According to lore, Stanley Kubrick made inquiries about rights to “Tropic of Cancer.”
Henry responded to Kubrick and said: “No. I am going to hold out to the day when we really have freedom of expression.“
If true, this exchange opens a Pandora’s Box of wild speculations and theories. We’ll let the readers develop their own, but, for the sake of argument, here are three:
1.Was Miller into self-sabotage?
Let’s revisit Miller’s contention that artists such as himself did not have full freedom of expression. If we presume he made this statement in the 1970s, is it fundamentally true? The answer is subjective, but a right-minded person could intelligently argue that an artist function in 1970s America was more or less free to do their thing uninhibited. But maybe not!
We’d ask Miller what specific obstacles he had in mind.
Also, dude, it’s Stanley Kubrick! Art is about compromise. One wonders what Miller’s reputation would look like if Kubrick took a stab at Tropic of Cancer instead of Joseph Strick, who made a film about the book, with Henry’s blessing, that fell flat with the general public.
So we’ll ask the psychologists and Miller experts out there: Was this all part of Henry’s tendency to self-sabotage?
2.Then again, maybe Henry was on to something?
Stephan King famously despited Kubrick’s take on “The Shining” and conventional wisdom states that Anthony Burgess, who, it should be noted, wrote the intro to Henry’s “Time of the Assassins,” was famously nonplussed with Kubrick’s treatment of “A Clockwork Orange.” So… many Henry was on to something?
Or maybe not. According to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Burgess “thought the film was a masterpiece and that Kubrick was a great filmmaker. But Burgess resented having to defend the film on television and in print as it was not his own work.”
3. If Kubrick did make “Tropic of Cancer,” we would have seen the “Kubrick Stare”
“The Kubrick Stare” is one of director Kubrick’s most recognizable directorial techniques. It’s a method of shot composition where a character stares at the camera with a forward tilt, to convey to the audience that they are at the peak of their derangement.
Henry (or more specifically, his character) may have been many things in “Tropic of Cancer,” but “deranged” wasn’t one of them. Nonetheless, it would have been cool if Kubrick took some artistic liberties…