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Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  1,250 ratings  ·  238 reviews
Celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the film’s release, this is the definitive story of the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, acclaimed today as one of the greatest films ever made, including the inside account of how director Stanley Kubrick and writer Arthur C. Clarke created this cinematic masterpiece.

Regarded as a masterpiece today, 2001: A Space Odyssey received mi
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published April 3rd 2018 by Simon & Schuster
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Jeffrey The book might dull some of the fun of discovering the differences between the film and the book on your own as the behind the scenes story of the boo…moreThe book might dull some of the fun of discovering the differences between the film and the book on your own as the behind the scenes story of the book does reveal differences between them. It probably won’t ruin Clarke’s book for you but might be a nice enhancement for you after reading the novel. (less)
Ms.pegasus Well, you sent me racing back to my copy of the book, Greg. The film was not nominated for "Best Picture." The four nominations were: "Best Director,"…moreWell, you sent me racing back to my copy of the book, Greg. The film was not nominated for "Best Picture." The four nominations were: "Best Director," "Best Original Screen Play," "Best Production Design," and "Best Visual Effects." Good attention to detail. It's an important point since it adds to the author's discussion of how it took a while for the film to reach its iconic status.(less)

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Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Okay, do not stop reading this when you start it, or balk at the initial length. My Kindle version clocks in at 723 pages, but the actual text is only 456 pages. The remaining 200-odd are photos, acknowledgements, and a comprehensive index. Still, nearly 500 pages about the making of a single movie?

Well, not any movie, of course. We are talking about what still remains, after 50 years, an unparalleled achievement in the fusion of science and art through the medium of film. That might sound incre
Neil R. Coulter
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sometimes when I hear about a new book, I impulsively go to the public library's website and put a hold on it; I worry that otherwise, I might forget all about it in the midst of my endless and ever-growing to-read list (which I probably would; though my impulsiveness really wreaks havoc on any sense of logic in my reading list). As a big fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey, then, when I heard about Michael Benson's new book about the making of the film, I was excited to find that it was already in the ...more
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
How to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey

1) On first viewing be visually astonished, but also bored and confused with the plot.

2) Read the book by Arthur C. Clarke, which I only now found out was more of a collaborative effort between the two.

3) On second viewing, watch it on double speed and understand the plot.

4) Read this book.

5) On third viewing just enjoy the movie.

6) Bother everyone you can tie to a chair about this movies trivia.

This instruction manual was only in half jest... I watched it only
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, film
It may surprise many readers that 2001: A Space Odyssey initially had a poor critical reception. During the premier, many attendees left at the intermission. Pauline Kael, Stanley Kauffmann and Andrew Sarris, eminent critics of the time, panned it. Author Michael Benson observes: “ 2001 was received largely depended on which side of this late-sixties generational divide the audience fell.” (p.424) That conclusion is substantiated by Roger Ebert's glowing review written on April 12, 1968 ( ...more
181112: exactly as promised: this is the 'making of' and very little outside the focus. long but fast read. some brief bios, some money, some ambition, some great science/science fiction advisor/author, some artistic serendipity, some genius memory, some intense ongoing creation... a lot of work. years and years. not much before creation, kubrick already somewhat known quantity, clarke esteemed, 'really good sf film' ambition, realism leading to art-film abstraction. this must be read having see ...more
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, 2018, film
Caution: Geniuses at Work

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the masterpiece science fiction film that grew out of a collaboration between two creative geniuses, Arthur C Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. In this book, Michael Benson tells the story of that collaboration, and of the making of the film, its release and its impact at the time and since.

A couple of years ago, I had the amazing experience of reading Clarke’s book and then immediately watching Kub
Stephen Hughes
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The best book on filmmaking and filmmakers I’ve ever read, and I’ve read quite a few.
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this examination of how the movie was made, a lot!

I’d only recommend to people who loved the movie and have seen it many times (like me) or else I guess major league film buffs.

One great factoid, the little girl who communicates over a video link with her astronaut father Heywood Floyd in the middle section of the movie was Kubrick’s youngest daughter, Vivian.

Actually there are a million great factoids in this extensively researched book.
J.M. Hushour
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Just what do you think you are doing, Dave?"

Since the age of 8, I have probably seen '2001' more than most other movies. I consider it a supreme achievement. I was lucky enough to get to see it on the big screen some years ago when it was re-released with a new print. I react with horror when people say they haven't seen it. I chloroform them and, Plinkett-style, force them to watch it in my creepy, soundproofed basement.
Naturally, I'd be fascinated to read a book about its production. I guess
Joseph F Cowan
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book.

