Kubrick's View : Stanley Kubrick's Final Intense Days Were Spent Finishing the Sexy Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman Movie 'Eyes Wide Shut.'

By Kroll, Jack | Newsweek, March 22, 1999 | Go to article overview

Kubrick's View : Stanley Kubrick's Final Intense Days Were Spent Finishing the Sexy Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman Movie 'Eyes Wide Shut.'


Kroll, Jack, Newsweek


A naked woman stands before a mirror, her back to the camera. She is swaying softly to the sounds of Chris Isaak singing, "Baby done a bad, bad thing." Her head with its tousled red curls is lilting to the twanging guitar, her eyes fixed on her long, curved body, which we see reflected in the mirror. As the camera moves in slowly, a man, naked, comes in from the right. He embraces her, holds her breasts, kisses her mouth, her neck, with mounting passion. Three names suddenly appear in rapid succession: CRUISE. KIDMAN. KUBRICK. Now her face is in tight close-up, watching herself, a modern Mona Lisa rapt by her own enigma. Again the three names race by, followed by eyes wide shut, and then a date: July 16.

These 90 seconds of intense sensuality are the last work of the legendary director Stanley Kubrick. This "teaser," shown last week at the ShoWest exhibitors' convention in Las Vegas, is the first public look at "Eyes Wide Shut," the long-awaited movie starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman (box). Kubrick, 70, had died with tragic suddenness three days before. "This is my best movie ever," the creator of "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Dr. Strangelove," "Lolita" and "The Shining" told a colleague. Kubrick had sent his just-completed film to New York, where it was seen by Cruise and Kidman with Terry Semel and Robert Daly, cochairmen of Warner Brothers. It marked the end of the movie's three- year gestation period during which the notoriously secretive Kubrick had forbidden anyone to talk about the film.

"After we saw the movie in New York," says Semel, "I phoned him in London and told him we were blown away. The man was on cloud 98." Some observers weren't so sure the famously obsessive Kubrick had really finished editing. "It's Stanley's final cut for sure," says Semel. Another question had concerned a possible, financially disastrous NC- 17 rating for the $65 million film. "I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw it," says Semel. "It is a definite R rating. It's a very sexy picture, but there's also edge-of-your-seat suspense. And the nudity is done so beautifully, so tastefully. It is not NC-17."

"Eyes Wide Shut" is based on Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 "Traumnovelle" ("Dream Novel"), which explores the sexual lives of a Viennese couple, a doctor and his wife. One writer whom Kubrick approached to work on the film is the celebrated English spy novelist John le Carre (David Cornwell). Schnitzler's story, he says, "is very erotic, very much about middle-class inhibition." Kubrick and Cornwell couldn't agree on how to adapt this tale. "Locking minds with him was very exciting," says Corn-well. "But mercifully, I never wrote for him. Every writer who did said they lost years of their lives. Stanley was very seductive, but he wanted writers to write what he saw in his own head. I suspect half a dozen writers went through the same sheep-dip on the movie."

Kubrick's eventual coscripter was Os-car winner ("Darling") Frederic Raphael. Schnitzler's doctor became a New York psychiatrist (Cruise) who's married to another psychiatrist (Kidman), both of whom become involved in their patients' sexual lives. Reports (denied by the stars) say that Cruise wears a dress in a scene filmed at Madame JoJo's, a well-known transvestite bar, and that Kubrick brought in a clinician to instruct Kidman on how to mainline heroin. As in the original story, there is a climactic masked orgy. In a rare comment, Kubrick said that the film "explores the sexual ambivalence of a happy marriage and tries to equate the importance of sexual dreams and might-have-beens with reality."

As with every one of Kubrick's 13 movies in 46 years, he put his cast through scores of takes, using his camera like some Cyclopean predator relentlessly pursuing the soul of the actor. The 18-month shoot took its toll on some cast members. Harvey Keitel was replaced by director- actor Sydney Pollack, a Kubrick friend for 25 years. "Stanley said, 'If you're going to do a sexual thriller, both the sex and thrills have to be a fresh, new vision'," says Pollack. …

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