Douglas Rain, the voice of the soft-spoken HAL 9000 computer from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), died aged 90 on Sunday in Canada, reported Variety. The Stratford theatre festival, of which Rain was a co-founder, announced that he had died of natural causes.
Born in 1928 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Rain trained at The Old Vic theatre in London and the Banff School of Fine Arts in Alberta. The theatre veteran known for his work in Tyrone Guthrie’s Oedipus Rex (1957).
Rain joined 2001: A Space Odyssey as the voice of HAL late into the film’s production, said The Hollywood Reporter, citing an interview between Kubrick and film critic Joseph Glemis for his book The Film Director as Superstar. “We had some difficulty deciding exactly what HAL should sound like, and Marty [Martin Balsam] just sounded a little bit too colloquially American, whereas Rain had the kind of bland mid-Atlantic accent we felt was right for the part,” Kubrick told Glemis. Rain also played the sentient computer in the sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984).
In his tribute to Rain on Twitter on Monday, filmmaker Edgar Wright said the actor had given “one of the best performances in film, with just his voice”.
Apart from his prolific theatre output, Rain narrated several documentaries including Roman Kroitor and Colin Low’s black-and-white animated film Universe (1960), Donald Brittain’s Fields of Sacrifice (1964) and Bruce Nyznik and Lawrence Schiller’s The Man Who Skied Down Everest (1970).