."

Contact Donna Doherty at 203-789-5672.

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(c)2013 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.)

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