It was 1970, and a white Rolls Royce was gliding through the streets of London. Inside were the obviously disturbed Roman Polanski, the film director still reeling from the murder of his wife, and Richard Gregory, the legendary cognitive psychologist.
Polanski had discovered Gregory’s work on visual perception through his book Eye and Brain and decided he wanted to enlist Gregory’s help to create a 3D horror movie.
The movie was intended to be revolutionary, taking advantage of the brain’s perceptual quirks to make a truly disturbing visual experience.
They spent the week in Polanski’s office, actually the rear of his white Rolls Royce, discussing concepts, checking out studios and making plans.
In the end, their plans were too ambitious and were abandoned by Polanksi, who moved on to other projects.
Gregory remembers the episode well however, and discusses his meeting with Polanski, and the science behind their abandoned project, in an online audio recording.
Interestingly, Gregory also mentions that Polanksi also wanted to use the techniques they developed to make a 3D erotic movie.
Visual perception lectures would have never been the same again, much to the delight of generations of psychology students, but sadly, it remains only as a wonderful tale of an unlikely pairing.
The recording seems to be from a fantastic Polanski DVD box set that also contains his film Repulsion, notable for its portrayal of a young woman’s descent into a terrifying psychosis and the film’s use of perceptual distortion to communicate the experience to the viewer.
Link to audio of Gregory discussing his collaboration with Polanski.