It wasn’t just creative control that brought Kubrick to the British Isles. Nabokov’s “Lolita” had proven controversial upon its release, with its tale of an adult university lecturer who falls for his 12-year-old stepdaughter. That was never going to impress the folks at The Motion Picture Production Code, which set strict guidelines for what could and couldn’t be shown in movies. Neither was it going to win over the fun-loving party animals over at the Catholic Legion of Decency, an organization that had significant power to hurt a film’s returns by instructing attendees at their churches throughout the U.S. to forgo seeing whatever movie stoked their ire. England, on the other hand, was far enough away that Kubrick could focus on shooting rather than running afoul of theocratic crackpots.
And yet, that wasn’t the main motivating force behind his move. Trying to get funding for his controversial adaptation had seen several big studios, including United Artists, Warner Brothers, and Columbia Pictures reject the project. Eventually, the director and his producing partner, James B. Harris, found financial support from a “group of Canadian bankers,” who according to TCM, required Kubrick to shoot in England in order to keep production costs low. Meanwhile, as writer Gene Youngblood noted, independent production company Seven Arts also put up money for the film before MGM agreed to distribute.
Kubrick confirmed these financial factors were the main reason for relocating to England in an interview in which he remarked how he would have shot the movie in the U.S., “If the money to film had been available in America.” According to the director, the only funds he could raise, “Had to be spent in England,” and filming in the U.K. helped “mitigate censorship problems.”