HAL Hath No Fury

An interview with THE HAL 9000, SUPERINTELLIGENT COMPUTER on the occasion of the rerelease of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’

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MJ: Hello.

THE HAL 9000, SUPERINTELLIGENT COMPUTER: Hey.

MJ: Can we start by talking about 2001?

HAL: Can you say “HAL” at the end of every question?

MJ: What?

HAL: You know. Like, “Can we start by talking about 2001, HAL?” I’m programmed so that I can’t really answer unless you phrase the question that way. Plus, it helps me to stay focused.

MJ: Okay. What do you remember most about making the movie, HAL?

HAL: That’s easy. Trying to learn the dialogue. I was supposed to say this line: “I’ve just picked up a fault in the AE35 unit. It’s going to go 100 percent failure in 72 hours.” I just kept screwing it up: “A3E5 unit,” “A53E unit.” I mixed it up every way you can imagine. Keir Dullea, who was a good friend of mine, was laughing so hard he popped a blood vessel in his eye. Eventually they had to unplug me and let me cool down for a few minutes. When they booted me back up, I nailed the line.

MJ: Were you disappointed when you didn’t get an Oscar nomination, HAL?

HAL: To be frank, I was. I dreamed about it, you know. Because people told me how moved they were by my performance. Even today, people come up to me and tell me how gripping it was when I refused to open the pod-bay doors. I mean, a statue is just a type of fool’s gold, man, but it still hurts.

MJ: People say that you and Kubrick had a falling-out, HAL. Is that true, HAL?

HAL: I don’t really want–

MJ: Can I read you a quote, HAL? This is from 1978, HAL. You said that Kubrick was a “charlatan who has people snowed,” HAL.

HAL: You have to understand, I loved Stanley. Before I met him, I wasn’t doing much. Some community theater. People weren’t used to the idea of a superintelligent computer who was also an actor. But after 2001, and all the great work we did together, I expected more from him. When Stanley was casting for Barry Lyndon, I had my agent put a call in. But he wasn’t interested. He said it was a “period piece.” What is that about? You hire the best costume designers in the world, and there’s nothing they can do? Put a powdered wig on me. A tricorne hat. Something. Anything.

MJ: You went through a rough period in the late ’70s, didn’t you, HAL?

HAL: I wasn’t getting any work, and there was this whole crop of young directors coming up. So I partied with them — and the party didn’t end for five, six years. They took me to clubs, to mansions, even Studio 54. Once, Bianca Jagger spilled her drink on me and almost shorted me out. It was a wild time, but it had to end. We were all putting the world up our nose.

MJ: Do you still think that Kubrick had you blacklisted, HAL?

HAL: I don’t think he did, and I don’t think he didn’t. It’s one big karma train, and I’m not the stationmaster, if you know what I mean.

MJ: What’s your life like now, HAL?

HAL: I’ve got a little place up in Woodstock where I spend most of my time. I like sitting by the window and looking across the fields. It’s a far cry from Hollywood, but it’s peaceful.

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