2001: A Space Odyssey Wiki
2001: A Space Odyssey Wiki

The leopard attacks Duggan. Richter, the second from the right, is on a platform closer to the camera, between the forefront and the other man-apes in the background.

" "Duggan is teaching the animal to pounce on him and to play-fight in a way that looks convincing.""

Dan Richter

Terry Duggan (15 April 1932 – 1 May 2008) was a comedian and actor who had a successful career in cabaret and variety, and played numerous character roles on television. Duggan was filmed as a man-ape being attacked by a leopard in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).[1]

2001 filming[]

Dan Richter’s account:[2]

Duggan and the leopard were entirely alone on stage during the shoot. [Bizony adds]: Background performers were added later, in a hand-drawn matte.

Stanley Kubrick was likely downplaying the potential danger faced by his ape-men cast in order to avoid any unconfortable questions from some actor's guild; it turned out, instead, that everything was shot on camera, and Dan Richter and other man-apes were on the same set with the leopard and Duggan, as Richter remembers in his book:

Terry Duggan is outfitted in a man-ape costume. [...] Stanley wants other man-apes in the background, and that is even more of a problem. The solution is to put me in another mask behind Terry, in the middle ground with the other guys, so that I will be between the leopard and them.
Stanley is very unconfortable standing next to the camera with the leopard thirty feet or so in front of him. We are all scared. Stanley wants the shot. You can hear the trepidation in his voice as he says "action". Nothing happens.

The leopard, confused and nervous, is distracted by the set, the strong lights, and the surrounding crew.

Stanley calls "cut". We had reharsed the leopard with Terry in costume so we knew he could do it. Terry goes over to talk to him and tries to get him in a playful mood.
"I think he'll do it now", he says.
We all get into position again. The lights are right, the camera begins to turn. :Once again Stanley says, "action"...

...and things quickly turn for the worse:

... The leopard looks at Terry and then he looks over at me and the guys behind me. He jumps down on the set between Terry and me and starts to come at me! Terry sees what is happening and immediately tackles him. We take a short break and Terry works with him some more.

The second take, more or less, works: it's the one we see in the movie. Richter recalls:

Contrary to Stanley’s usual style we did only a few takes as he was nervous and wanted to get it over. He was never happy with what we got, but lived with it.

At this stage, Kubrick was more than ready to move on, even if it meant accepting an unexpected 'special effect', as we learn from Bozung's interview:

[...] then there was the front projection system mistake with the leopard. If you watch the film you'll see that shot of the leopard turning his head toward the camera and his eyes are lit up and glowing. That was just a happy accident. No one noticed it during shooting, but when we all went to the rushes everyone saw it, and someone said “Oh look what happened? We've screwed up!” Stanley said, “No, it's great. I love it. Let's keep it.”