Sometimes a book hits all your interests all at once, and there’s really nothing else quite like it out there. The key to ‘Kubrick’s Game’ is that it is filled with startling plot twists, and almost every chapter ends with a ‘cliffhanger,’ so you have to keep reading to see what will happen next. On the whole, the story is compelling and interesting, despite my workman-like appreciation for Kubrick’s films. It reads like a high-end ‘Da Vinci Code’ (better yet, think a cinephiles ‘Ready Player One’) but is built with both greater complexity and subtlety. Twist after twist, revelation after revelation, the plot becomes a tangled net of intrigue as the characters race toward a showdown where truths and identities are shockingly uncovered. A must read for any Kubrick fan.
Do you believe in any conspiracy theories?
In terms of Stanley Kubrick conspiracy theories, I believe the theory that holds the most weight is that he had something to do with the Apollo 11 moon landing or at least that something was fishy about it. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the whole thing was faked, but as is detailed in the book, let’s just say I would not be surprised if what the world saw on television wasn’t what actually happened.
Are you the kind of person who tried to sync up “Dark Side of the Moon” with a screening of “The Wizard of Oz”
Haha! I’ve actually never done that, but I heard it’s pretty cool.
What sparked the initial interest that led to you coming up with ‘Kubrick’s Game’?
The initial spark was right after I read the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, soon to be a huge movie released next year by Steven Spielberg by the way. The author created an amazing puzzle-adventure that was based entirely on his greatest passion, namely 1980s pop culture. It got me thinking about what I would write if I were to write a book based on my own greatest passion, in my case the life and films of genius director Stanley Kubrick. His films were already steeped in such mystery – hidden meanings, subliminal messages, and conspiracy theories – it was a natural fit for a puzzle/thriller story similar to Ready Player One or The Da Vinci Code. However, I wanted to make it different from those books, so I took the intricacy and diabolical nature of the puzzles to a whole other level and tried to add more heart and humor.
What is it about Kubrick that continues to fascinate people and generate so many theories about his work?
I think that he’s the only true genius filmmaker we have had of his generation. Other filmmakers I would call masters and grandmasters like Spielberg, Scorcese, Zemeckis, Coppoloa, etc, but Kubrick’s mind worked in a totally different way and his films stand out as being groundbreaking, original, and consistently ahead of their time. Sometimes post-mortem, great artists like Kubrick tend to be “deified” in a way that can make their work feel more monumental and perfect than perhaps they ever intended, but I think it speaks to something about our species that there is need to deify our great artists so that they are remembered by future generations, because deep down we feel that their work deserves it or perhaps they were under-appreciated in their time. Artists like Mozart, Van Gogh, and perhaps even Kurt Cobain experienced similar phenomenons. His work will always generate theories because it is incontrovertibly filled with hidden meanings and subliminal messages. Kubrick would never discuss those hidden meanings, so they are left to us film geeks to argue and debate for eternity.
Do you think Kubrick’s work is riddled with ambiguity? And why?
I believe there are different levels of perceiving Kubrick’s or any other film. On the surface level there is very little ambiguity in terms of the story and plot lines. Kubrick chooses key moments to make less obvious and leave open to our interpretation. For instance with 2001, there is no ambiguity about the fact that aliens are leaving monoliths for us to find in order to advance our evolution, however why they are leaving the monoliths remains ambiguous, and rightly so. It is obvious that HAL goes insane and starts killing all the astronauts by why he goes crazy remains ambiguous (until you see 2010, which many feel ruined that great ambiguity of 2001). Dave Bowman’s journey at the end of the film is certainly filled with ambiguity in terms of what exactly is happening. What the Star Child is and the ambiguity of what is going to happen after that final climactic shot of it floating toward Earth is what elevates the film to greatness because he is forcing us to contemplate the meaning, and use our minds rather than spoon feeding us answers like we’re children.
Was there any theory that was too crazy or too obvious to put in ‘Kubrick’s Game’?
There were many that I purposefully did not want to delve into. For instance there are theories in the film Room 237 that explore whether The Shining was a metaphor for the genocide of Native Americans, but I did not see evidence for that other than very haphazard connections between scenic elements and the basic plot line. Whereas hidden meanings about the Apollo 11 moon landing seemed much more substantiated by the evidence on screen. I’m not making any claims that the Apollo 11 moon landing conspiracies are true, just that Kubrick was very clearly trying to make some sort of statement about it that you’d have to be blind to miss.
Or in other words…What was the most outlandish or over the top thing that you did here?
I enjoyed fictionalizing mysterious and nefarious groups within various secret societies that could conceivably have been connected to Kubrick or possibly been behind his untimely passing. Again, not saying that those theories are true, only that they are fun to explore within a thriller storyline and to contemplate the various “what ifs”.
How far into some of these theories did you find yourself getting invested?
