The late, great director Stanley Kubrick had an intense drive to pursue perfection to new heights before his untimely death in 1999. His last film, Eyes Wide Shut, took an incredible 15 months to film over the course of 46 consecutive weeks, setting a new record in the process.
During this trying time, Kubrick’s two married stars, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, were put through an ordeal that rivaled the difficulty of filming The Shining. Behind the scenes, Cruise overcame physical obstacles, kept secrets from his director, and accepted the arduous journey of making a cinematic masterpiece.
Stanley Kubrick’s Extreme Filmmaking Methods
Stanley Kubrick’s unique and demanding style of filmmaking included extensive preproduction, multiple takes of individual scenes, and complete creative autonomy. Kubrick’s drive for excellence reached new heights while making Eyes Wide Shut.
During the Eyes Wide Shut production, stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were subjected to Kubrick’s rigorous directing style. Both actors went to great lengths physically and emotionally to satisfy Kubrick’s requirements.
Todd Field, the film’s director and co-star, said that he and Nicole Kidman were “completely subservient” and ready to “prostrate themselves at the feet” of Kubrick. This level of commitment was required because Kubrick’s insistence on perfection meant that even a seemingly simple scene like Cruise walking through a door required an astounding 95 takes.
“Probably the polite thing I would say is “no comment,” but the truth is is that—let’s put it this way, you’ve never seen two actors more completely subservient, and prostate themselves at the feet of a director. Stanley was absolutely thrilled with the film.”
The actors’ willingness to push themselves to their limits in service of their art was fully displayed. Tom Cruise has shown throughout his career that he is motivated to give his absolute best performance at all times.
Even Eyes Wide Shut didn’t break the mold. Cruise had an ulcer during production, but he decided to keep it a secret from director Stanley Kubrick so that it wouldn’t slow them down. Working with Cruise was difficult and tiring because of his commitment to his craft and Kubrick’s demanding methods.
Tom Cruise Demands A Lot Of Himself
Colleague Vinessa Shaw said Cruise was “gung ho” at the start of filming but still into it but not as energetic by the end. Despite the strain, Cruise kept a positive attitude and took full responsibility for the high-pressure atmosphere on set, saying, “I demand a lot of myself.”
“You’ve never seen two actors more completely subservient and prostrate themselves at the feet of a director… In times when we couldn’t get it, it was just like, ‘Fuck! I’d bring it upon myself because I demand a lot of myself.’”
Both Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman have spoken highly of their time working with Stanley Kubrick, despite the demanding nature of the shoot. Cruise has repeatedly defended Kubrick’s techniques, expressing pride in contributing to the director’s vision.
Kidman found his method highly unconventional, albeit fruitful in the end. There’s no denying Stanley Kubrick was a perfectionist and that his painstaking planning was meant to capture the magic of impromptu moments on set.
The Mission: Impossible actor insisted on doing numerous takes because he was dedicated to getting the best possible shot. Kubrick’s perfectionism was fully displayed during preproduction, while his obsession took over during principal photography.
Tom Cruise’s time spent on set with Stanley Kubrick for Eyes Wide Shut was mentally and physically taxing him. It was, however, evidence of his dedication to his profession and readiness to go the extra mile to turn in stellar work.
Source: Vanity Fair