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


—Kubrick wanted the character Clare Quilty to have a New York accent and had Peter Sellers model Quilty’s voice after his friend Norman Ganz, a jazz impresario, who had a loud voice with a lisp.

—Due to Peter Sellers’ strong improvisational skills, the personality of his character Quilty was formed on the set during the shoot. Sellers said of the role:

Quilty was a fantastic nightmarish character, part homosexual, part drug addict, part sadist, part masochist, part anything twisted and unhealthy you can think of. He had to be horrifying and at the same time funny. I had never met anyone at all like this so I just had to guess, to construct an imaginative idea for myself of what such a person must be like. When I saw myself on the screen, I thought ‘This time you’ve done it – no one will ever believe this.’ But then in the U.S. I actually ran into a couple of people who might almost have been role models for the character and I began to think, ‘Oh, well, perhaps you weren’t so far out after all.’

—Kubrick shot Peter Sellers’ scenes with two or three cameras at the same time since Sellers’ first takes were best. The director wanted to ensure he captured the performance from all angles.

—Kubrick only had one regret about the film:

She was actually just the right age. Lolita was twelve and a half in the book; Sue Lyon was thirteen. I think some people had a mental picture of a nine-year-old. I would fault myself in one area of the film, however; because of all the pressure over the Production Code and the Catholic Legion of Decency at the time, I believe I didn’t sufficiently dramatize the erotic aspect of Humbert’s relationship with Lolita, and because his sexual obsession was only barely hinted at, many people guessed too quickly that Humbert was in love with Lolita. Whereas in the novel this comes as a discovery at the end, when she is no longer a nymphet but a dowdy, pregnant suburban housewife; and it’s this encounter, and his sudden realization of his love, that is one of the most poignant elements of the story. If I could do the film over again, I would have stressed the erotic component of their relationship with the same weight Nabokov did. But that is the only major area where I believe the film is susceptible to valid criticism.

—While Kubrick was preparing to cast the part of Lolita, he received odd letters from parents saying things like: “My daughter really is Lolita!” Almost 800 girls auditioned for the controversial role.