HAL 9000 2001: A Space Odyssey

Douglas Rain, the man who gave HAL 9000 its voice, dies at the age of 90

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Nov 11, 2018

The actor behind the cold, unfeeling voice of HAL 9000 in director Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey has passed away.

Douglas Rain died Sunday morning while at St. Mary's Memorial Hospital outside Stratford, Ontario, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 90 years old. 

In genre circles, Rain was probably best known as voicing supercomputer HAL 9000 in the 1968 sci-fi classic 2001, as well as its 1984 sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. In the earliest drafts, the computer was written as a program named Athena and was intended to be voiced by a female. 

Kubrick later told Rain that he'd written HAL to be "too emotional and too human," and he was flown to New York, where he recorded all his lines in roughly a day and a half. 

In 1973, Woody Allen convinced Rain to take a similar role as the evil computer in his sci-fi comedy Sleeper. When he reprised the role of HAL in 2010, he recorded his lines over two days while laying on a pillow barefoot to give the normally malicious computer a more relaxed tone to its voice.

He was also asked by Apple to do a Superbowl commercial about Y2K, but declined. Ken Segall, Apple's then-creative director, said that Rain was "unmovable" about his decision. "He was an artist, and he didn't stoop to doing commercials." 

Rain was born in 1928 in Winnipeg Manitoba, later attending the University of Manitoba. His earliest voicework involved radio dramas and went on to study acting at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Alberta. In 1950, he left for a two-year apprenticeship at the Old Vic Theatre in London. 

In 1953, he returned home to become a co-founding member of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival. He went on to star as King Henry V, which was later turned into a TV production. Over his time there, he went on to star in roles that included the lead in Macbeth, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, and Sir Thomas Moore in A Man For All Seasons

"Douglas Rain was that rare artist -- an actor deeply admired by other actors," said festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino. "The voice of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Douglas shared many of the same qualities as Kubrick’s iconic creation — precision, strength of steel, enigma and infinite intelligence, as well as a wicked sense of humor." 

Rain is survived by his sons David and Adam and granddaughter Salima.

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