In his new book “How 1999 Blew Up the Screen,” author Brian Raftery offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut.” The movie captured the pop culture zeitgeist in 1999 not only because Kubrick died several days after completing the theatrical cut but also because it paired then-married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, two of the biggest stars in the world. Raftery’s “Eyes Wide Shut” chapter is currently available to read on Vulture, and it includes a surprising reveal from none other than Paul Thomas Anderson.
Filming of “Eyes Wide Shut” took place mostly in London at Pinewood Studios throughout 1996. The production was heavily secured and only included cast and crew, which made Anderson’s guest appearance on set quite rare. Anderson had cast Cruise in “Magnolia” (also released in 1999) and the actor had to personally usher the filmmaker through security in order to get him on the set. Anderson had a run-in with Kubrick himself on the set, which led to a memorable encounter.
“Kubrick had a really small crew,” Anderson said. “I asked him, ‘Do you always work with so few people?’ He gave me a look and said, ‘Why? How many people do you need?’ I felt like such a Hollywood asshole.”
Cruise’s first meeting with Kubrick went much better. The actor flew by helicopter to Kubrick’s home for a meeting that lasted hours and covered topics ranging from the “Eyes Wide Shut” script to the two men’s love of the New York Yankees, airplanes, and cameras. “He was just waiting, alone in a garden,” Cruise said of meeting Kubrick. “He walked me around the grounds, and I just remember thinking, ‘This guy is kind of a magical, wonderful guy.’”
Production on the film lasted for months, with Kidman saying it was “sometimes very frustrating because you were thinking, ‘Is this ever going to end?’” Both Kidman and Cruise were treated to a private screening of the movie in March 1999, which was under such lock and key that Kubrick forced the projectionist at the Warner Bros. screening room to turn away from the screen while the film was playing. Cruise’s instant reaction to the film: “We were so excited and proud.”
Like many Kubrick films, “Eyes Wide Shut” baffled audiences when it opened in theaters. Christopher Nolan told Raftery he was excited to see the film but ended up being “very, very disappointed” by it at the time. Years later, Nolan would have more enthusiastic praise to share.
“Watching it with fresh eyes, it plays very differently to a middle-age man than it did to a young man,” Nolan said. “There’s a very real sense in which it is the ‘2001’ of relationship movies.”
Head over to Vulture to read the full “Eyes Wide Shut” excerpt Brian Raftery’s “How 1999 Blew Up the Screen.”