Acting

Movie Monologue Monday – Douglas Rain in 2001: A Space Odyssey

Douglas Rain in 2001: A Space Odyssey

Douglas Rain in 2001: A Space Odyssey

Here’s an unusual choice for Movie Monologue Monday – Douglas Rain as Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s unusual because the character is a computer’s voice – the actor himself never appears in the film.

Hal 9000 is the onboard computer of the Discovery on an expedition to Jupiter. He is a highly advanced computer capable of artificial intelligence and (possibly) emotions. He is programmed with conflicting orders and gradually starts to break down, as one might have an emotional breakdown. He begins killing the crew of the ship, leaving only Dave Poole (Keir Dullea) behind. Dave determines that Hal must be deactivated / killed.

In this monologue, Hal pleads for his life as Dave shuts him down. As Hal “dies” he regresses into a childlike state, just as humans do in the later stages of life.

Here’s what I learned from watching the monologue:

Trust the director. Rain is without much of the actor’s toolkit here. He has no physical presence, he can’t rely on gesture, on facial expression. He’s a computer. What he does do is trust that the director will help him tell the story.

Trust the writer. Hal, being a computer, doesn’t have much range in terms of vocal inflection. He has to trust the words themselves to say what needs to be said.

Trust your scene partner. Dullea has no lines in this scene but his presence, his emotions, his struggle are an enormous gift to Rain’s performance.

About the author

Craig Mason

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