Leon Vitali, the actor who later became Stanley Kubrick’s right-hand man, died on Friday in Los Angeles, according to The Associated Press. He “passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones,” including children Masha, Max, and Vera, his family told the outlet. He was 74 years old.
In a statement provided to the AP by Masha Vitali, his children said, “Leon was a special and lovely man driven by his curiosity, who spread love and warmth wherever he went. He will be remembered with love and be hugely missed by the many people he touched.”
Vitali began his career as a television actor in the UK, appearing in series like The Fenn Street Gang and Notorious Woman in the 1970s. His most prominent role came in 1975 playing the role of Lord Bullingdon in Kubrick’s film Barry Lyndon opposite Ryan O’Neal.
Vitali’s work with Kubrick became the defining collaboration of his life. He largely retired from acting to work with the director behind the scenes for the rest of Kubrick’s career. He was credited in his next film, The Shining, as “personal assistant to the director,” but he was involved in many aspects of the filmmaking, including casting–per the AP, he helped to cast Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance and Louise and Lisa Burns as the creepy Grady twins. In Kubrick’s final movie, Eyes Wide Shut, Vitali stepped in front of the camera again to play Red Cloak.
The 2017 documentary Filmworker, directed by Tony Zierra, shed light on the duo’s unusual relationship. Recalling his commitment to the famously demanding director, he shared (per IndieWire), “I’d work 14, 16 hour shifts, seven days a week. It wasn’t like that some of the time. It was just normal.”
Following Kubrick’s death, Vitali took on other acting roles, such as in 2013’s Romeo & Juliet, and collaborated with filmmaker Todd Field on his movies Little Children and In The Bedroom. Vitali also remained committed to Kubrick’s legacy and supervised the restoration of many of the director’s films. The official Twitter account for Kubrick’s estate described Vitali as a “mainstay” of his films, writing, “Our thoughts are with his family and all that [knew] and loved him.”