I was recently introduced to the actor and Producer Leon Vitali. He is probably best known for his heart wrenching performance as Lord Bullingdon in Stanley Kubrick’s ”Barry Lyndon.”
Leon formed a strong relationship with Kubrick during the course of that production and after they wrapped, even though he went away to continue his acting career in other films, he stayed in touch with his friend and mentor. He expressed an interest in working with Stanley behind the camera as opposed to onscreen and 5 years later, Kubrick sent him a copy of Stephen King’s novel “The Shining” and asked him what he thought of it.
It was after this that Leon began a career as Stanley Kubrick’s assistant that lasted for the rest of the filmmaker’s life.
What I most enjoyed about talking to Leon was how he speaks of Kubrick in completely human terms, without the flourish of the mythology that continuously circles the stories told of this much-adored Director.
Leon has a reverence for Kubrick without a mystification.
I stood with him quietly and let him talk. He has a calming presence and little discernible ego about the quite remarkable life he has lead. On our second meeting, I thought to myself that I could understand why Kubrick would want him around.
As we were leaving the LACMA exhibit, which had been empty that morning except for us, we ran into a small group of new people that had not been there earlier. I had my camera on and felt like I recognized this man but could not figure out why. I felt something tangible pass between him and Leon and then saw their visibly emotional reactions upon introduction.
It was the actor Joe Turkel and these two had not seen each other since Joe played Lloyd the Bartender in The Shining, over 30 years ago.
I did not want to interrupt the moment between them but I also didn’t want to let them walk away without taking at least one picture…so I took one.
Just this one.
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