Leon Vitali, Stanley Kubrick’s devoted man Friday and longtime collaborator, dies at 74

Leon Vitali, a frequent Stanley Kubrick collaborator and his all-around man Friday, has died at age 74.

Vitali’s family announced his passing, saying he died in Los Angeles on Aug. 19 surrounded by loved ones including his three children, Masha, Max, and Vera.

“Leon was a special and lovely man driven by his curiosity, who spread love and warmth wherever he went,” his children said in a statement to the Associated Press. “He will be remembered with love and be hugely missed by the many people he touched.”

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by True Studio Media/Kobal/Shutterstock (9691454c) Leon Vitali, Stanley Kubrick "Filmworker" Documentery - 2017
Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by True Studio Media/Kobal/Shutterstock (9691454c) Leon Vitali, Stanley Kubrick “Filmworker” Documentery – 2017

True Studio Media/Kobal/Shutterstock

Born in England on July 26, 1948, Vitali attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After graduating, he guest-starred in a number of TV shows in the early ’70s before making his film debut in 1973’s Super Bitch, directed by Sergio Leone cinematographer Massimo Dallamano.

The following year he met Kubrick and appeared in the director’s Barry Lyndon, playing the titular character’s stepson Lord Bullingdon. Vitali was taken with the director and asked if he could stay on after filming had wrapped to observe the editing process. And so began a collaboration with Kubrick that lasted till his death in 1999 — Vitali all but gave up acting and devoted his professional life to Kubrick.

“I made one truly, truly radical change in my life and that was when I said, ‘I’m more interested in that’ than I was in the acting,” Vitali told the AP in 2017. “That’s the biggest conscious decision I’ve ever made. There were some sacrifices, but there were gains too.”

Kubrick’s official Instagram account paid tribute to Vitali in a series of posts:

Vitali next worked with Kubrick on 1980’s The Shining. Though he is credited as “personal assistant to the director,” Vitali also helped cast Danny Lloyd to play the psychic kid at the center of the film Danny Torrance — and because of his close bond with the young thespian became his unofficial acting coach — as well as Louise and Lisa Burns to play the Grady twins.

On 1987’s Full Metal Jacket, Vitali worked as casting director and assistant to the director, and he reprised the same roles on Kubrick’s final film, 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut, in which he also played the character Red Cloak.

WEST LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 18: Actor Leon Vitali attends the premiere of Kino Lorber's "Filmworker" at the Nuart Theatre on May 18, 2018 in West Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)
WEST LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 18: Actor Leon Vitali attends the premiere of Kino Lorber’s “Filmworker” at the Nuart Theatre on May 18, 2018 in West Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

Amanda Edwards/Getty Leon Vitali, Stanley Kubrick’s devoted man Friday and longtime collaborator, dies at 74

After Kubrick’s death, Vitali oversaw the restoration of most of the late director’s films, garnering him the Cinema Audio Society’s President’s Award in 2004. In 2017, Vitali went from unsung hero of behind-the-scenes to the subject of his own documentary, Tony Zierra’s Filmworker. The doc exposed Vitali’s devotion to Kubrick and his vital contributions to his films.

“There are people we meet who have a profound impact upon our lives. Leon Vitali was one such person in mine,” Full Metal Jacket star Matthew Modine wrote on Twitter. “An artist in every aspect of his life. A loving father & friend to so many. A kind, generous & forgiving nature. He exemplified & personified grace.”

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