Barry Lyndon actor Leon Vitali, who became one of Stanley Kubrick’s closest friends, has died at the age of 74.
Itali died in Los Angeles on Friday, his family told the Associated Press.
Vitali has often been described as Kubrick’s assistant, but Tony Ziera’s 2017 documentary Filmworker is Vitali’s tribute to the work of one of cinema’s greatest figures, from The Shining to Eyes Wide Shut. It sheds light on a huge and little-known contribution.
He did everything from casting and coaching actors to overseeing restorations. Vitali even set up a video monitor so Kubrick could watch the dying cat.
“I am completely heartbroken to hear of the passing of Leon Vitali,” said filmmaker Lee Unkrich.
“He helped me a lot with my Shining book. He was a kind, kind, humble and generous man, and an important part of Stanley Kubrick’s team.”
Before meeting Kubrick, Vitali was a rising actor in England, appearing in several British TV shows including Sofley, Softly, Follyfoot, Z Cars and The Notorious Woman.
In 1974, he got his biggest break to date in Barry Lyndon when he was cast as Lord Bringdon, the son-in-law of Ryan O’Neill’s title character.
Vitali was so fascinated by Kubrick and his process that he made an unusual decision. He gave up acting and devoted himself entirely to demanding, high-profile directing for over two decades.
His next Kubrick credit was as “the director’s personal assistant” on The Shining, but that’s only part of the story: Vitali cast four-year-old Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance and Louise. , famous for helping Lisa Burns play the creepy Grady twins (citing Diane Arbus as an inspiration).
“I made one truly radical change in my life and that was when I said, ‘I’m more interested in that than acting,'” Vitali told the Associated Press in 2017.
“This is the biggest conscious decision I’ve ever made. It’s been a sacrifice, but it’s also been a gain.”
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After Kubrick’s death in 1999, Vitali oversaw the restoration of many of Kubrick’s films. He won a Cinema Audio Society Award for his work.
Vitali later worked with director Todd Field on his films Little Children and In the Bedroom.
Prior to making the documentary, Gierra revealed that he and many Kubrick-obsessed fans were impressed by his performance in Eyes Wide Shut with Barry Lyndon, where he played the red cloak, and the importance of Kubrick’s entourage. As a member, he said that he knew Vitali.
When they finally met Vitali to make the film, they were impressed by “his kindness, humility, and the fascinating scope of his stories.”
Gierra has been working on the director’s cut of the filmworker, which includes new footage he and Vitali wanted in the film, but was unable to finish it in time for its Cannes debut in 2017. did.