Astronaut Dave Bowman morphs into the Starchild after he encounters a mysterious black monolith in the last seconds of his life. However nightmarish this proto-human is, it was meant to be a metaphor for our species emerging from the cosmos and evolving into interplanetary creatures.
While movie props often end up looking their age after 50 years (and often less), this one is just as baby-faced as it was when in 1967 when it was born at the hands of sculptor Liz Moore in MGM Studios’ 2001 art department—and still crawling all over the planet with the traveling Stanley Kubrick exhibition. It languished in Kubrick’s personal collection until curator Tim Heptner became its unofficial guardian when it joined the exhibit in 2004.
“Inspiration for the fetus-like (and a bit eerie) star baby sculpture which is traveling in space in a uterus-like bubble came from an illustration in Robert Ardrey’s book, African Genesis, and through the intra-uterine photographs by Lennart Nilsson which were published in 1965 in LIFE Magazine,” Heptner told Atlas Obscura.
Kubrick decided to use an artificial baby after shots of a real one against a black velvet backdrop didn’t quite reflect his vision of a cosmic being. The face vaguely mirrors actor Keir Dullea, who played the dying Bowman before he encounters the monolith that transforms him into what is actually a two-and-a-half-foot-tall fiberglass baby that gets even creepier with animatronics that make the eyes move. As if that isn’t enough to inspire 2001 nightmares, the crown is detachable for access to its "brains."
As if seeing this thing once weren't enough, it was all over promo materials like the infamous “Ultimate Trip” poster that shows it surrounded by an otherworldly glow. Kubrick got the luminous effect with a few practical effects, like shooting it through a layer of vintage women’s stockings.
Almost supernaturally, this strange life form remains mostly undamaged and pretty low-maintenance, needing only an occasional dusting. It travels in a padded vintage trunk that once belonged to the Kubrick family.
If you’re not prone to terrifying dreams, go stare into its unearthly eyes where the Kubrick exhibition currently resides at the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt.
(via Atlas Obscura)