I became deeply invested in all them. This book encompassed a solid year and half of full-time research that included all information about Kubrick in existence, from the cinematography and special effects work, to his life and family, to the scholarly film analysis, to the most outlandish conspiracy theories. I gave everything their due justice because I wanted the different characters to have different perspectives on Kubrick, just as the public does. Our main character Shawn is most interested in how Kubrick’s films were made and couldn’t care less about the conspiracy theories. His friend, Wilson, becomes deeply entwined in all the conspiracy theories and that’s all he can think about. His love interest, Sami, is more about scholarly analysis of the meanings of Kubrick’s films for her master’s thesis. I felt like I had to be an expert in all of these in order to craft believe characters and give the reader relatable characters no matter their own convictions.
What was the selection process for choosing what films, clues, theories etc went into ‘Kubrick’s Game’?
Myself and the puzzle consultants I worked with chose to focus on the films that had the most inherent mystery attached to them and hidden meanings. So, there is relatively less use of films such as Barry Lyndon and Full Metal Jacket that don’t have the same controversy and mystique surrounding them.
Was anything rejected (edited out) because it was too outlandish?
There was a very thorough outlining process in the beginning, so elements that may have been too over the top were weeded out during those early stages. From what I recall, edits were mostly character-based as opposed to conspiracy or story based. From my theatrical training, I sometimes tend to write more dramatic or comical actions/reactions than fits with the tone of the story, which is why I value my great editors at Evolved Publishing so much! (thx Lina Rivera and Lane Diamond!)
What do you find as the most plausible and least plausible parts of ‘Kubrick’s Game’?
When I first started mapping out Kubrick’s Game, I thought the whole idea that Kubrick created this game with clues hidden in his films leading to mysterious treasure to be a rather implausible, though fun, idea. However, the more research I did and the more incredible connections I found, the more plausible the idea became until it got the point that I believed I really had stumbled upon something there. I would not be surprised if there actually is a game within his films, although I’m not sure I found the right one or if the clues I found were correct.
The least plausible element is most likely the final set piece where the game player must do something rather unusual, which has certainly never been done before, in order to solve the final puzzle. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but it’s the element that always seemed the most implausible, but at the same time felt the most truly Kubrickian. In fact, it’s what got me the most excited about writing the book so that I would reach the point where I would write out that section, taking the readers on a journey through the human mind never before experienced.
Have you heard anything from the Kubrick camp about this novel and their reaction to it?
Not yet! No idea if they’ve even heard of it. If they do, I hope they will understand the truly loving place this novel came from and the affection I have for Stanley and his films. I heard that they are not fond of all the conspiracy theories and I did my best to dispel most of them and instead offer up that all the secret messages were in fact in service of this fictional game, therefore a simple truth, and not any outlandish theory.
Since the novels release, have more people with Kubrick theories reached out to you to say “hey, you didn’t cover this”?
Not yet. I know there were a lot of areas I did not have time to cover, but I am familiar with everyone’s hard work out there and hopefully we can cover new ground if there’s a sequel!
With all of the conspiracy theories out there, the research that you’ve done for this novel, what was the one thing that somebody might have said to you or something you read that stuck with you or maybe opened your eyes to a whole new set of theories?
I love Roger Ager’s analysis of all of Kubrick’s films the best. Some of his stuff is WAY out there, but I’ll be damned if it’s not all supported by hard cinematic evidence – what’s on the screen, the script or real life events. I particularly loved his analysis of 2001 and how the black screen that opens the film is actually the fourth hidden monolith that is projecting its power upon the audience, compelling the viewers to examine themselves and evolve.
Did you have any of your own personal theories on strange coincidences with any of Kubrick’s work?
The revelation I am most proud of is that I believe myself and the puzzle consultants from Fantastic Race, Bob Glouberman and Larry Toffler, uncovered the first truly viable explanation of the meaning of CRM-114 – the strange code that appears in several Kubrick films. The meaning of CRM-114 has been hotly debated for years and is a key plot element in the book, so I don’t want to spoil it here, but the connection between that code and one particular scene in Eyes Wide Shut absolutely blew my mind and had me giddy with euphoria at the startling revelation.
Is there any personal favorite filmmaker of yours that you would love to approach with this kind of deconstruction again?
Yes. I have several in mind. My top choices would be Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Orson Welles, Fellini, The Coen Bros., and Christopher Nolan, to name a few.
Can you say anything about what you’re working on now?
At the moment, I am working with one of the top Hollywood producers on adapting Kubrick’s Game into a Westworld-style TV series, which has been very exciting and going great. Before Kubrick’s Game, I was primarily known for my middle-grade book series Scary School, which is a popular series for ages 7-12. I love going back to that age group. I have a new novel I just finished for them called Principal Mikey about a ten year old kid who becomes principal of his school. I’m now working on a few new middle-grade ideas and developing sequel ideas for Kubrick’s Game.
For all updates and more info on all my books, please visit DerekTaylorKent.com — there’s hours of entertaining stuff on there — include a real life Kubrick-themed treasure hunt should your readers be up for the challenge.
If there is demand for it, would you do or could you do a follow up with ‘Kubrick’s Game’?
I would love to!
Kubrick’s Game’ is available now:
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