"Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece”
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
“I defy any pretty girl who is rocketed to stardom in a sex nymphette role to stay on a level path. Lolita exposed me to temptations no girl of that age should undergo. From the time I was about 16, I’d go totally wacko, totally crazy, for about three months at a time, then go into such deep depressions that I wouldn’t even leave the house to go to the grocery store.
I hate the spotlight, I hate people looking at me, I don’t like strangers asking me questions. I like to be left alone. I enjoy my security, my safeness with a private life. I was once on a television show, a talk show. My brother had just died two days before that. The interviewer opens his show by saying – and now I was 16 years old – he said, ‘Did your brother kill himself because you played Lolita?’ I didn’t say a thing. I got up and I walked off. I couldn’t even dignify that. I had no words. That’s typical of the reason that I can’t be a movie star. I never could.
Am I going to be Lolita when I’m 50? Much as I appreciated Lolita in her day, I’d like to leave her now.”
–Sue Lyon, after her early retirement from films (photo via Chicago Sun-Times, 1962)
On the Lolita set, Stanley Kubrick cranes his neck behind Sue Lyon’s back to watch James Mason’s performance from the same angle as the camera (1961, via)
“The perfect novel from which to make a movie is, I think, not the novel of action but, on the contrary, the novel which is mainly concerned with the inner life of its characters. It will give the adaptor an absolute compass bearing, as it were, on what a character is thinking or feeling at any given moment of the story. And from this he can invent action which will be an objective correlative of the book’s psychological content, will accurately dramatise this in an implicit, off-the-nose way without resorting to having the actors deliver literal statements of meaning.
…People have asked me how it is possible to make a film out of Lolita when so much of the quality of the book depends on Nabokov’s prose style. But to take the prose style as any more than just a part of a great book is simply misunderstanding just what a great book is. Of course, the quality of the writing is one of the elements that make a novel great. But this quality is a result of the quality of the writer’s obsession with his subject, with a theme and a concept and a view of life and an understanding of character.
Style is what an artist uses to fascinate the beholder in order to convey to him his feelings and emotions and thoughts. These are what have to be dramatised, not the style. The dramatising has to find a style of its own, as it will do if it really grasps the content.”
-excerpted from Kubrick’s essay “Words and Movies” (Sight & Sound, 1960-61)