30 YEARS WITH STANLEY KUBRICK
When you arrive in England, only 20 years old and without too many pretenses, to try and find work, you don’t even think for a minute that shortly your path will cross that of one of the greatest movie directors—one of those who fill up numerous pages in cinematographic manuals and who is considered one of the inimitable giants.
But sometimes it happens that even without knowing it, you become the trusted driver of Stanley Kubrick. And this is more or less how it happened for Emilio D’alessandro, an Italian who moved to England in 1960 in search of work. Among various efforts, he found first a wife, then a job as a mechanic in the Hatch Brands car racing circuit, where he ended up as a pilot for the “Formula Ford” team. There was a lot of adrenaline, but not so much money, and basic necessity pushed Emilio to work as a driver for a private taxi company. One night, when the ice had covered all the roads in town, they called— for an urgent, or at least very peculiar—transport. D’alessandro found himself transporting a huge ceramic phallus, which he might not have found so bizarre if he had known that it was being used in the film Clockwork Orange.
From that point on, Emilio d’alessandro was called several times to carry out other similar types of transports, but without having any clear idea who this certain Stanley Kubrick really was. “I didn’t go to the movies,” Emilio told us, “I didn’t even know who he was. After a few months, they called me to his villa in Abbots Mead: he wanted to meet me. When I got there, he was dressed very casually, and I thought he might be a gardener. He gave me a big smile and introduced himself. From that point on, I began to work for him. We became friends; he asked me what I thought about cars, about the garden, even about actors. Once he even used me as a translator on the phone with Fellini. And he wanted me in a scene of Eyes Wide Shut. I’m the newspaper seller: two weeks of shooting and some hundred takes for five seconds of film. . .”
It wasn’t just a simple working relationship between Stanley and Emilio: there was friendship, affection and trust, both on set and in private life. Because of the simplicity with which it began and the caliber of the personality involved, this human-interest story beguiled the general and movie press. The connection between the two was first recounted in the book that Emilio D’alessandro wrote with Filippo Ulivieri, and then in the documentary film S is for Stanley directed by Alex Infascelli, which won the 2016 David of Donatello for best documentary. D’alessandro was at once friend, driver and assistant, the only one who could enter his studio—without ever forgetting what was needed—and the one who took care of everything in the house as well as his animals. Their adventure is full of anecdotes, as when Kubrick spoke on the phone with Federico Fellini and Emilio dabbled as an interpreter while the two directors exchanged ideas about their films; it’s a story of important memories and mutual recognition, that inspired Kubrick to name D’alessandro as production assistant on the credits of his last three films: Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut.
It was only in 1990, after having passed almost thirty years together, that D’alessandro informed Kubrick of his intention to leave London and return definitively to Cassino in Italy. This was a difficult decision for the director—not well accepted and postponed several times—until in a moment of emotional agitation D’alessandro expressed his desire to return home. And so it happened: Emilio returned to his old habits and to working on his tractor. But good stories always have a sequel and aren’t destined to end definitively. “In 1996, Janette and I went to London to see our children who had stayed behind to live there. Kubrick invited us to dinner and told me that he needed my help for six weeks. He told me about Eyes Wide Shut: about the actors, the plot. Just six weeks! I accepted. . . and I stayed there another two years.” In fact he stayed there until March, 1999; one morning Stanley phoned him to see if the next day—sunday—he could come to his house. So that next day, he passed as agreed and left his usual message under the door, but in the afternoon the phone rang again: on the other end of the line was Jan Harlan, Kubrick’s producer and brother in law. He said little, murmuring only that Stanley was dead.
Perhaps it was in that moment that the story between the two of them ended, but the again, perhaps not, because—it bears repeating—good stories never end definitively, and perhaps it’s for that reason that, when the phone rings, Emilio still believes he can hear the voice of Stanley Kubrick on the other end of the line.
Emilio D’alessandro was Kubrick’s driver, assistant and right-hand man. Originally from Cassino, he spent a good part of his life at the director’s side, through movie masterpieces and private life.