While “Dr. Strangelove” was in production, the studio started to distance itself from the project. Kubrick confronted producer Mo Rothman about not showing his face on set in a heated phone call, co-writer Terry Southern claimed in his essay “Notes from the War Room.” Rothman told the director that he was busy with another project that was “not so zany” as “Strangelove.”
Kubrick attempted to mend the relationship with Rothman by buying him a high-end golf cart, but to no avail: the producer refused to accept the gift. “He said it would be ‘bad form,'” Kubrick told Southern. “‘Bad form!'” the director exclaimed. “Can you imagine Mo Rothman saying that? His secretary must have taught him that phrase!”
The legendary filmmaker also butted heads with Columbia’s publicity department who, according to Rothman, were “having a hard time getting a handle on how to promote a comedy about the destruction of the planet.” The same department would later attempt to distance Columbia from “Dr. Strangelove” by describing the film as “a zany novelty flick which did not reflect the views of the corporation in any way.” The production company would change their tune years later when the Library of Congress selected “Dr. Strangelove” as one of the fifty greatest American films of all time — “in a ceremony at which I noted Rothman in prominent attendance,” Southern remarked.
It may have taken some time, but luckily for us, Columbia learned to stop worrying and love the film.