This curious connection between Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band
In 1967, Daniel Richter was a virtually unknown mime artist working in London. That same year, the Connecticut actor landed the role of Moonwatcher, the ape who discovers the bone in “Dawn of manframe from Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking sci-fi film 2001: Space Odyssey. But Richter was already much more than just an actor: he was a choreographer, photographer and close friend of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
During a conversation with VultureRichter explained how he landed the role of Lunar Observer. “Stanley already shot most of the picture,” he began. “They were trying to figure out how to do the opening scenes. They tested dancers, actors and even comedians. He and Arthur S. Clark talked about it and said, “You know, we didn’t talk to a mime.” I happened to be teaching private mime lessons in London at the time. Anyway, I was asked if I would go and let Stanley dig into my brain. I said, “If you give me twenty minutes, a stage, leotards and some towels, I can show you how to do it.” So he hired me to do the choreography and eventually talked me into playing the part of the Moon Guard. I have always considered myself the choreographer for this film. But the other day I saw it again and realized that I starred in this thing!”
After spending weeks studying the monkeys at the London Zoo and watching every Jane Goodall documentary he could get his hands on, Richter was determined to imbue the opening scene with a level of realism never seen before. “Stanley planned everything down to the smallest detail, but he was also a great artist who could capitalize on things when they just happened,” he said. “I got there and sort of casually dropped the bone, and it hit a rib so it swirled in the air. First I said, “I’m sorry, Stanley.” And he said, “No, that’s great.” So I hit it once, the bone flips, and then I hit it a little harder, and the other bone flips. And it builds and builds, and finally it all led to Stanley saying, “Throw the dice in the air!” But that first accidental flip was what gave us the idea.”
By that time, Richter had already met Yoko Ono while traveling in Japan. “We became very close friends,” he explained. “She translated some of my poems to use in her speech. Later, when I was in London working for Stanley, she showed up there to do some shows. We got back together, and for a couple of years we had apartments nearby. Then, as John started coming in, I was suddenly pulled into their lives. When they got married, they asked me to come out and help with their projects.”
In addition to being in the final photo shoot for The Beatles and appearing in John and Yoko’s 1972 music video “Imagine” at Tittenhurst Park, Richter was also responsible for the cover photo of the Plastic Ono Band and supplied Ono with heroin for John. at the peak of his addiction. “It was strange to sit on the bed and talk to Yoko while the Beatles were in the studio,” he said. Salon. “I couldn’t help thinking that these guys were making rock and roll history as I sat on this bed in the middle of Abbey Road studios and handed Yoko a little white bag.”
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