In a science-fiction movie mostly sparse with dialogue and deapan in the face of discovery, a talking computer had the most lines and arguably the most humanity of anything onscreen. HAL 9000, an artificial intelligence who turns murderous when he cannot reconcile his orders to conceal crucial information from his human crew, is pretty much the star of Stanley Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey, inasmuch as any one character can be. His talent for understatement (“Human error”) is funny until it’s menacing (“I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”), and his mental regression when he’s finally unplugged is as tragic as dementia.Douglas Rain was known for TV and stage work prior to being cast as HAL’s voice after production had ended; Kubrick cast him because he had been impressed and inspired by an animated short called “Universe,” which Rain narrated. Though his vocal talents became almost instantly iconic once 2001 became a phenomenon and a classic of cinema, he lent his pipes to only one other feature — the Woody Allen sci-fi spoof Sleeper — before returning alongside Keir Dullea for the sequel 2010 [UPDATE: according to his sons, the voice in Sleeper was an imitator who has fooled many over the years]. His first love was always the stage, and as a founding member of the Stratford Festival in Stratfor, Ontario, Canada, he participated in 32 seasons.
Image: Warner Bros.