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Details of Vitali’s death were not immediately available, but it was confirmed by Kubrick’s official social media presence.
“These announcements are never easy, but this one has hit us particularly hard this morning,” Kubrick’s account wrote on Instagram. “It is with the greatest of sadness that we have to tell you that the talented, loyal & mainstay of a vast number of Kubrick’s films, Leon Vitali, passed away peacefully last night.”
The post continued, “Our thoughts are with his family and all that knew and loved him. We will be paying tribute to Leon all day to honour him.”
Vitali is perhaps most well-known on the big screen for his role as Lord Bullingdon in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, in which he played the title character’s stepson. But after forming a close bond with Kubrick on the set, the actor decided to switch his career path and become the director’s personal assistant.
When production on Barry Lyndon wrapped, Vitali asked Kubrick if he could stay on to observe the editing process, without pay. Kubrick agreed. Years later, the director sent him a copy of The Shining and asked if he wanted to be a part of the film, in which Vitali is credited as “personal assistant to the director.”
The duo then worked together on Full Metal Jacket, with Vitali serving as a casting director and assistant to the director, and Eyes Wide Shut, where he had those same credits and took on the role of Red Cloak.
After Kubrick died in 1999, Vitali continued his dedication to the director by overseeing the restoration of picture and sound elements for most of his films.
In 2017, Tony Zierra’s documentary Filmworker, which premiered at Cannes, detailed Vitali’s career path from actor to his crucial behind-the-scenes role as Kubrick’s personal assistant for decades. The film, which was nominated for the L’Œil d’or at the French festival, featured unseen photos, videos, letters, notebooks and memos of the two of them.
Vitali studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, before appearing in several TV series in the early 1970s, like Softly, Softly, Follyfoot, Roads to Freedom, Z Cars, Public Eye, The Fenn Street Gang and Notorious Woman.
His feature film debut came shortly before he met Kubrick, with Massimo Dallamano’s Super Bitch, followed by the television film Catholics, in which Vitali starred alongside Martin Sheen and Michael Gambon. Most recently, Vitali played Apothecary in 2013’s Romeo & Juliet.
Vitali is survived by his wife, Sharon Messer, and his three kids, Vera, Max and Masha.
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