James Earl Jones on Dr. Strangelove

Courtesy of OpinionJournal.com comes this wonderful Stanley Kubrick remembrance by James Earl Jones. He appeared, of course, in the classic Kubrick satire “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”, and on this 40th anniversary of the film’s release he offers some memories of working with a brilliant “control freak of the highest order”:

George C. Scott had some really difficult experiences with the director. George was headstrong by nature. It is what fueled his particular talent. Stanley was very much the same kind of man. The irresistible force met the immovable object when Stanley asked George to do over-the-top performances of his lines. He said it would help George to warm up for his satiric takes. George hated this idea. He said it was unprofessional and made him feel silly. George eventually agreed to do his scenes over-the-top when Stanley promised that his performance would never be seen by anyone but himself and the cast and crew. But Kubrick ultimately used many of these “warm-ups” in the final cut. George felt used and manipulated by Stanley and swore he would never work with him again.

This helps explain one war room scene in Dr. Strangelove. In it, Scott is fulminating about the Russkies, does a roll, then flips to his feet while pointing at the “big board”, and then holds a pose at least five beats too long. Many people have noticed the take, mostly because it looks stagey and awkward, unlike Kubrick or Scott.

So why did George C. Scott, a professional, deliver such a strange (ahem) take? Because, it seems, Scott was screwing around and doing a cartoonish riff that he never expected to be used.