Full Metal Jacket’s Production Was Almost More Than A Nearly 60-Year-Old Stanley Kubrick Could Take

Interviewed for the book was John Ward, who — in the middle of production — had been hired to operate the film’s Steadicam after the first camera operator had left. Ward recalls being struck by Kubrick’s own lack of knowhow when it came to types of film and camera operation. By 1987, of course, the myth of Stanly Kubrick as a perfectionist had permeated Hollywood, and Ward had assumed that he would be working with a filmmaker possessing intimate and extensive knowledge of the craft. 

Ward, instead, recalls an incident where Kubrick seemed to mix up the film speeds and filters that he wanted. In photography lingo, he mixed up 400 ASA with no standard 85 filter with using 640 ASA with a standard 85 filter. Only one of those options would give the direction the “authentic” war footage texture he sought. These are strange things for Kubrick to mix up, seeing as he himself began his professional life as a photographer. 

Ward posited that the mix-up may have been a result of Kubrick’s age. At 60, he was unable to do the all-night shoots of earlier in his career, and may have been running himself ragged. This was a battle-forward war picture with a lot of pyrotechnics and grueling 12-hour days. This would be a lot for anyone, much less a non-athletic filmmaker.

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