Stanley Kubrick was famous for encouraging lively, eccentric and even over-the-top performances. Steven Spielberg’s 1999 recollection abut a 1980 dinner with Kubrick at Childwickbury Manor, during which Kubrick explained that Jack Nicholson‘s over-the-top performance in The Shining was a kind of tribute to the acting style of James Cagney, is a case in point.

It is therefore strange if not bizarre that during the making of Barry Lyndon, Kubrick directed Marisa Berenson to give such an opaque non-performance. In each and every scene, her Lady Lyndon conveys utter vacuity…absolutely nothing behind the eyes.

Did Kubrick realize too late in the process that he’d made a mistake, that Berenson was profoundly ungifted and had next to nothing inside, and that the best course would be to emphasize (rather than try to obscure) this fact?

Berenson is the primary cause, in fact, of Barry Lyndon‘s “dead zone” problem.