Four months after his death in 1999, Stanley Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut was released in theaters. During its production, the film was mostly kept a secret from the public, gaining a lot of attention and momentum long before its much-anticipated release. While the movie did well at the box office, it left many people scratching their heads as the credits rolled. To this day, Eyes Wide Shut remains one of Kubrick’s most discussed films both for its production and underlying themes. Check out what makes this film so intriguing.
Kubrick Wanted Different Actors
While Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were the perfect duo to play the Hartfords, they weren’t director Stanley Kubrick’s first choice. The head of Warner Bros., Terry Semel, suggested that Kubrick cast A-list Hollywood actors, stating: “What I would really love you to consider is a movie star in the lead role; you haven’t done that since Jack Nicholson.
Kubrick didn’t disagree, but wanted a real-life married couple, and had his sights on the married Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. In the end, he ended up going with wedded couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
It Was Based On A Novella
The film was based on a novella written by Arthur Schnitzler titled Traumnovelle (Dream Story) and published in 1926. Since the film takes place in 1990s New York, it’s a light adaptation, yet the underlying plot and themes remain consistent.
According to Kubrick, "The book opposes the real adventures of a husband and the fantasy adventures of his wife, and asks the question: is there a serious difference between dreaming a sexual adventure, and actually having one?"
It Wasn’t Filmed In New York
While the movie takes place in New York City, surprisingly, the actual filming occurred in London. However, most audiences would never be able to tell the difference because of the meticulous preparations that were taken.
The reason that the set is so convincing is that Stanley Kubrick "sent a designer to New York to measure the exact width of the streets and the distance between newspaper vending machines." They made sure that the details were so precise that they would even be able to convince New Yorkers!
The Movie Earned Itself A Guinness World Record
After its release, Eyes Wide Shut earned a spot in the Guinness World Records for the longest constant movie shoot. The film was shot over a course of 400 days, something that was unexpected by both the cast and the crew. Initially, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman signed a contract for six months of filming, but numerous setbacks led to frequent delays.
This was particularly hard on Tom Crusie, who was at the height of his career at the time, getting in the way of him filming Mission Impossible II. Cruise claimed that “We knew from the beginning the level of commitment needed […] “We were going to do what it took to do this picture.”
They Shot In Kubrick’s Apartment
Kubrick used his own apartment to film the home of Cruise and Kidman’s characters. Cruise said, “The apartment in the movie was the New York apartment [Stanley] and his wife Christianne lived in. He recreated it. The furniture in the house was furniture from their own home.”
“Of course, the paintings were Christianne’s paintings. It was as personal a story as he’s ever done.” On top of that, Cruise and Kidman slept in their characters’ bedroom, even choosing the color for the curtains.
There Was No Shortage Of Security
With the exception of Kubrick, Kidman, Cruise, and their small crew, nobody else was allowed on the set of the film. To ensure this, the set was heavily patrolled by police in order to keep paparazzi and undesirables out.
However, in May 1997, someone managed to snag a picture of Tom Cruise on set next to an “old guy, scruffy with an anorak and a beard.” That man turned out to be Kubrick himself, who hadn’t been photographed by paparazzi in 17 years. After that incident, he had security on set tripled.
Kubrick Died A Week After Showing His Final Cut
Stanley Kubrick passed away from a heart attack six days after showing his final cut of the film to Warner Bros. While that was the version that the studio received, nobody can say whether Kubrick was fully done editing it or not. The studio made some tweaks after Kubrick’s passing, such as digitally altering the bodies during the orgy scene so the film could be released with an R rating rather than NC-17.
Nicole Kidman commented, “I think Stanley would have been tinkering with it for the next 20 years. He was still tinkering with movies he made decades ago. He was never finished. It was never perfect enough.”
Tom Cruise Didn’t Like His Character
Although Tom Cruise was thankful for his role in the film and was dedicated when on set, he revealed a year after its release that he didn’t enjoy playing Dr. Hartford. He stated, “[I] didn’t like playing Dr. Bill. I didn’t like him. It was unpleasant. But I would have absolutely kicked myself if I hadn’t done this.”
It’s hard to blame Cruise either. It wasn’t like playing his character would have been a very relaxing or fun role at all, quite the opposite.
There Was Real Jealousy On The Set
Kubrick was always adamant on being as accurate as possible in his films. Since Eyes Wide Shut deals with themes of jealousy and faithfulness in a relationship, Kubrick figured he might as well invoke real jealousy out of his actors.
In a fantasy sequence in which Nicole Kidman’s character is intimate with another man, Kubrick didn’t allow Cruise on set while Kidman filmed her scenes with a male model. Kubrick also forbade Kidman from telling Cruise any of the details about the shoot to put a real strain on their relationship. The minute-long sequence took a grueling six days to complete.
Kubrick Filmed One Scene 95 Times
Being the perfectionist that he was, Kubrick would shoot scenes countless times, no matter how trivial the scene was. He attempted to wear the actors down so that they would forget that the camera was even there and appear to be acting completely naturally.