Having met Arthur C Clarke in the late 60's, not long after seeing 2001 for the umpteenth time, I looked forward to reading this book. What happened amazed me. The author presents events, discussing things the way they might have been, and then discussing the final scene or dialog. As each revelation unfolds I found myself recalling each scene vividly, intensely. It was like the film was playing as I read. The parsity of illustration was no bother, I remembered the film and my atten
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic story of the making of 2001. But more than just a behind the scenes story, this book explores the cultural influence if the movie on art, science and philosophy. I saw 2001 in the movie theater and it blew me away. But there was so much I didn’t know about Arthur C. Clarke and Kubrick and how the movie came to be that I was blown away again. Read it!
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There isn't a dull moment in Benson's book. It's very well written and the subject is one that's very close to me. In my teen years, I had a near mystical obsession with Kubrick and Clarke's 2001.

What really comes through in this book is the tremendous commitment and risk that everyone undertook to make the film. Kubrick was constantly tinkering and improvising throughout the production. Many important decisions were not made until toward the end of production or even post-production. Significa
I had to rate this book "really liked" based solely on the amount of research the author put into this subject. At times, it felt like drudgery reading it, much like Keir Dullea endlessly going around Space Station 5's jogging track (which Kubrick later cut.) Nonetheless, it is amazing that between Arthur Clark and Stanley Kubrick, and some very kind, liberal executives at MGM, this movie got made. I kept waiting for the financial hatchet to come down and cannot imagine such an undertaking today ...more
Pat Rolston
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As one who is privileged to have experienced the original mass release of 2001: A Space Odyssey I am an ideal candidate for this deep dive into the back story of it’s birth. I am also sure anyone who sees the movie at any time or any age will benefit from the book on multiple levels. It provides insight into what history has deemed an iconic and groundbreaking film and into Stanley Kubrick who is one of the greatest pioneers of film making of all time.

If not aquatinted with the movie then the b
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey when I was a youngster back in 1969. It was an incredible experience that had me rushing out to purchase the novel the next day. Since then I have lost track how many times I have seen the movie, how many articles about it I have read, or how many times I have seen programs talking about it. Throw in Arthur C Clarke's book about the making of the movie and I felt pretty confident I knew pretty much all there was to know... Wrong! Michael Benson's book revealed t ...more
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was somewhat afraid after the prologue and first 2 chapters that this book was coming off a bit dry. But once it gets the initial introductions of Kubrick and Clarke out of the way, and settles into the planning and production of the film, this book really shines. One of the best behind the scenes books I’ve read.
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When's the last time you finished a book and said, This is one of the best books I've ever read? This is one of them: one of the best books about artistic creation ever written and I'm including A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in that list. In 450 pages, there's not a single extraneous sentence and I've never read anything that suggests Kubrick's method and character in as balanced and believable a fashion. He's always portrayed as the Obsessed Maniac or the Reclusive Genius or the Big J ...more
Erik Olsen
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Younger people have little idea how impactful the film 2001: A Space Odyssey was when it first came out. It inspired a whole generation of filmmakers, including major names like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and James Cameron. The film is visually sumptuous, employing cutting edge special effects, many of which were pioneered by Stanley Kubrick and his team. This book is a wonderful romp through the making of the epic, revolutionary film. It provides so much wonderful detail about Kubrick's obs ...more
Scott Kardel
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For me this is a five star book and I think that anyone that is a fan of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, especially those who also have an interest in how films are made, would every much enjoy this book.
Robin Bonne
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, netgalley
I loved 2001: A Space Odyssey and enjoyed learning more about the creation of the film and book.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this ebook.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
It’s something of a shame that a film that was worked over so obsessively should be chronicled with relative indifference by someone whose credentials seem lacking. Michael Benson’s profile tells me that he is a writer, filmmaker, and visual artist, with a special interest in deep space, but the book he has written does not suggest any of that, nor of journalistic rigor. He frequently uses words awkwardly, and sometimes flat-out incorrectly, and includes tangents and whole paragraphs that seem o ...more
Ian Casey
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
On its 50th anniversary, is there anything remaining to be said about 2001: A Space Odyssey, being as it is one of the acknowledged greatest films ever? Well, apparently there's at least a little.

Michael Benson's book may not be quite the final word on the subject (and his conclusion suggests another particularly comprehensive book from fellow enthusiast and collaborator Dave Larson may be forthcoming), but it is a worthy synthesis of the many diverse existing sources, combined with his own orig
Maura Heaphy Dutton
Mar 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
... dah ... dah ... dah ... DAH DAH!! ...

