The Fear of Flying Affected Director Stanley Kubrick’s Career

Fact: Director Stanley Kubrick, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, was known for his meticulous attention to detail and his uncompromising artistic vision. However, few people are aware that Kubrick had a deep fear of flying that significantly influenced his career. 


Director stanley kubrick

Director Stanley Kubrick


Stanley Kubrick’s fear of flying can be traced back to his childhood. According to biographers and interviews, he experienced a traumatic event involving an airplane during his youth, which left an indelible mark on his psyche. The fear of flying plagued him throughout his life, creating a range of challenges and limitations for the acclaimed director.

After moving to England and settling there, Kubrick refused to take a flight to any part of the world. Instead, he opted for boat trips. The phobia affected various of his movie making projects. Numerous developments after Spartacus were all filmed in England to accommodate Kubrick’s phobia. The Vietnam-based film Full Metal Jacket is one example of a Kubrick movie that was fully shot and produced in England.

Kubrick’s phobia is incredibly ironic because during his early years, the brilliant producer obtained a pilot’s license. The process of acquiring the license only increased the lack of trust in commercial airlines, Kubrick said numerous times. According to Kubrick, commercial airlines were making compromises with safety margins. He often explained his phobia with the awareness of mortality – a distinctively human characteristic that could have quite incredible psychological impact.

Kubrick’s fear of flying inadvertently contributed to his reputation as a reclusive director. He rarely attended film festivals or industry events outside of the United Kingdom, which led to a sense of mystery and intrigue surrounding his persona. This isolation also allowed him to maintain complete control over his films, as he preferred to oversee every aspect of production, from the script to the final edit, without outside interference.

Kubrick’s aversion to flying posed difficulties in collaborating with actors, crew members, and production teams based outside of the United Kingdom. This limited his ability to work with individuals who were not willing or able to travel to his preferred shooting locations. However, when faced with such challenges, Kubrick would often bring the talent to him, creating a controlled environment conducive to his exacting standards.


Stanley kubrick fear


As technology advanced, Kubrick embraced it as a means to overcome his fear of flying. For instance, the use of miniatures and visual effects in films like “2001: A Space Odyssey” allowed him to depict otherworldly landscapes without the need for extensive travel. He also utilized advanced teleconferencing systems for long-distance communication, enabling him to collaborate with his team remotely.

Kubrick’s fear of flying subtly permeated his films, influencing themes of confinement, isolation, and the human condition. The claustrophobic atmosphere in Stanley Kubrick The Shining with Jack Nicholson and the existential exploration in “2001: A Space Odyssey” can be seen as reflections of his personal anxieties. This fear may have also contributed to the psychological depth and meticulous attention to detail that became trademarks of his work.


stanley kubrick the shining


Stanley Kubrick’s fear of flying undeniably had a profound impact on his career as a filmmaker. While it presented challenges and limitations, Kubrick’s unparalleled creativity and ingenuity allowed him to overcome these obstacles and create cinematic masterpieces that continue to captivate audiences to this day. His ability to adapt, find alternative solutions, and maintain artistic control showcases the resilience and determination of a true visionary. Kubrick’s fear of flying, although restricting in many ways, ultimately shaped his unique artistic approach and left an indelible mark on the world of cinema.

In a 1968 interview with Playboy, Stanley Kubrick was asked about previous movies he has directed that dealt with space travel, his reply to his fear was


“I suppose it comes down to a rather awesome awareness of mortality. Our ability, unlike the other animals, to conceptualize our own end creates tremendous psychic strains within us; whether we like to admit it or not, in each man’s chest a tiny ferret of fear at this ultimate knowledge gnaws away at his ego and his sense of purpose.”


O’Hagan, S., & O’Hagan, S. (2005, April 17). “I flinch at those stories about crazy Stanley.” The Observer.

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