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In 1968, actor Douglas Rain put on one of the most iconic voice performances of all time. I am, of course, referring to the voice of HAL 9000 in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, as Rain's creepily calm and unwavering tone has been disturbing audiences for decades, and is nothing short of iconic. It's an amazing touch for a genius film, but as recently described by co-star Gary Lockwood, that touch very much wasn't part of the experience making the film:
Kubrick had a hard time making up his mind about [the voice of HAL 9000]. He had several actors, and he changed his mind, finally he said, 'I'll worry about it in post-production.' So he just turns to his assistant director, and said, 'Derek, you do the voice.' This was the voice of HAL for the rest of the thing: [in a super thick cockney accent] 'Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do.'
This year marks the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Gary Lockwood shared this fantastic story earlier today during the movie's celebratory panel at San Diego Comic-Con. The discussion during the event, which also included actor Keir Dullea, covered a wide range of subjects revolving around the film, but easily one of the highlights was his story about HAL 9000. It turns out that the stars didn't have the pleasure of being able to react to Douglas Rain's voice on set, and instead had to perform opposite the voice of First Assistant Director Derek Cracknell, who had a very different tone -- and extremely different accent -- than the man who wound up replacing him when production ended and the editing process began.
The entire room erupted in laughter when Gary Lockwood did his impression of Derek Cracknell, mostly because the contrast is just so extreme. HAL 9000's voice is widely recognized for its quietude and serenity -- which winds up perfectly balancing against his seriously sinister acts -- but you get absolutely none of that with the cockney accent. Frankly, hearing Lockwood's impression of what Cracknell was doing on set, it's actually kind of miraculous that the movie was actually finished. With this knowledge, the performances by both Lockwood and Keir Dullea are frankly even more impressive in retrospect, as it's kind of amazing that they didn't just burst out laughing every single time they shared a scene with the movie's killer artificial intelligence.
Frankly, this is news of which the internet needs to take full advantage. This fantastic bit of trivia about one of the greatest science-fiction films of all time doesn't deserve to just slip by. I am very much hoping that someone out there -- preferably someone with a thick and authentic cockney accent -- is going to finish reading this article and then go and make their own re-dubbed version of 2001: A Space Odyssey with something similar to the original voice of HAL 9000 restored.
Time will tell if that actually ever happens, but it has been confirmed that the future is quite impressive for 2001: A Space Odyssey. In addition to celebrating its big anniversary at San Diego Comic-Con, the film will also soon be getting a significant upgrade in the home video department, as a 4K transfer has been created, and will be going on sale on October 30th. Stay tuned for that, as well as much more of our San Diego Comic-Con coverage!