There, now that I've got that out of my system, we can talk about the book. Once he hits his stride, Michael Benson does an excellent job of telling all you need to know (and some things you probably never realized that you needed to know) about the making of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Like the movie, the book has its flaws and (hmmmm) its longeurs. Benson's attention to detail can occasionally become self-parodic; sometimes his word choic
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Benson has pulled off something remarkable here: through painstaking research and interviews conducted decades after the fact, he's managed to reconstruct the production history of a seminal film.

Film productions, especially on a large studio film are big, multi-headed affairs, and Benson hews as close as possible to the two men most responsible for conceiving of 2001, while also diving into a seemingly endless chain of one-offs and side-stories that involve world-leading engineers, over-worked
Nick Rolston
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book shamelessly dives deep into the marrow of the creation of "2001: A Space Odyssey" and all of the effort that went into the final version of the genre-defining science fiction film. I found the beginning sections to be quite fascinating in the depictions of Clarke and Kubrick and the formation of their partnership. The amount of detail is truly admirable in depicting how the cinematography and choreography was executed in the age before special effects. I was not able to digest all of t ...more
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I remember going to see this movie in Hollywood when it first opened. It was a big deal. I was awed by the transition of the dawn to space. This was long before CGI and magic of the movies that transformed movies about space travel. The screen was huge. The sound track was fantastic. The finished product was amazing. As we walked out we all wondered what all the lights and colors we seemed to be flying through we wondered what it all meant. This movie was unlike any we had ever seen. The epic li ...more
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book goes into great detail about the making of "2001: A Space Odyssey." It will be a wonderful addition to anyone who loved the movie and rightly sees it as a masterpiece that changed cinema. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the behind-the-scenes details, and the thorough examination of Kubrick's and Clarke's personalities. Kubrick was most definitely a genius, but he was lacking when it came to giving people their due for all of the hard work they did (including Clarke). Benson does a wonderfu ...more
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A comprehensive and completely fascinating look at *everything* behind the scenes of one of film's greatest achievements. As a huge fan of "2001" and Kubrick in general, I found this book to be full of behind-the-scene details that ranged from wacky (Kubrick tried to buy insurance in case we discovered aliens before the film came out) to intricate (every bit about the design/creation/filming of the enormous practical sets) to plain unbelievable (Kubrick had rare aloe trees illegally moved from N ...more
Patrick Pilz
Oct 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Got to say, I really enjoyed it. But this is not a story for everyone. I am a fan of the story, as it was one of the very first books I ever read. I love the movie, even the sequel. There are not many of me out there.

This book is extremely granular and shares a lot of details on the evolution of the story and the film in parallel. The book goes as far as explaining every scene, the techniques used to make them and technical hurdles they needed to overcome.

So this book is a retrospective on the
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: movies, nonfiction
Highly enjoyable read, covering the making of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Hard to put down, loaded with facts new to me, not too judgmental one way or the other about Kubrick's methods (while offering pages and pages of alarming testimony laying out the director's power-controlling, obsessive, devouring, encyclopedic ways), and offering a tight focus on the relationship between the director and author Clarke. Stanley Kubrick was a fearsome intellect and artistic force whom even a stellar mind like Cl ...more
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Michael Benson is a journalist and maker of documentary films, including the award-winning Predictions of Fire (1995). His work has been published in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Smithsonian, among other publications, and he has been a television (CNN) and radio (NPR) reporter. He is also the author of the Abrams bestseller Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes. He lives in New Y ...more

News & Interviews

“I'm in a weird place because the book is about to come out. So I'm basically just walking around like a raw nerve and I'm not sure that I...
32 likes · 6 comments
2001’s production notes contain a number of startlingly prescient glimpses of the world we live in today. As of mid-1965, approximately the same time that the US Department of Defense was conceiving of the internet’s direct predecessor, ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), Kubrick’s intrepid band of futurists had seemingly already visualized important aspects of the new technology’s implications. One document sent from Tony Masters to Roger Caras on June 29 listed matter-of-factly—under a letterhead replete with the roaring MGM lion—nine props that he asked Caras to help him with. Number one was “2001 newspaper to be read on some kind of television screen. Should be designed television screen shape; i.e., wider than it is high.” 1 likes
“Seventeen aliens—featureless black pyramids—riding in an open car down Fifth Avenue, surrounded by Irish cops.” Although the form of what would eventually become 2001’s monolith hadn’t yet been established—and wouldn’t for more than a year after much shape-shifting—its color (black) and quality (featureless) had already emerged.” 1 likes
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