Some of the greatest actors of all time have taken center stage in Stanley Kubrick movies over the years. We saw Jack Nicholson make horror history in The Shining and Malcolm McDowell terrify a generation in A Clockwork Orange. But Kubrick almost added a very unusual name to his ensemble for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Perhaps the ultimate example of Stanley Kubrick‘s genius as one of the best directors in history, 2001: A Space Odyssey stands among the best science fiction movies ever made. It opens with a sequence in which the movie’s mysterious monolith teaches apes how to use bones as weapons, culminating in the celebrated match cut from a bone to a spaceship.
As it turns out, Kubrick wanted one of the UK’s most famous comedy stars to hide himself within an ape suit for the scene. Ronnie Corbett is TV royalty in Britain, having starred in some of the nation’s best comedy series and formed the super-successful double act ‘The Two Ronnies’ with Ronnie Barker.
On The Graham Norton Show in 2014, Corbett explained how the unique opportunity to appear in one of the best movies ever made came about. It started with Corbett’s uncredited role in the 1962 movie Operation Snatch, about soldiers who pretended to be apes during the Second World War. Apparently, he got a call from Kubrick’s people soon afterwards.
“He did ask to see me after I did [Operation Snatch],” said Corbett. “I turned it down, yes. It got too technical.”
Corbett later explained that Kubrick likely hadn’t seen Operation Snatch and had instead seen the comic performing on an episode of the variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Either way, it’s fascinating to know that one of the UK’s most beloved comedians came within a whisker of wearing an ape suit for one of the greatest movies ever made.
The actor’s career predominantly unfolded on the small screen, though he did appear in the unofficial James Bond movie Casino Royale during the ’60s. His final film credit before his death in 2016 was alongside Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis in Burke and Hare.
For more Kubrick, find out why Denzel Washington was denied a chance to audition for this Stanley Kubrick movie. And learn about another great funnyman as we explore why Harry Potter cut out a comedy legend.
Elsewhere, check out our guides to new movies you should care about, including Avatar 3, the Dune 2 release date, and the Rebel Moon release date. You can also read our Killers of the Flower Moon review for our take on another of this year’s biggest awards contenders.