‘There are several published accounts of how 2001 came into being. I understood from Arthur that he was somewhat frustrated by Kubrick’s erratic schedule. This meant that the novel, which they were supposed to write before the film’s appearance, would come out after the initial release date. But in the main he seemed generally happy with the collaboration, even up to the time that rough cuts were being shown. He was, I know, afraid that Kubrick’s inability to settle down and collaborate on the novel might mean that the book, coming out after 2001’s release, would look like a novelisation of the film rather than an original work.
‘Based primarily on his short story “The Sentinel”, together with other published fact and fiction, the film was very much a joint effort, although Arthur was overly modest about his contribution. For his part, Kubrick seemed unable to come up with an ending that suited him.
‘When I visited the set, the film was already about two years behind schedule and well over budget. I saw several alternative finale scenes constructed, which were later abandoned. In one version the monolith turned out to be some kind of alien spaceship. I also knew something that I don’t think Arthur ever did. Kubrick was at some point dissatisfied with the collaboration, approaching other writers (including J. G. Ballard and myself) to work on the movie. He knew neither Ballard nor me personally. We refused for several reasons. I felt it would be disloyal to accept.
‘I guessed the problem was a difference in personality. Arthur was a scientific educator and belonged to a school of SF writers that needed to cross every t and dot every i. Explanations were his forte. He was uncomfortable with most forms of ambiguity. Kubrick was an intuitive director inclined to leave the interpretations to the audience. These differences were barely acknowledged. Neither did Kubrick tell Arthur of his concerns regarding the final version. Where, thanks to Arthur, the film was heavy with voice-over explication and clarifications of scenes, Kubrick wanted the story to be told almost entirely in visual terms. Without consulting or confronting his co-creator, during the final edit he cut a huge amount of Arthur’s voice-over explanation. This decision probably contributed significantly to the film’s success but Arthur was unprepared for it. When he addressed MGM executives at a dinner given in his honour before the premiere, Arthur spoke warmly of Kubrick, telling his audience that there had been no serious disagreements between them in all the years they had worked together, though declaring he had yet to see the final cut. My own guess at the time was that Kubrick wasn’t at ease with any proposed resolution but had nothing better to offer in place of his co-writer’s “Star Child” ending. We know now that the long final sequence, offered without explanation, was probably what helped turn the film into the success it became, but the rather unresponsive expressions on the faces of the MGM executives whom Arthur had addressed in his speech showed that they were by no means convinced they had a winner.’