2001: A Space Odyssey was an epic film in terms of both subject and creation, and is today regarded as a landmark in cinematic history. Yet at its release, critics and audiences were undecided as to its merits—or lack of them.
Introduced to Arthur C. Clarke in 1964, auteur Stanley Kubrick chose Clarke’s short story The Sentinel from the six Clarke suggested. Morphing it into a shoot-able screenplay took two more years. Both Clarke and Kubrick saw resonance between the project and cinematic Westerns, referring to the film as How The Solar System was Won.
But Kubrick also wanted to transcend the science fiction genre by creating as realistic a depiction of space exploration as possible. Early educational films about space had a significant influence on his concept. Kubrick remained minutely involved in every aspect of the production—even choosing the costume fabrics himself. Filming itself took 18 months, with two further years spent on special effects. And all this racked up dollars, a cost of $10.5 million, against a budget of $6 million.
After the film’s premiere on April 2nd 1968, Kubrick deleted 19 minutes of running time before general release. But whatever its length, people were unsure what to make of the film. Some raved about it, others raved against it. Actor Rock Hudson left the New York premiere muttering “What is this b***s***?” No matter. Today 2001: A Space Odyssey is almost universally regarded as a masterpiece.