Why Sue “Lolita” Lyon was guarded as if actress were an atomic bomb
by Stanley Kubrick
“She is been guarded, watched and hidden always as if she were a pack of atomic secrets” was what the press said about Sue Lyon while we were shooting Lolita in which she plays the title role.
James Harris and I were naturally delighted at the public’s interest in Sue. (Lolita, a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presentation in association with Seven Arts Productions, was produced by James B. Harris and Stanley Kubrick.)
Nevertheless, we didn’t want her to be interviewed or make appearances on television despite the terrific demand there was to see her. We felt that the image we wanted to convey in her first film should come fresh to the audience rather than mixed up with knowledge of her personal tastes and habits. She is totally unlike the character she plays in Lolita and we felt it would impair the reality of that character if people new all about her personal life beforehand.
I appreciate that stars are public property in a way, that the part they play in the lives of their fans doesn’t end when they leave the set. But we wanted Sue, whom we are convinced is going to be an important star, to make her first impact on the public when they see her on the screen. Personally, I believe movies have lost a lot of their romance and glamour through the present-day custom of having stars open up their private lives and tell the world why they married for the fourth time, and what they eat for breakfast, and how many showers they take a day, and whether they have been psychoanalysed an what it did for them.
I have a nostalgia for the days before my time when Hollywood was a mysterious, exciting place where people were driven around in limousines with leopard-skin seats and gold fittings and every star was a fabulous person. They didn’t have tax advisors and they didn’t tell all about themselves. They encouraged rumors but they never divulged facts, and their personal appearances were great occasions. I like stars to have a mystery.
In Sue Lyon, Jim Harris and I have found someone we think has a terrific potential for being a star. She’s a wonderful actress and she has a truly mysterious quality as a person. Lolita is her first starring part and we have tried to start her career in the most exciting possibile way, which is to say “clouded in absolute mystery.”