Leon Vitali, the “Barry Lyndon” actor who became one of Stanley Kubrick’s closest associates, has died. He was 74.
Vitali died Friday in Los Angeles, his family told The Associated Press Sunday.
Though Vitali was often described as Kubrick’s assistant, Tony Zierra’s 2017 documentary “ Filmworker ” shed light on Vitali’s enormous and largely unsung contributions to the work of one of cinema’s greatest figures. He did everything from casting and coaching actors to overseeing restorations. Vitali even once set up a video monitor so that Kubrick could keep an eye on his dying cat.
Matthew Modine, who starred in Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” posted his condolences on Twitter Sunday.
“There are people we meet who have a profound impact upon our lives. Leon Vitali was one such person in mine,” Modine wrote. “An artist in every aspect of his life. A loving father & friend to so many. A kind, generous & forgiving nature. He exemplified & personified grace.”
Filmmaker Lee Unkrich also posted on Twitter that he was, “Completely heartbroken to hear about the passing of Leon Vitali. He helped me *enormously* with my Shining book and I’m gutted that he won’t see it. He was a sweet, kind, humble, generous man and a vital part of Stanley Kubrick’s team.”
Before meeting Kubrick, Vitali was a rising actor in England, appearing in several British television shows. Then in 1974 he got his biggest break yet, when he was cast in “Barry Lyndon” as Lord Bullingdon, the stepson of Ryan O’Neal’s title character.
Vitali was so fascinated by Kubrick and his processes that he made an unusual decision: He gave up on acting and devoted himself entirely to the famously demanding director for over two decades.
“I made one truly, truly radical change in my life and that was when I said, ‘I’m more interested in that’ than I was in the acting,” Vitali told the Associated Press in 2017. “That’s the biggest conscious decision I’ve ever made. There were some sacrifices, but there were gains too.”
After Kubrick’s death in 1999, Vitali oversaw restorations for many of Kubrick’s films. He received a Cinema Audio Society award for his work.
Vitali died surrounded by loved ones including his three children, Masha, Max, and Vera.
“Leon was a special and lovely man driven by his curiosity, who spread love and warmth wherever he went,” his children said in a statement provided by Masha Vitali. “He will be remembered with love and be hugely missed by the many people he touched.”
Zierra is working on a director’s cut of “Filmworker” that will include new footage that he and Vitali wanted in the film, but couldn’t get done in time for its Cannes debut in 2017.