Kubrick³ and Colour Me Kubrick spin two stories around the same man: Kubrick impersonator Alan Conway
The London real estate agent successfully impersonated the director in the early 1990s
Surely the most astounding – and hilarious – true story to be dramatised at the Fringe this year will be Kubrick³. The PIT theatre company production, written and directed by David Byrne (not that one), tells the story of a conman who passed himself off as the famous director of the films 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining.
During the early 1990s, north London travel agent Alan Conway successfully impersonated Stanley Kubrick. Initially ‘conning’ his way into a sold-out theatre show, Conway subsequently inveigled himself into the confidence of a string of individuals, including several big names in showbiz, and ran up some hefty debts. Conway looked nothing like Kubrick, but the filmmaker shunned celebrity while the conman preyed on the public’s deference towards it, allowing him to get away with a scam that would be impossible today.
Byrne admits that researching the story was tricky − he had to make decisions about which of several versions of Conway’s account he should believe. In the end, he brought that confusion to the stage itself, creating four different simultaneous Conways who bicker and contradict each other to get their individual views across.
Kubrick³ is not the first time Conway’s story has been told in Edinburgh. In 2006, the Edinburgh International Film Festival premiered Colour Me Kubrick, in which John Malkovich gave a priceless performance as Conway. The film was written by Anthony Frewin, a long-time assistant to the real Stanley Kubrick who was working with the filmmaker throughout the ‘Conway affair’.
Frewin remembers how he and Kubrick became aware of Conway: ‘We started getting phone calls from Warner Brothers, who relayed messages to Stanley, saying, “A friend of Stanley’s phoned.” Stanley didn’t recognise any of these people, so eventually I spoke to one of them. He said he had met Stanley in a pub in Kensington Road – can you imagine that? So it became clear that someone was impersonating Stanley.’
What did Kubrick think of Conway impersonating him? ‘Stanley thought it was rather annoying – particularly when it came to light that Conway had only seen a bit of one of his films, Barry Lyndon, and didn’t like it – but he didn’t see what he could do about it. We sought legal advice, but were advised that it would be difficult to get any of Conway’s victims to humiliate themselves in public by testifying in court. So we decided on exposing him and see if that would put an end to him.’
Frewin, who had been putting together a dossier on Conway, passed it to a Fleet Street newspaper journalist friend and a story subsequently appeared in Vanity Fair … To say more about the ‘Conway affair’ would spoil the plot of this remarkable stranger-than-fiction true story. You can find out how it ends in Kubrick³, or in Colour Me Kubrick, which gets a special screening at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse on 12 August to coincide with the play’s world premiere production.
Kubrick³, Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, 3–26 Aug (not 13), 7.10pm, £10.50−£12.50 (£9.50−£11.50). Previews 31 Jul–2 Aug, £6.