The legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s last movie Eyes Wide Shut was monumental because of various reasons. First, it was Kubrick’s last movie, second, the actors, especially Tom Cruise got a taste of his perfectionist nature and third, Nicole Kidman had the last say in the nude scenes, as she should, by making him sign a waiver. Although it was not as common in 1999, this made ripples in the industry.
The movie still continues to captivate audiences and provoke intellectual discourse more than two decades after its debut. Often misunderstood and underappreciated upon release, the film has gained legendary status due to its intricate storytelling, masterful direction, and thematic exploration of human desire, and continues to remain an iconic piece of art.
Nicole Kidman made Stanley Kubrick sign a waiver to have the last say in the nude scenes
The Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman’s move not only made strides in the industry but also changed it forever. It followed after the actress was hesitant in exposing herself in the way Stanley Kubrick wanted. In an interview with The New York Times, Kidman revealed,
“When I went to work with Stanley Kubrick, he was like, ‘I’m going to want full-frontal nudity,’ and I was like, ‘Ahh, I don’t know,'”
In preparation for the nude scenes in Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick approached Kidman with a proposition that would define both their working relationship and the film’s artistic integrity. Understanding the potential vulnerability such scenes would expose, Kubrick offered Kidman a waiver, assuring her that any footage deemed unnecessary or gratuitous would be omitted from the final cut. She said,
“So we came up with a great agreement, which was contractual. He would show me the scenes with the nudity before they made it into the film. Then I could feel completely safe. I didn’t say no to any of it. I’d wanted to make sure that it wasn’t going to be me standing there nude and everyone laughing at me.”
This agreement not only protected Kidman’s artistic integrity but also fostered an atmosphere of trust and collaboration between the actress and director. She continued,
“I was protected, so I got to explore a complicated marriage and the way in which Tom’s character is having those jealous images.–There needs to be a place where you can go, I’m not going to be exploited,–Then I’ll go down the road with you. I love the relationship between a director and an actor. When it’s pure, it’s exquisite.”
The contract allowed Kidman to fully embrace the role of Alice and delve into the complexities of her character’s desires, and vulnerabilities.
Tom Cruise had to reshoot nearly 100 times to satisfy Stanley Kubrick
During the filming process, Kubrick’s obsession with perfection led to numerous reshoots. The meticulous director, unsatisfied with certain scenes, believed that he could extract more authenticity and depth from the actors. The film became physically demanding for Tom Cruise. Reportedly, he suffered from an ulcer. In an interview with Vanity Fair, the actor claimed,
“In times when we couldn’t get it, it was just like, ‘F***!’ I’d bring it upon myself because I demand a lot of myself.”
Although his obsession to find that perfect shot was getting too much, Cruise did not mind any of it. He had still held fast to his stance of protecting the director, telling Roger Ebert that Kubrick had “made 13 perfect versions,” and that he was “just proud to have been part of it.” Cruise also stated,
“I’d show up on the set and we’d find ourselves singing a song, goofing around, and we’d rehearse the scene, and he’d ask, ‘What are we gonna shoot the rest of the week?’ And I’d say, ‘Oh, Stanley, please don’t say that!’ Because at the end of the week, we’d still be working on that same scene, and he would laugh at himself.”
Throughout the reshoot process, Cruise and Kubrick developed a unique bond. All in all, the decision to reshoot 94 times for the film paid off. Upon its release, it garnered critical acclaim for its atmospheric portrayal of human desires and the complexities of relationships and still remains one of the greatest films ever made.