A rare 1980 clip of Stanley Kubrick talking on the phone about the ending of 2001 has surfaced by way of a Reddit thread. A piece on the Esquire website explains:
...In a bizarre video, which has appeared on Reddit this week, the director seems to provide a very simple and clear explanation of the 2001: A Space Odyssey ending. It comes from a Japanese paranormal documentary from TV personality Jun'ichi Yaio made during the filming of The Shining. The documentary was never released, but footage was sold on eBay in 2016 and conveniently appeared online this week timed with the movie's 50th anniversary.
Here is the transcript of Kubrick's comments:
I’ve tried to avoid doing this ever since the picture came out. When you just say the ideas they sound foolish, whereas if they’re dramatized one feels it, but I’ll try.
The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film.
They choose this room, which is a very inaccurate replica of French architecture (deliberately so, inaccurate) because one was suggesting that they had some idea of something that he might think was pretty, but wasn’t quite sure. Just as we’re not quite sure what do in zoos with animals to try to give them what we think is their natural environment.
Anyway, when they get finished with him, as happens in so many myths of all cultures in the world, he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of superman. We have to only guess what happens when he goes back. It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, and that is what we were trying to suggest.
You can see the entire Japanese Shining documentary here. And read the Reddit thread here. One funny tidbit here is that Kubrick and Yaio are both at London's EMI Studios where the documentary was being filmed. Kubrick didn't want to appear on-screen so he is simply calling from the other room.