20 Things You Didn’t Know About Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Lolita’

In 1955, Vladimir Nabokov wrote about a predatory middle-aged literature professor who succumbs to his desires for the flesh and fancy of a 12-year-old girl he nicknames Lolita. The novel went on to become one of the most controversial works of the 20th century. A few years later, Stanley Kubrick directed the most successful adaptation of Lolita, despite naysayers who said it simply couldn’t be done. More than 50 years later, Kubrick’s film, starring Sue Lyon as the precocious girl, still gets people talking thanks to its stellar performances (Peter Sellers was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe) and, of course, Nabokov’s scintillating material. Here are 20 things you might not know about the film.

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—Public fascination with the details of Kubrick’s casting partially inspired the crew to film overseas where they could keep a lower profile. Also, many of the sponsors were British, and Kubrick had a fear of flying.

—Kubrick makes an accidental cameo in the film in the opening, just before Humbert opens the door. You can see the director walking out of the shot.

—Kubrick wanted James Mason for the role of Humbert from the start, but he initially turned it down due to a previous Broadway engagement. Other actors considered the role: Laurence Olivier, Errol Flynn, Peter Ustinov, and David Niven.

—Actresses considered for the role of Lolita include: Tuesday Weld, Hayley Mills, Joey Heatherton, and Jill Haworth. Lolita Author Vladimir Nabokov agreed with Kubrick that Sue Lyon was right for the role, but years later stated that Catherine Demongeot would have been the ideal Lolita.

Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov, who wrote the screenplay for the film, turned in a script that ran 400 pages and called for a seven-hour film. Kubrick and producer James Harris had to alter it significantly. The unused screenplay deviated from the novel and featured a Hitchcock-like cameo for Nabokov, who is referred to as “that nut with a butterfly net.” He later published the complete script in 1974 as Lolita: A Screenplay.