Ryan O’Neal and Malcolm McDowell butt heads over memories of Stanley Kubrick

Every once in a while, I open an e-mail and just start laughing at what kind of opportunities I'm given.

When someone asks if you want to spend time with Ryan O'Neal, Malcolm McDowell, and Leon Vitali to discuss working with Stanley Kubrick, there's only one correct answer to that. Of course. Absolutely. The interview was arranged to help promote the release of “Stanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection,” a new Blu-ray box set that includes eight of his films, a new documentary about the legendary filmmaker, a new hardcover book, and a whole mess of extra features that have been assembled from other earlier releases.

It's safe to say that I've spent most of my film-obsessed life fixated on the work of Stanley Kubrick. What's changed is which film takes the top spot for me, and I think that's something that would change for anyone considering the way each of Kubrick's movies seems to be different each time you return to it. When I was first starting to explore his work, I was in my teens, and “A Clockwork Orange” felt like such a radical vision, such a wholly singular thing, that it was the film of his that I returned to most often. It seemed amazing to me that a film like that could even exist. I remember seeing “Barry Lyndon” when I was not quite 20 yet and I just didn't connect with it at all. These days, I find “Barry Lyndon” haunting, and I look at “A Clockwork Orange” and see a movie that is full of young man's bluster.

It's hard to believe it's been 15 years since his final film, but I plan to take a deep dive into that film a little later here on the site. Right now, I wanted to share the conversation with you that I had with these three guys. My first observation is that when Malcolm McDowell is part of a panel conversation, you have to know going in that you are not going to be in control of any part of that conversation. I saw a spirited exchange between McDowell and O'Neal between interviews in which they debated whether or not Kubrick was a good actor's director, and it was fascinating to me to see how hot McDowell still gets when talking about Kubrick. “He had absolutely no vocabulary for talking to actors!” he sputtered at O'Neal at one point. “None! He was not equipped for it at all!”

I had to start things off by asking Leon Vitali to clarify something that I heard about first on the set of “Edward Scissorhands,” where Anthony Michael Hall was mourning the choice to make “Out Of Bounds” instead of “Full Metal Jacket.” He allegedly turned Kubrick down to take his first $1 million payday, and regretted it already only a few years later. Vitali, who helped cast “Full Metal Jacket,” was able to offer me a new take on this story all these years later, and that kicked off a rowdy, out of control, way too short conversation with these three guys that could have easily lasted a few hours if I'd had my way.

The new Kubrick box is gorgeous, and if you're a super-fan like I am, the documentary really is worth a look. Then again, I have a feeling I'll happily keep snatching up everything and anything that Warner puts out with Kubrick's name on it for as long as I'm still studying film.

“Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection” is in stores today.