Friday, June 30, 2017


A little past the midpoint of Matthew Modine’s extraordinarily entertaining audiobook Full Metal Jacket Diary, the actor takes a break from shooting Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam War film to audition for another project, Alan J. Pakula’s Orphans. Practically the second Modine walks into the room, Pakula asks excitedly, “What’s he like?” “He,” of course, is Kubrick, one of the greatest and most enigmatic directors in the history of movies, and it’s a testament to his legend that even other famous directors like Pakula were and are starving for information about his process. That goes double for a not-so-famous director like myself; ever since I became obsessed with Kubrick at the age of nine, I’ve eagerly consumed every scrap of behind-the-scenes documentation that I could find on his productions.

Not that there’s been a whole lot — aside from sporadic technical articles in magazines like American Cinematographer and occasional interviews in major magazines like Rolling Stone and Playboy, during Kubrick’s lifetime the amount of reliable press coverage on him and his films was ridiculously sparse when compared to other directors of his stature. There were occasional glimpses behind the curtain, like his daughter Vivian’s short documentary on the making of The Shining, which I studied frame by frame like it was the Zapruder film, and after Kubrick passed away in 1999 some of his collaborators started to open up a bit in documentaries, articles and books. Yet even now the literature is relatively light, to the point that whenever something like the Vanity Fair article on the making of Eyes Wide Shut pops up I devour it like a drunk David Hasselhoff going after a cheeseburger.

I’m not sure why Kubrick was so secretive about his process, or why his collaborators were so tight-lipped. A few months ago I interviewed Ryan O’Neal for a Filmmaker magazine piece I was writing on the making of Barry Lyndon and he told me, “Stanley begged us never to talk about him.” (Luckily, O’Neal then gleefully proceeded to spill the beans.) Whatever the reason, Kubrick’s tight control over the flow of information from his sets has only made me and thousands of other filmmakers and fans all the more desperate to know how he achieved his effects, and why.

Thankfully, Matthew Modine kept a detailed journal of his experiences shooting Full Metal Jacket in 1985 and 1986, and he has made his observations available in a variety of media. The diary was first published as a limited edition book in 2005, and seven years later Modine released an interactive iPad app based on the volume. Now, the diary has been released as an audiobook read by Modine, and listening to the actor narrate his behind-the-scenes story was the greatest possible way I could have kicked off 2015. It’s great in exactly the way I had hoped it would be as a first-hand account of a master filmmaker at work, but it’s great in other, less expected ways too. Kubrick and Full Metal Jacket aside, Modine’s Diary is most valuable as a terrific snapshot of a young actor in transition, on the verge of becoming a master himself.

To continue reading the article "Jim Hemphill (The Trouble with the Truth) Talks Matthew Modine’s Full Metal Jacket Diary Audiobook" head to Talkhouse.

Full Metal Jacket will screen at the Egyptian for its 30th anniversary on July 1st at 7:30 pm.