"I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."
Douglas Rain, the actor who performed the voice of the computer Hal 9000 in Stanley Kubrick's film '2001: A Space Odyssey,' has died. He was 90 years old.
— Stanley Kubrick (@StanleyKubrick) November 12, 2018
A transcript of the '2001' voice recording session in the Stanley Kubrick archives at the University of the Arts, London shows that Kubrick didn't give much direction to Rain, just a few brief notes like this:
— "Sound a little more like it's a peculiar request."
— "A little more concerned."
— "Just try it closer and more depressed."
From an archival New York Times article about the story that led to Rain being cast as the computer's voice in '2001' —
The "2001" historian David Larson said that "Kubrick came up with the final HAL voice very late in the process. It was determined during '2001' planning that in the future the large majority of computer command and communication inputs would be via voice, rather than via typewriter."
But artificial intelligence was decades from a convincing facsimile of a human voice — and who was to say how a computer should sound anyway?
To play HAL, Kubrick settled on Martin Balsam, who had won the best supporting actor Oscar for "A Thousand Clowns." Perhaps there was a satisfying echo that appealed to Kubrick — both were from the Bronx and sounded like it. In August 1966, Balsam told a journalist: "I'm not actually seen in the picture at any time, but I sure create a lot of excitement projecting my voice through that machine. And I'm getting an Academy Award winner price for doing it, too."
Adam Balsam, the actor's son, told me that "Kubrick had him record it very realistically and humanly, complete with crying during the scene when HAL's memory is being removed."
Then the director changed his mind. "We had some difficulty deciding exactly what HAL should sound like, and Marty just sounded a little bit too colloquially American," Kubrick said in the 1969 interview. Mr. Rain recalls Kubrick telling him, "I'm having trouble with what I've got in the can. Would you play the computer?"
Kubrick had heard Mr. Rain's voice in the 1960 documentary "Universe," a film he watched at least 95 times, according to the actor. "I think he's perfect," Kubrick wrote to a colleague in a letter preserved in the director's archive. "The voice is neither patronizing, nor is it intimidating, nor is it pompous, overly dramatic or actorish. Despite this, it is interesting."
On Twitter, 'Baby Driver' director Edgar Wright remembered Rain as "One of the best performances in film, with just his voice."
RIP Douglas Rain, the chillingly calm tones of HAL 9000 in '2001: A Space Odyssey'. One of the best performances in film, with just his voice. pic.twitter.com/79Jr8iOWK6
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) November 12, 2018
My obituary of Douglas Rain, recalls how the great Canadian Shakespearean actor was picked by Stanley Kubrick to play the creepy spaceship computer HAL 9000, in the sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.https://t.co/SIhPhucvHY
— Tu Thanh Ha (@TuThanhHa) November 12, 2018
Today we lost Douglas Rain, a member of our founding company and a hugely esteemed presence on our stages for 32 seasons. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. pic.twitter.com/dxcffgGEiA
— Stratford Festival (@stratfest) November 12, 2018
Douglas Rain, a member of the Stratford Festival's founding company and the voice of HAL in '2001: A Space Odyssey,' has died at the age of 90.
— CBC News Alerts (@CBCAlerts) November 11, 2018
A fond farewell to veteran thesp Douglas Rain, passed now at 90 and though celebrated for a lifetime of stunning stage work, best known to most of us as the chilling, dispassionate voice of 2001: A Space Odyssey's Hal 9000. pic.twitter.com/DV8p0d84MG
— Marshall Julius (@MarshallJulius) November 12, 2018
— Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) November 12, 2018
Remembering the late Douglas Rain, stage actor and voice of HAL 9000. While HAL's voice proved difficult to pin down, Kubrick was drawn to Rain upon revisiting the 1960 documentary, "Universe," and together they would craft HAL's iconic, calm tone. https://t.co/0yEHHEH6Bu
— Museum of the Moving Image (@MovingImageNYC) November 11, 2018