Stanley Kubrick's letter to Arthur C. Clarke that launched 2001

In 1968, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke released 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film now almost universally acknowledged as one of the most powerful, influential and visually stunning science fiction movies ever made. And it all started four years earlier, with a letter from Kubrick asking if Clarke would like to meet him.

After the release of Dr. Strangelove in 1964, Kubrick's interests turned to science fiction and the search for extraterrestrial life. He wanted to make a science fiction film, and while he searched for an expert in the field to work with, his friend Roger Caras (a Columbia Pictures employee) recommended he contact Clarke. The result was a letter from Kubrick sent to Clarke's home in Sri Lanka in which the director outlined his interests, asked for a meeting and sought a telescope recommendation.

SOLARIS PRODUCTIONS, INC

March 31, 1964

Mr. Arthur C. Clarke
[Address redacted]

Dear Mr Clarke:

It's a very interesting coincidence that our mutual friend Caras mentioned you in a conversation we were having about a Questar telescope. I had been a great admirer of your books for quite a time and had always wanted to discuss with you the possibility of doing the proverbial "really good" science-fiction movie.

My main interest lies along these broad areas, naturally assuming great plot and character:

  1. The reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life.
  2. The impact (and perhaps even lack of impact in some quarters) such discovery would have on Earth in the near future.
  3. A space probe with a landing and exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Roger tells me you are planning to come to New York this summer. Do you have an inflexible schedule? If not, would you consider coming sooner with a view to a meeting, the purpose of which would be to determine whether an idea might exist or arise which could sufficiently interest both of us enough to want to collaborate on a screenplay?

Incidentally, "Sky & Telescope" advertise a number of scopes. If one has the room for a medium size scope on a pedestal, say the size of a camera tripod, is there any particular model in a class by itself, as the Questar is for small portable scopes?

Best regards,

(Signed)

Stanley Kubrick

Clarke replied almost immediately expressing an interesting in working with Kubrick, and just a few weeks later the pair met in New York. Clarke would eventually offer up his short story "The Sentinel" as source material for a new film, and four years later 2001 was born out of their close collaboration. Both men have since passed away (Kubrick in 1999 and Clarke in 2008), but today Kubrick is considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Clarke is named among the "Big Three" of science fiction writers (alongside Robert A Heinlein and Isaac Asimov), and the film they made together is a classic.

(Via Letters of Note)