Actor Douglas Rain, the voice of HAL in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ dies at 90

NEW YORK – Canadian actor Douglas Rain, who played some of Shakespeare’s most intriguing characters onstage but is perhaps best known for supplying the creepily calm voice of the computer HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” has died at 90.

The Stratford Festival said Rain died Sunday of natural causes at St. Marys Memorial Hospital, just outside of Stratford, Ontario. He was one of the festival’s founding company members and spent 32 seasons performing there, until 1998.

His roles at Stratford included playing Claudio in “Measure for Measure” in 1954, Malvolio in “Twelfth Night” in 1957, Edgar in “King Lear” in 1964 and Prince Hal in “Henry IV, Part 1” in 1958, a play and a role he would return to in 1965. He would eventually take on the title role in 1966.

But it was the aloof voice of the artificially intelligent HAL 9000 – the forerunner of today’s Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home – where Rain entered the public’s consciousness. Kubrick had heard Rain’s voice in the 1960 documentary “Universe,” a film he watched multiple times, according to the actor. Rain was initially hired to narrate 1968’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but the director chose to go a different direction.

HAL is the onboard master computer on the spaceship Discovery 1 but goes rogue. When astronaut Dave Bowman asks HAL to open the ships’ pod doors, HAL famously balks. “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that,” the machine blandly refuses. “This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.”

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