Leon Vitali, the “Barry Lyndon” actor who became one of Stanley Kubrick’s closest associates, has died. He was 74 years old.
Vitali died Friday in Los Angeles, his family told the Associated Press on Sunday.
While Vitali has often been described as Kubrick’s assistant, Tony Zierra’s 2017 documentary “Filmworker” shed light on Vitali’s enormous and largely unknown contributions to the work of one of cinema’s greatest figures from “The Shining”. ” to “Eyes Wide Shut”. He did everything from casting and training actors to overseeing restorations. Vitali even installed a video monitor so that Kubrick could keep an eye on his dying cat.
Matthew Modine, who starred in Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” tweeted his condolences on Sunday.
“There are people we know who have a profound impact on our lives. Leon Vitali was one of those people in mine,” Modine wrote. “An artist in every aspect of his life. A loving father and friend to many. A kind, generous and forgiving nature. He exemplified and personified grace.”
Filmmaker Lee Unkrich also tweeted that he was “completely heartbroken to learn of Leon Vitali’s death. He helped me (asterisk) enormously (asterisk) with my book Shining and I’m devastated that he doesn’t see it. He was a sweet man, kind, humble and generous and a vital part of the Stanley Kubrick team.”
Before meeting Kubrick, Vitali was a rising actor in England, appearing in a number of British television shows including “Softly, Softly”, “Follyfoot”, “Z Cars” and “Notorious Woman”. Then, in 1974, he got his biggest break, when he was cast in “Barry Lyndon” as Lord Bullingdon, the son-in-law of Ryan O’Neal’s title character.
Vitali was so fascinated by Kubrick and his processes that he made an unusual decision: he gave up acting and devoted himself entirely to the famously demanding director for more than two decades. His next Kubrick credit was as “the director’s personal assistant” on “The Shining,” though that’s only part of the story – Vitali helped cast 4-year-old Danny Lloyd to play Danny Torrance and Louise and Lisa Burns as the creepy Grady Twins (citing Diane Arbus as inspiration).
“I made a truly radical change in my life and that’s when I said, ‘I’m more interested in this’ than acting,” Vitali told The Associated Press in 2017. “That’s the biggest conscious decision. I already did it. There were some sacrifices, but there were also gains.”
After Kubrick’s death in 1999, Vitali oversaw the restoration of many of Kubrick’s films. He received 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, Zierra said that he and many Kubrick-obsessed fans knew Vitali for his performances in “Barry Lyndon” and “Eyes Wide Shut,” in which he played Red Cloak, and as a key member of Kubrick’s inner circle. . But when they finally met Vitali to make the film, they were impressed by “his kindness, humility and the fascinating scope of his story”.
Zierra is working on a director’s cut of “Filmworker” that will include new footage that he and Vitali wanted in the film but couldn’t make in time for its 2017 Cannes premiere.