Space suit from "2001: A Space Odyssey" could break records at auction
The value of movie memorabilia is invariably linked to the importance of the film it comes from, with key props from the greatest films of all time always bringing auction prices commensurate with their time in the spotlight.
This makes the upcoming auction of the space suit used by Dr. Dave Bowman in the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey (MGM, 1968), potentially one of the science fiction auctions of the year.
The screenplay for the movie was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and although it received considerable criticism in its early days, the movie is now considered one of the most important artistic works of the 20th century and is always a contender in any discussion of the greatest films of all time.
Central to the movie is this suit, which is largely comprised of various parts of different suits used throughout the movie. Some helmets were reused and repainted throughout the production and this one has four layers of paint – one or more layers of white, then green, then yellow, and then white, its present color.
This indicates that it was used in different scenes by multiple actors and hence used by more than one character. The near complete costume has a silver body suit, blue back pack and white helmet, but the helmet appears to have been used as a lunar type (white), then as two Discovery type helmets (green and yellow).
Most notably, the base green layer of paint seen in chips, cracks, and green overspray throughout the helmet surface suggests that it may have been the helmet worn by Keir Dullea, who portrayed Dr. Dave Bowman, the lead astronaut on the film’s Discovery mission to Jupiter.
The helmet is believed to have been used in the sequence in which Bowman reenters the antechamber of the Discovery surrounded by banks of circuit breakers leading to the "brain room" and logic center to “kill” HAL in one of the most famous science fiction scenes of all time.
This is the helmet Bowman was wearing as Hal spoke the words, “Stop Dave. Stop Dave. I am afraid. I am afraid Dave."
Keir Dullea’s Dr. Dave Bowman is the only character to wear a green helmet in the film, and the green helmet is only worn in that sequence. A yellow suit and matching helmet was worn by Gary Lockwood as Dr. Frank Poole as he is left floating into space.
Space suit up
Up until recently, space suits had never sold for large amounts of money.
An early Gemini spacesuit worn by Neil Armstrong fetched US$109,375 in November, 2018. The suit had been worn aboard Gemini 8, the 1966 mission that performed the first docking of two spacecraft in flight.
In 2018, a Gemini G-2C-4 Full High Altitude Pressure Suit fetched $162,500 at Sotheby’s. The space suit was complete and authentic in every respect, and very few such space suits make it out of captivity and become available for private ownership. Such complete suits have in every other instance been bequeathed by NASA to a museum, usually the Smithsonian.
By comparison, the (fictional) space suit worn by Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in the 1979 science fiction movie Alien, fetched $204,800 at auction in June, 2018. In 2008, Alien was ranked by the American Film Institute as the seventh best film of all time in the science fiction genre.
Finally, in September 2019 when Darth Vader’s mask and helmet from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back sold was for $1.152 million by Profiles in History, we wrote that, “Recent sales of sci-fi movie memorabilia suggest the trend has yet to fully play out, and science fiction memorabilia is definitely on the rise.”
Darth Vader is arguably the best known villain in history, courtesy of being the ultimate bad guy in the best known sci-fi franchise of all-time. Vader’s helmet, mask and entire costume from various Star Wars films have been to auction before, but this is the first time that any Star Wars costume or movie prop has achieved a million-dollar result. Remarkably, Bonhams had intended to auction an entire Darth Vader costume from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in May this year but withdrew the lot without explanation. Based on the attained result by Profiles in History last year, that entire costume has appreciated in value somewhat since it was first listed.
The availability of the famous space suit from 2001: A Space Odyssey will now test our hypothesis. Julien's "Legends & Explorers" auction takes place on 17-18 July and there's a 52-page catalogue available at Julien's on-line that focusses just on that suit.