Stanley Kubrick & Sue Lyon on the set of Lolita (1962) (via)
“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)
James Mason & Sue Lyon in Lolita (1962, dir. Stanley Kubrick)
Q. In your last genuinely contemporary film, Lolita, you were frustrated in your efforts to make the movie as erotic as the novel, and there was some criticism that the girl was too old to play the nymphet of the novel.
Kubrick: She was actually just the right age. Lolita was twelve and a half in the book; Sue Lyon was thirteen. I think some people had a mental picture of a nine-year-old. I would fault myself in one area of the film, however; because of all the pressure over the Production Code and the Catholic Legion of Decency at the time, I believe I didn’t sufficiently dramatize the erotic aspect of Humbert’s relationship with Lolita, and because his sexual obsession was only barely hinted at, many people guessed too quickly that Humbert was in love with Lolita.
Whereas in the novel this comes as a discovery at the end, when she is no longer a nymphet but a dowdy, pregnant suburban housewife; and it’s this encounter, and his sudden realization of his love, that is one of the most poignant elements of the story. If I could do the film over again, I would have stressed the erotic component of their relationship with the same weight Nabokov did. But that is the only major area where I believe the film is susceptible to valid criticism.
-excerpted from The Film Director as Superstar by Joseph Gelmis
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)
Stanley Kubrick & Sue Lyon on the set of Lolita (1962, dir. Stanley Kubrick)
“From the first, she was interesting to watch—even in the way she walked in for her interview, casually sat down, walked out. She was cool and non-giggly. She was enigmatic without being dull. She could keep people guessing about how much Lolita knew about life.”
Sue Lyon - Lolita Ya Ya (Lolita: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Composed by Nelson Riddle.