Brow Beat

Douglas Rain, Voice of Kubrick’s 2001 Computer, Dies at Age 90

The glowing red eye of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey
HAL 9000, voiceless. Warner Bros.

Douglas Rain, the Canadian actor who voiced the cold and detached HAL 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, died at the age of 90. The Stratford Festival in Ontario, a Canadian theater company that Rain co-founded in the early 1950s, announced his passing on Sunday night. The Shakespearean actor performed at the festival for 32 seasons, playing roles such as Othello’s Iago. CTV News reports that he died of natural causes.

In a press statement, the festival’s artistic director, Antoni Cimolino, said that, “Canadian theatre has lost one of its greatest talents and a guiding light in its development,” and added that Rain was a rare artist and, “an actor deeply admired by other actors.” In 1972, he was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in Robert Bolt’s Vivat! Vivat Regina!

Rain was best known for playing the sentient, homicidal computer in 2001. Kubrick had initially chosen Martin Balsam for the role, but in the end thought he was “too colloquially American,” and cast the Canadian actor after hearing his narration in the 1960 documentary Universe. In a letter to a colleague, the director wrote that his voice, “is neither patronizing, nor is it intimidating, nor is it pompous, overly dramatic or actorish. Despite this, it is interesting.” The American Film Institute ranked HAL as the 13th greatest film villain of all time .

2001 is widely considered as Kubrick’s masterpiece, and it won the director an Academy Award for best visual effects. Cimolino tweeted that, “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,” and added that, “at the center of his mystery lay warmth and humanity, evidenced in his care for the young members of our profession.”