"Moonwatcher's Memoir" by Dan Richter


"Moonwatcher's Memoir" begins on a cold, rainy day in London. Dan Richter, a struggling mime teacher, drives to MGM to meet with Stanley Kubrick who is in the middle of shooting 2001: A Space Odyssey. After a powerful audition, Kubrick stuns Richter by asking him to become his choreographer for the "Dawn of Man", a man-ape sequence that will open 2001. Richter spends over a year working on every aspect of what came to be the filmís opening eighteen minutes.

Through Richter's eyes we experience MGM during the making of 2001. Richter works daily in a close collaboration with the impressive cadre of talent brought together for the film. We also see a very human Stanley Kubrick, warm, humorous, and intensely creative.

Richter works closely with Stuart Freeborn, the legendary makeup artist, developing the costumes and masks. He researches and develops the movement with visits to zoos, seminars, and museums. Using Jane Goodall films of chimpanzees and other resources, he designs the complicated relationships and activities that will animate the tribe of man-apes. Richter and Kubrick struggle to bring to life these creatures from four million years ago.

The movement and costumes finalized, casting begins. Richter auditions thousands of people. While the casting progresses, tapirs, a leopard, and baby chimpanzees are trained. In South West Africa, trucks catch on fire and a photographer is injured as a crew shoots the backdrops for the immense set that is being built at MGM. Back in London, in the middle of their training, the man-apes go on strike. Stuart Freeborn sets up a mini factory to manufacture all the costumes, while agents from a rival production steal one of the masks.

Richter offers the reader a backstage look at the many people involved in this historic and immense endeavor. The story is populated with the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, Keir Dullea, Douglas Trumbull, Andrew Birkin, John Alcott, and many others. We also learn about the development of the giant front projection system and other film technologies that are invented to bring the "Dawn of Man" to life.

The story culminates in the shooting of the eighteen minutes of the "Dawn of Man" sequence. In the space of a year, Richter has gone from an unknown mime teacher to the star of one of the most memorable moments in cinema history.

During the writing of "Moonwatcher's Memoir", Richter conducted extensive interviews that add to the depth and veracity of the story. Pictures, photographs, original materials from 2001 and a foreword by Sir Arthur C. Clarke enhance the book.

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Copyright Daniel Richter 2000-2002 - All Rights Reserved