When Keir Dullea’s obituary appears, it will read: “He was the man behind the space helmet in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.'”
That’s not me talking. That’s the star himself. He knows that despite a film, stage and TV career spanning 6 decades, he will always be remembered for the epic 1968 film directed by Stanley Kubrick.
“2001” remains a science fiction masterpiece, nearly 50 years later. On Saturday, March 25 (4 p.m., Town Hall), the Westport Cinema Initiative hosts a showing. Immediately afterward, there’s a talkback — with Dullea himself.
He’s done this sort of thing all over the world. But this is a homecoming of sorts. Dullea is a longtime Fairfield resident. In 1983 he helped found the Theater Artists Workshop here.
Dullea says Dr. David Bowman was not his greatest role (that would be “David and Lisa”). Still, he notes, “I’m very proud of it. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to ‘Citizen Kane.'”
In fact, he adds, “2001” is the “Citizen Kane” of its era. Those two are among the most studied movies in film schools everywhere.
At the talkback later this month, Dullea may be asked what it was like working with Kubrick. It’s something audiences everywhere want to know. Despite the director’s temperamental reputation, the actor said he was “kind, quiet, and always open to suggestions.”
Dullea was “in awe” during filming. Though it was already his 8th feature, he was not yet 30 when production began. He never even had to audition: Kubrick liked what he saw in “Bunny Lake is Missing,” and sought him out.
The director did not know that Dullea had grown up as a science fiction fan — and read Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Sentinel” (upon which the film was based) as a teenager.
The film was long on music and special effects, short on dialogue. But after all these years, Dullea still remembers a long speech he delivered to mission control. It was filled with “technical gobbledygook” — but, like “2001” itself, it remain embedded in his (and his fans’) minds half a century later.
So why does “2001” stand up, long after the actual, then-faraway year has come and gone?
“It was such a visual experience. And it covers so many aspects,” Dullea says. “The concept of evil. Existentialism. Technology. Artificial intelligence, extraterrestrial life, and wonder about what the far future holds for us. The evolution from caveman to contemporary man, and then the fetus showing what may be the next step.
“But in the end, there are still questions. Everything is not tied together in a neat bundle.”
Those themes still resonate with audiences today. Dullea regularly gets emails and autograph requests from people born long after the film was made.
On March 25, he looks forward to seeing fans of all ages here in Westport. Even those born after 2001.
(“2001: A Space Odyssey” will be shown on Saturday, March 25, 4 p.m. at Town Hall. Tickets are $10 general admission, $8 for charter members; they’ll be available soon at www.westportcinema.org. Sponsors include the Westport Cinema Initiative, Lee Rawiszer and Paradigm Financial Partners.)