When Stanley Kubrick almost moved to Australia

May 18, 2017

Associate Professor Mick Broderick

Associate Professor Mick Broderick researched Dr Strangelove for a decade

A Murdoch University researcher has discovered that legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was so concerned about the threat of nuclear war in the early 1960s, he planned to move his family to Perth, Australia.

Associate Professor Mick Broderick, from Murdoch’s School of Arts, said Kubrick had calculated that the capital of Western Australia would be the least likely location affected by fall out or prone to a Soviet attack.

Kubrick had established bank accounts, transferred funds, organised visas and even investigated film projects in anticipation of his move. However, the trip was ultimately cancelled when he discovered he would have to share a bathroom on the cruise ship that would take him down under.

The near miss emigration was uncovered by Professor Broderick as he researched and wrote his new book Reconstructing Strangelove: Inside Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Nightmare Comedy' about Kubrick’s war satire Dr Strangelove.

“Famous for not flying, Stanley had bought tickets for the ocean liner. But when he found out he would have to share a bathroom the trip was off!” Explained Professor Broderick.

“The idea of spending months at sea sharing toilet space with complete strangers was intolerable; he would much rather face thermonuclear war.

“But as his wife Christiane recalled with some amusement, by that point the tensions of the time had subsided.”

Professor Broderick examined Dr Strangelove materials over the course of a decade to write the historical book, which reappraises the film, Kubrick’s work on it as producer, director and writer and the atomic age which produced it.

The book assesses Dr Strangelove’s narrative accuracy, consulting recently declassified Cold War nuclear policy documents alongside interviews with Kubrick’s collaborators.

“Kubrick was renowned for undertaking lengthy and exhaustive research prior to the production of all his films,” said Professor Broderick.

“In the lead up to what eventually became Dr Strangelove, he read voraciously and amassed a substantial library of works on the nuclear age.

“A good deal of the genius of Dr Strangelove and its continued relevance today stems from the film’s attention to detail, not only in historical accuracy and production design, but in the perverse and pervasive discourse of nuclear strategy.”

Professor Broderick’s book was recently launched at the Stanley Kubrick Archive in London with Kubrick’s daughter Katharina and long-time executive producer and brother-in-law Jan Harlan.

At the launch, Ms Kubrick said Professor Broderick’s book illustrated how accurately her father had depicted the circumstances and behaviours from the time that could have led to a global nuclear war. And just how close the world came to such a disaster.

“Dad always hoped the film would never end up a 'documentary', but Mick Broderick's historical analysis shows just how close we all came to that horrific potential,” she said.

“My father remained concerned about the prospect for global war and felt we really hadn't learned much from our mistakes over the years and that the nuclear threat remained largely undiminished."

The book was published by Columbia University Press and is available here.

If you are interested in the analysis of media and hearing more from Professor Broderick, view information on our Communication and Media Studies course here.

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