Stanley Kubrick spotted Sue Lyon on The Loretta Young Show (1953). One thing that convinced him to hire her was the size of her breasts, which were surprisingly mature for her age at the time (13). He reasoned her physical maturity would make Lolita seem older. She was 15 when the film was shot and 16 when it was released.
Since the censors would not allow anyhing close to a suggestion of paedophilia, Lolita's age had to be increased - from 12 in Vladimir Nabokov's original novel to 14 for the film. They also objected to a scene where Humbert Humbert was to gaze at Lolita's picture while in bed with her mother Charlotte; in the end, the scene was filmed with Charlotte lying fully dressed on the bed and Humbert lying atop her wearing a robe.
Stanley Kubrick shot most of Peter Sellers' scenes with 2 or 3 cameras at once. The actor did his most inspired (ad-libbing) work on the first take, so Kubrick used this technique to get all the angles needed, without losing spontaneity.
Stanley Kubrick held a special screening for Vladimir Nabokov a few days before the film's premiere. It was at this time the author learned that most of his screenplay had been jettisoned, but he reported himself very happy with the finished picture, praising Kubrick, and the cast.
Cinematographer Oswald Morris had a major falling out with director Stanley Kubrick during production. Kubrick was furious when images from the film appeared in a newspaper during shooting. He blamed Morris, who, as cinematographer, was responsible for managing the rushes from each days shoot and which was where the leaked images had apparently originated. It was later discovered that a junior assistant at the film processing lab had sold them to the press. According to Morris, Kubrick never apologised to him for the accusation and an angry Morris vowed never to work with the director again.
DIRECTOR_CAMEO(Stanley Kubrick): In the opening minutes of the film, as the shot dissolves to the mansion interior, just before Humbert opens the door, Kubrick makes an unintentional cameo, walking out of the shot.
Although the story takes place all across the United States, many of the major sets and exteriors (hotel, hospitals, even residential streets), clearly look more like locales in England, where the picture was actually shot.
Vladimir Nabokov's original screenplay diverged greatly from the novel, but only a portion of it was used by Stanley Kubrick, even though Nabokov gets screen credit. Nabokov later published it as "Lolita: A Screenplay". The unused screenplay featured an Alfred Hitchcock-like cameo for Nabokov, who is referred to as "that nut with a butterfly net" (Nabokov was well known as an amateur lepidopterist). Although he generally admired the movie adaptation of his book, Nabokov regretted the waste of his time in writing a screenplay which was altered so drastically during filming.
Throughout the film, Lolita's mother and friends refer to her by the nickname; 'Lolita'. In the novel, Dolores Haze's nickname "Lolita" was given to her only by Humbert, and he was the only one who used the name. Lolita's mother used 'Lo' as Dolores' nickname.
James B. Harris and Stanley Kubrick bought the rights for a film adaptation back in 1958. According to a December '58 article, the production first suggested Charles Boyer for the role of Humbert. The actor initially accepted, but for unspecified reasons, declined some weeks later. Then, in 1960, Kubrick asked James Mason to play the part, but he initially declined due to a Broadway engagement. Laurence Olivier then refused the part, apparently on the advice of his agents. Kubrick considered Peter Ustinov, but decided against him. Harris then suggested David Niven; Niven accepted the part, but then withdrew for fear the sponsors of his TV show, Four Star Playhouse (1952), would object. Mason then withdrew from his play and got the part. Harris denies claims that Noël Coward also rejected the role.
In the opening scene, when Humbert encounters the drunken Quilty, he asks him, "Are you Quilty?" Quilty replies, "No, I'm Spartacus. You come to free the slaves?" This is a reference to Stanley Kubrick's previous film, Spartacus (1960).
The distinctive Flemish-Gothic spires of the Delaware & Hudson Building in Albany, New York can be seen in the background, as Humbert drives to Lolita's house near the end of the movie. This would indicate that she was living in or near the town Rensselaer.
According to Elstree Studios records, Lolita was filmed from Nov 1960 to Feb 1961. The studio charged £34,000 for the sound stage rentals. Sadly, the sound stages used for the film were demolished to make way for a Tesco store.
Stanley Kubrick suggested that Shelley Winters read the novel before meeting with Vladimir Nabokov to earn his approval for the role of Charlotte. At the time, she was campaigning for future president John F. Kennedy. When Kennedy noticed what she was reading on the platform, he suggested she use a brown-paper cover so as not to jeopardize his election chances.
The film Humbert, Charlotte and Lolita watch at the drive-in is The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). When the film cut to the three characters in the car, Stanley Kubrick had a different soundtrack recorded to make the film sound scarier.
Stanley Kubrick prepared for the film while shooting Spartacus (1960) in Spain. Brought in at the last minute to replace Anthony Mann, Kubrick was primarily a director for hire on the film, supervising the actors and setting up shots but forced to follow Dalton Trumbo's screenplay closely. He dealt with the frustration of working that way by developing the supposedly unfilmable novel for the screen.
Stanley Kubrick intended to fire Shelly Winters due to her difficult behaviour on set. However, as she only had a short time remaining on the production he decided not to and allowed her to complete her scenes.
Sue Lyon's Lolita is watching (and being scared silly by) The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), at the drive-in theatre. The particular scene shows 'Christopher Lee (1)' revealing himself to be the monster. 15 years later, Lyon would herself co-star with Lee, in the low-budget thriller, End of the World (1977).
According to a December '58 article, the production first suggested Brigitte Bardot for the role of Lolita. In a later interview appeared in '61, Nabokov stated that Bardot was very far from "his creature": this explains why Bardot didn't get the part. In the spring of '59, the role was offered to the then 17 years-old 'Sandra Dee', but her mother said she wasn't sure about it. A few weeks later, Beverly Aadland, at the time Errol Flynn's fiancée, was considered. In October '59, just a few days after Flynn's passing, Aadland stated that she and Flynn would have been the perfect couple for the film: "If he didn't pass away, we would certainly act in Lolita. We both had the physique du rôle". Sue Lyon would be chosen only in late 1960, after several selections.
Whether it had to do with her casting as Lolita (1962), or not, Sue Lyon, 3 years earlier, played a "Lolita type" character in an episode of _"The Loretta Young Show" (1953)_, entitled; Alien Love, in which she flirts with her older male teacher, who winds up in trouble for it.
Just as in the novel, there are many double-entendres, and humorous references - both verbal and visual - throughout the film. A couple of such references happen when Humbert's first seen at the office of Lolita's camp, to pick her up. The shot show's Humbert standing there, as all these nubile young girls come in and out of the room, whilst Humbert stands there, with a tennis racquet, and a stuffed beaver. The name of the camp? 'Camp Climax' .
Stanley Kubrick approached John Trevelyan, head of the British Board of Film Censors, for advice on how to beat the book's censorship problems. He suggested that it might work "if it had the mood of Greek tragedy."
The Production Code Administration passed the film with a few snips on the soundtrack and an early fade to the scene in which Lolita seduces Humbert after her mother's death. The PCA awarded the film Certificate No. 20000. The British and Australian prints contain the scene as originally shot.