3rd October 1999
Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman tell John Hiscock how making the film strengthened their marriage
The movie, Eyes Wide Shut had one of the longest shoots in cinema history. Two stars fell by the wayside during the 18 months it lasted, and rumours were rife about the supposed ordeals to which director Stanley Kubrick was subjecting Tom Cruise and his wife, Nicole Kidman. But all those involved remained tight-lipped, until now.
The film opened in the US recently, and Cruise and Kidman have now spoken about making the film, the traumatic effect it had on them and their sadness at the death of the director. They tell a tale of strain, stress and physical tension - but they are convinced that it strengthened their marriage.
"It somehow cheapens it to talk about it," says Kidman. "It was a big, intense experience we went through together, and I think it has made us stronger and closer."
Both know that comparisons are inevitable between themselves and the film's wealthy, apparently happily married couple who have secret fantasies. And they admit that the scenes involving jealously and infidelity were particularly difficult. (Cruise suffered an ulcer during the filming.) But they don't regret the gruelling experience.
"The whole thing is so personal that it is very hard to talk about the film without getting upset. Emotionally I am very connected to it," says Kidman. At one point during our interview she sobs.
"I couldn't imagine doing this film with anyone else but Tom, and I'm so glad it was him," she says. "There is an element of voyeurism in this and I suppose that's why Stanley wanted a married couple. We put so much of our life into the film."
Jealousy and obsession figure prominently in Eyes Wide Shut, a dark and haunting story of decadence and redemption that Kubrick based on Traumnovelle, a 1926 novella by Viennese playwright and physician Arthur Schnitzler, a friend of Sigmund Freud. Kubrick died, aged 70, just after he finished editing the film.
Cruise and Kidman play wealthy New York doctor Bill Harford and his wife, Alice, whose marriage teeters on the verge of collapse after she confesses to having had dreams about a naval officer whom she glimpsed in a hotel lobby.
This news so devastates Harford that, haunted by graphic images of his wife and the sailor, he sets off on a romantic odyssey of his own, which takes him to nightclubs and ritualistic masked parties. Finally Harford and his wife confront their true feelings about each other.
Many of the scenes - some filmed over and over again in Kubrick's quest for perfection - were emotionally harrowing for them. "It could have destroyed our marriage, but I think it has brought us together, and we have this experience to remember for the rest of our lives," says Cruise.
"Nic and I have good communication, but when you are dealing with the kind of issues that the film is confronting, you really have to go through with it and discuss it. There are a lot of things we brought to the picture, and I think Stanley appreciated it. I think he knew what it cost us to go through with these scenes.
"It was very demanding emotionally and physically for both of us, and there were times when Nic and I were uneasy with each other. I think Stanley understood that and respected what we were doing and what we were giving.
"I don't like to bring work home, but sometimes, because of the characters and the nature of the scenes, it was very difficult not to think about it and become slightly obsessed with it. I worked every day on the movie. We really had to take time to try and be good to each other and kind to each other.
"A relationship is something you always have to be creative in. I think Nic and I have learned that together. And this picture has given me a stronger belief in our friendship and our love. I'm glad we had been married as long as we were because it would have been a lot more difficult if we had been in the first year of our marriage."
Kidman agrees. "It came along at a time in our marriage when we were ready for it," she says in a separate interview. "We were both nervous because we were dealing with subject matter that is quite dangerous. But we had been married for seven years and we were willing to start talking about and dealing with things that a lot of the time you try to pretend aren't there: Desire, attraction to other people all sorts of things.
"At times it was very difficult but we came out of it with our marriage strengthened because of the honesty it entailed."
Cruise was shocked when he first saw the teaser trailer Kubrick released, featuring 90 seconds of Cruise with Kidman. "It's one thing to be in a room with Stanley, and shooting the scene, and then suddenly there it is on the screen."
"It was difficult going home after the shooting, but we both decided we were going to get lost in this world for a year-and-a-half, and that's what we did. It is a great memory for us, and at times it was almost a dream-like state," said Kidman.
- The Daily Telegraph
Eyes Wide Shut has master director Stanley Kubrick written all over it
Each of the six films the late Stanley Kubrick made during the last 30 years of his life has gone through a similar metamorphosis:
o Each was conceived and shot over a great length of time under conditions of fetish - like secrecy, giving rise to impossibly high expectations and scores of false rumours about its nature and content.
o When each was finally released, it went against genre expectation, defied logic, and was greeted with mixed reviews - including some which strongly argued that it was, in fact, a spectacularly bad movie.
o Over time, each displayed remarkable 'legs,' both critically and at the box office, inspiring repeated viewings and critical reappraisals, until it was finally accepted as a masterpiece.
So far, the master's 13th and final film, Eyes Wide Shut, is right on schedule with the fulfilment of steps one and two. After years of rumours and retakes, it opened recently in the US and is likely to be considered a major disappointment by most of the movie world.
As a romantic-thriller, it's so stylised and tame that it a lmost seems silly. As a relationship drama, it seems empty, drawn-out and often sophomoric. As a star vehicle for Hollywood's power couple - Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman - it's surprisingly lacklustre.
Even so, I refuse to rule out the possibility the film will - like its six immediate predecessors - eventually move on to step three.
Because, whatever it is, it's totally Kubrickian: Its scenes have both an edge and an extraordinary visual perfection that could come from no other filmmaker.
Based (rather closely) on a segment of a turn - of- the - last - century novel by Arthur Schnitzler and transplanted to a back lot version of New York City, it's about a crisis in the marriage of a handsome young Park Avenue doctor (Cruise) and his trophy wife (Kidman).
One night, after attending a classy party at the home of a friend (Sydney Pollack), they have a spat in which she confesses that she was once, while in his company, wildly attracted to another man - an attraction that was one of the most intense experiences of her life.
Profoundly shocked at the notion that the mother of his child could actually be attracted to another man, the young doctor heads out into the night and has a series of bizarre experiences that eventually lead him to crashing a masked party at a Long Island mansion. But before anything physically happens to him, his uninvited presence is discovered, and he barely gets out alive. The rest of the movie has him targeted by the vengeful libertines, in doubt about what exactly happened and why, and struggling with guilt, disillusionment and aberrant physical impulses.
If that sounds like the prescription for a 'hot' movie, forget about it. There's some bold scenes and teasing here and there, but nothing close to a real bedroom scene. Indeed, always the most controlled, emotionless and clinical of directors, Kubrick probably couldn't manage a truly raunchier scene if his life depended on it.
Moreover, the dramatic premise - a man surprised that his wife has fantasies, a couple coming unglued by the notion that they could feel attractions for other people - seems so impossibly dated that it's hard to believe Kubrick wants us to take it seriously.
As a star vehicle, it scores a few points, but Kubrick has a way of constraining - even depersonalising - his stars (while, ironically, encouraging broad performances from his supporting players). Thus Cruise and Kidman mostly seem flat, stereotypical, as characterless as Hal, the computer of 2001.
Love it or hate it, there's not a single moment in this film in which we don't feel we're in the hands of one of the cinema's great virtuoso directors, indeed, completely in his world.
Frustrated and puzzled, maybe, but also privileged.
As Kubrick's last film also deserves a special respect as the capper of one of the most remarkable careers in the annals of film. No American director ever manipulated the Hollywood system so effectively to make such daring, personal, important films. Probably no one ever will again.
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