Stanley Kubrick And Matthew Modine Had An Intense Stand-Off While Filming Full Metal Jacket

To say Stanley Kubrick was demanding is an understatement. The director was a notorious perfectionist, with his film shoots notoriously stretching on for months and months with actors doing countless takes just to get it exactly the way Kubrick had in his head. He also was not shy about not being considerate or kind to the people he worked with, most apparent by his treatment, or mistreatment to be more precise, of Shelley Duvall on the set of "The Shining." Plenty of actors could tune in to the intensity of the filmmaker, such as Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, but plenty could not. To some, working for someone operating at the height of their craft is enough, courtesy be damned.

Well, Matthew Modine certainly had a complicated time making the director's penultimate film, "Full Metal Jacket." Production for that film was enormous, consisting of a shoot that stretched over two years and building a replica of the Vietnamese jungle in the United Kingdom. All of the principal actors were still very young and were thrown into this arduous production about a terrible war. But for Modine, something else was going on at the time that led to a heated argument with Kubrick ... resulting in Modine pulling a knife on the director.

Modine almost missed the birth of his first child

In an interview with Unframed, Matthew Modine recounted an argument with Kubrick that occurred at a time when Modine should have been at his happiest. You see, while he was shooting "Full Metal Jacket," his wife was about to give birth to their first child, Boman (now a working producer and assistant director in the film business). Naturally, Modine wanted to be in the hospital for his child's birth. Kubrick was not too keen on that. Modine says:

"We found out that [my wife] was going to have an emergency Cesarean. The baby wasn't growing right in the womb. She was very early, seven months. I knew I couldn't just not show up for work. When they picked me up [to bring me to the set], I knew I wasn't going to work that day — they were shooting Dorian Harewood [who played Eightball]. I wasn't involved in that scene. So I raced to work and Stanley didn't show up on time. It was seven o'clock, eight o'clock, nine o'clock. I was freaking out. He finally showed up for work and I told him the situation. He said 'What are you going to do? Are you going to stand in the operating room? You'll faint as soon as they cut her open! You'll see all that blood and you'll pass out. You're just going to be in the way of the doctors.'"

There is a really unfortunate attitude many people have when it comes to cisgender men and birth. Many people simply think birth is the job of a woman. Why should a man stop his job to attend another person's work? Of course, building a family with a committed partner isn't a business. Stanley Kubrick trying to rob Matthew Modine and his wife from this life-changing moment is completely insane.

'I didn't film for three more days'

Modine was not going to let Kubrick's protestations stop him, and that's when he pulled out a knife. He continues:

"I said, 'No, I have to go. I have to be there with my wife.' And he started telling me all these really practical reasons why I didn't need to be there. I had a pocket knife with me; I put it in my palm and I said 'Look, I'm going to cut my hand open and I'm going to have to go to the hospital, or you can let me go to the hospital to be with my wife.' He moved away from me and he said 'Okay, but come back immediately after it's done.'"

It should not take the brandishing of a weapon to be allowed to attend your child's birth. It really shouldn't. Also, it's not like Kubrick was in a massive hurry anyway. He already showed up late to the shoot, and we all know he really loves taking his time making a movie. Letting Matthew Modine have a couple of days with his wife and newborn should have been easy. But it was Stanley Kubrick. Nothing is easy. Thankfully, Modine did get to enjoy that experience. And to put the capper on it:

"I came back and I handed out cigars. I didn't film for three more days."