Leon Vitali, Actor And Stanley Kubrick Collaborator, Dies At 74

We all think of Stanley Kubrick as the ultimate mastermind director, someone in complete control of every minute detail of a picture, where every frame sprung entirely from his brain and onto the screen. In reality, he had a whole host of collaborators around him to aid in bringing that vision to life. Kubrick needed dedicated, talented people around him in order to make his films what they were. On his last four pictures, one of those invaluable team members was Leon Vitali, who sadly has passed away at the age of 74.

According to the official Stanley Kubrick Twitter account, Vitali "passed away peacefully in his sleep last night." Vitali began his partnership with Kubrick on the film "Barry Lyndon," where he gives a truly incredible performance as the titular character's step-son and rival Lord Bullingdon. Prior to that, he had been a jobbing actor, working mostly on British television. "Barry Lyndon" was professionally a major step up for him, and he absolutely delivered.

After "Barry Lyndon" his focus drifted away from acting, but not away from show business. On the set of that film, Vitali and Kubrick really hit it off. "Barry Lyndon" may have been the only time he got cast in a key role in a Kubrick picture, but it was far from the last time those two worked together. In fact, Kubrick didn't make another movie without Vitali at his side ever again.

A behind the scenes force

Leon Vitali worked behind the scenes on every subsequent Stanley Kubrick film. First, there was "The Shining," where Vitali served as Kubrick's own personal assistant. He would again serve this position on both "Full Metal Jacket" and "Eyes Wide Shut," but he also was hired as a casting director for both of those pictures as well, even being the sole one credited on "Full Metal Jacket." Having been an actor in a Kubrick film himself, Vitali probably knew how to find the people with the right faces, energies, and temperaments that could gel with Kubrick's unique and demanding production process. Plus, he probably had plenty of great ideas that went into those pictures we could never really know about.

Outside of his work with Stanley Kubrick, Vitali occasionally would show up in small parts in movies, served as a costume designer on the film "Mackan" with his wife Kersti, was an associate producer on Todd Fields' terrific drama "Little Children, and even co-wrote and directed the 2nd unit for a Swedish TV adaptation of "Hamlet" starring Stellan SkarsgÄrd. Leon Vitali had a rare career in the film industry, observing the moviemaking process from all sides as he bounced around from position to position.

A documentary came out in 2018 called "Filmworker" about the life of Leon Vitali, which you can rent from your preferred digital retailer. You may not have known his name, but the man lived a fascinating, unexpected life, which has now sadly come to and end. I hope he enjoyed it as much as we enjoy the art he helped create.