On one occasion, Kubrick filmed 95 takes of Cruise walking through a door. Because of the long hours and desire to please Kubrick, Cruise eventually developed an ulcer — although he never told the director about it during filming.
Paul Thomas Anderson Visited The Set
Because Kubrick wanted to keep the film under wraps, he had a very small and selective crew working with him on set. However, one person who did manage to see the film come together was Boogie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson.
Cruise was in the middle of discussing starring in Anderson’s upcoming film Magnolia and had to sneak him past security. Anderson recalls at one point asking Kubrick why he works with so few people. Kubrick responded by saying: “Why? How many people do you need?” Anderson says at the moment “I felt like such a Hollywood [expletive].”
It Made More Than It Was Expected To
Warner Bros. decided that the film would need to make $20 million in its opening weekend in order for it to be considered a success. Shown across 2,400 screens, the film ended up grossing $21.7 million. By tracking the marketing of the film, Warner Bros. determined that Eyes Wide Shut had an awareness level of 78.
While this is a decent number, it wasn’t considered to be a first-choice for moviegoers during the summer of 1999. People were more likely to go and see Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Big Daddy rather than Eyes Wide Shut.
The Meaning Behind “Fidelio”
In the film, the word “Fidelio” is the password that Cruise’s character uses to have access to the cult ceremony. Fidelio is an opera written by Ludwig van Beethoven, which is about a woman who disguises herself as a man in order to save her lover.
Fidelio also comes from the Latin root “Fidelis,” which means faithful. Faithfulness in relationships is one of the biggest themes in the film, so it only makes sense that the term would be used as the password to enter the masked orgy.
They Used An Old School Film Technique
In order to accomplish the dream-like style of the film, Kubrick and his team utilized the old school technique of utilizing rear-projection plates. According to cinematographer Larry Smith:
“Generally, when Tom’s facing the camera, the backgrounds are rear-projected; anything that shows him from a side view was done on the streets of London. We had the plates shot in New York by a second unit […] We’d then go onto our street sets and shoot Tom walking on a treadmill. After setting the treadmill to a certain speed, we’d put some lighting effects on him to simulate the glow from the various storefronts that were passing by in the plates. We spent a few weeks on those shots.”
The Script Was Constantly Changing
According to actor and filmmaker Todd Field, who played the role of pianist Nick Nightingale, the script was always changing. He claims, “We’d rehearse and rehearse a scene, and it would change from hour to hour. We’d keep giving the script supervisor notes all the time, so by the end of the day the scene might be completely different. It wasn’t really improvisation, it was more like writing.”
This was yet another aspect in the making of the film that resulted in the film’s delay, as well as emotionally breaking down the actors.
Kubrick Acted Like A Psychoanalyst
To really get inside Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s heads, Kubrick would hold sessions with the two where he would act like a psychoanalyst. He would urge the couple to divulge personal secrets and fears about their marriage and the future, claiming he would never tell anyone else.
According to Kidman, “Tom would hear things that he didn’t want to hear […] “It wasn’t like therapy, because you didn’t have anyone to say, ‘And how do you feel about that?’ It was honest and brutally honest at times.”
Kubrick Did His Homework For The Erotic Scenes
During the editing phase when making Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick was known to religiously watch films such as Showgirls, Basic Instinct, and Fatal Attraction. However, it wasn’t necessarily because he enjoyed the films so much as he was doing research.
He would watch these specific movies to see how explicit the erotic scenes in his film could be in order to retain the R-rating that he had contractually agreed to make. In the end, some of the scenes still had to be altered using CGI because they were too graphic.
The Billiard Room Scene Was Exhausting To Complete
The iconic billiard room scene between Tom Cruise and Sydney Pollack clocks in at a whopping thirteen-and-a-half minutes. In total, the scene took three weeks to film, with over 200 different takes. Compare that to the first scene when their characters meet at the Christmas party which only took two hours and 16 takes.
While filming the scene, Cruise thought that Pollack was overly-prepared, as he was a director himself, but that wasn’t the case. Kubrick made the two film each take in a different way until he found what he thought worked best.
Theorists Believe The Movie Is Kubrick’s Way Of Exposing The Illuminati
While Eyes Wide Shut is mostly up for interpretation by its audience, some theorists believe that the film was Kubrick’s attempt to expose the Illuminati. The fact that Kubrick died a few days after supposedly submitting his directors cut is suspicious to some people.
They assume that he was possibly murdered and that the film was then re-edited to take out anything that can be traced back to the Illuminati. While these people exist, most other theories about the film don’t involve conspiracy theories or the New World Order.
There Are References To Other Works By Kubrick Sprinkled Throughout
If you’re a big enough Stanley Kubrick fan, you may notice that there are references to almost all of his works in the film, even his first feature, Fear and Desire.” At one point in Eyes Wide Open, there is a scene from Blume in Love on the television set.
Blume was directed by Paul Mazursky, who had made his acting debut in Kubrick’s Fear and Desire. Another Easter egg that people have caught on to is the ballroom theme from The Shining, as Cruise’s character is being warned to leave the party.