O’Brien, Robert


O’Brien, Robert
   Robert O’Brien became president of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in 1962 and was in office while STANLEY KUBRICK was making 2001. He had a deep respect for great directors, and he clearly thought Kubrick belonged to that class. Nevertheless, his advisers cautioned him against giving Kubrick the green light on an expensive SCIENCE FICTION movie, since king-size spectacles were going out of fashion at the time, as evidenced by the box office failure of epic movies like Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). Still, O’Brien had faith in Kubrick, and he felt that 2001 could use up some of the overhead at MGM’s underused Boreham Wood Studios in England, where Kubrick planned to shoot the picture.
   O’Brien supported Kubrick throughout the production period, as when Kubrick decided to jettison ALEX NORTH’s score for the film in favor of using existing classical music for the underscore. In March 1968 O’Brien attended a preview of the film in Washington, D. C. , prior to the New York premiere on April 1. The end of the picture was greeted with scattered applause, largely from the MGM brass who were present. At the official premiere in New York on April 1, the picture fared no better.
   The audience on this occasion, which included several New York critics, was not prepared for the unprecedented visual experience to which they were treated. So 2001 took some time to build an audience and hence the box office growth was slow. The film opened to indifferent, even hostile reviews, which subsequent critical opinion completely overwhelmed. But that was no consolation to O’Brien during the weeks when it was not performing well at the box office. Moreover, some other MGM releases had not done well in 1968 either, such as The Shoes of the Fisherman, a lackluster religious epic about the papacy. O’Brien was fired at the beginning of 1969 and replaced by Louis Polk, an executive who came to MGM with experience in the cereal industry.
   Kubrick had nothing but praise for O’Brien, as he said to MICHEL CIMENT: “He trusted my judgment. He is a wonderful man, and one of the very few bosses able to inspire genuine loyalty and affection from his filmmakers. ”
   References
   ■ Ciment, Michel, Kubrick, rev. ed. (New York: Faber and Faber, 2001).

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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