Stanley Kubrick Almost Moved to Australia Before Dr. Strangelove Because He Was Worried About Nukes

Stanley Kubrick in 1999 during the filming of his final movie Eyes Wide Shut (AP Photo)
Stanley Kubrick in 1999 during the filming of his final movie Eyes Wide Shut (AP Photo)

Perth, Australia is the most remote major city on the planet. Which is apparently why it appealed to legendary director Stanley Kubrick. New research reveals that Kubrick was so concerned with the possibility of nuclear war that he actually planned to move to Perth in 1962.


Kubrick was in the middle of editing his 1962 movie Lolita when he started to make very serious plans to move to Australia. The director of such future classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining even asked his editor, Tony Harvey, if they could finish work on Lolita during the six week boat trip from London to Perth.

“The documentation I’ve discovered shows that he made real plans and in fact went about transferring funds from his bank accounts into Australian bank accounts, he went to Australia House (in London) and met with various embassy officials about obtaining visas for himself and for his family,” Murdoch University Associate Professor Mick Broderick told Australia’s ABC News.


But Kubrick never made the voyage. He would have to travel by boat and apparently one of the dealbreakers was that a six-week shared bathroom experience was too much for him to fathom.

“There’s a lovely anecdote by his wife Christiane, the final nail in the coffin for him deciding not to go was when he learnt that booking passage would mean he’d have to share a bathroom with other guests for those six weeks,” Broderick told the ABC.

Rather than move to Australia, Kubrick stayed in London and made his next film, Dr. Strangelove, which was released in 1964. That movie, of course, is one of the most important dark comedies about the prospect of nuclear war.

Broderick is the author of the new book Reconstructing Strangelove, a book that I haven’t yet read, but is definitely next on my reading list. Dr. Strangelove shaped the way that Westerners viewed the prospect of nuclear war perhaps more than any other movie for at least two generations.


From the publisher’s description of the book:

During his career Stanley Kubrick became renowned for undertaking lengthy and exhaustive research prior to the production of all his films. In the lead-up to what would eventually become Dr. Strangelove (1964), Kubrick read voraciously and amassed a substantial library of works on the nuclear age. With rare access to unpublished materials, this volume assesses Dr. Strangelove’s narrative accuracy, consulting recently declassified Cold War nuclear-policy documents alongside interviews with Kubrick’s collaborators. It focuses on the myths surrounding the film, such as the origins and transformation of the “straight” script versions into what Kubrick termed a “nightmare comedy.” It assesses Kubrick’s account of collaborating with the writers Peter George and Terry Southern against their individual remembrances and material archives. Peter Sellers’s improvisations are compared to written scripts and daily continuity reports, showcasing the actor’s brilliant talent and variations.


While Kubrick thought he’d be safer in Perth, he apparently wasn’t impacted by the 1959 film On the Beach, about a group of people waiting for the nuclear fallout to reach Australia after war destroyed the rest of the world. If there was any lesson from that film/book it was you can run from nuclear war, but not for long.

If widespread nuclear war ever does break out it’s unlikely you could exist unaffected anywhere on the globe. But I’m certainly not one to talk. I’m currently sitting in Perth while I type this, 11,650 miles from Washington, D.C—literally the furthest major city from America’s capital, and by extension, Donald Trump.


Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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I was 13 in 1962, in the middle of the cold war; I was there. Everyone took it deadly seriously; we all thought the Russians were going to nuke us at any moment. We had air raid drills in school, and there were fallout shelters everywhere. Most people thought it wasn’t a matter of if, just a matter of when. And in fact during the Cuban Missile Crisis of that year we came within a hair’s breadth of universal armageddon. Lots of people wanted to be somewhere else, we just weren’t rich like Stan.

If you haven’t seen it you should watch Thirteen Days, a movie about the missile crisis told from the viewpoint of Kennedy and his inner circle. It’s based on the book The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis by Ernest May, and although it contains much that is apocryphal it really captures the mood of the moment.