Kubrick is considered one of the great directors of all time, but his methods were known to be morally questionable, at best. His treatment of Shelley Duvall on the set of “The Shining” was nothing short of abusive, and McDowell was not able to escape his work with Kubrick unharmed as well.
Kubrick expected authenticity from McDowell, which led to multiple cracked ribs during his filmed beatings, and went temporarily blind when Kubrick had a doctor anesthetize his eyes. Despite all this, Kubrick was happy with McDowell’s work. McDowell even invented what would become known as “the Kubrick stare,” a facial expression that would carry through to much of Kubrick’s other work.
But even after suffering so much for Kubrick’s art, McDowell revealed in an interview with The Guardian that he had trouble negotiating his payment with the director. “I’d asked for $100,000 and 2.5% of the box office, which is what I’d got paid on my previous film,” said McDowell. “Stanley told me Warner had refused the 2.5%. But when I was invited to meet the studio heads, they said: ‘You’re going to be a very rich young man on the 2.5% we gave Stanley for you.'” McDowell knew he had been played. This behavior sadly doesn’t seem very out of character for Kubrick, considering some of his other actions.