Eyes Wide Shut Took Stanley Kubrick’s Exhausting Methods Even Further Than The Shining

Back in the late-70s, Kubrick had challenged the great Jack Nicholson’s acting philosophy on “The Shining,” famously making the actor shoot 60 takes for one scene — an example of his career-long commitment to getting the perfect take. As explained by Amy Nicholson in Vanity Fair, in practice that commitment involved “repeated takes designed to break down the idea of performance altogether,” forcing actors to reach an exhausted state where the notion of performance almost disappears and they can “rebuild and discover something that neither [Kubrick] nor they expected.”

That continued right up to production on “Eyes Wide Shut,” where Kubrick reconstructed entire New York City neighborhoods at England’s Pinewood Studios. It’s often reported he would shoot in his adopted UK due to his fear of flying. But for someone so committed to meticulous control over his projects, there was surely some appeal in having the ability to construct sets from scratch and have a say over every prop and set decoration. Hey, if you can convince people North London is actually Vietnam, then bringing NYC to the English countryside shouldn’t be that much more difficult, right? Especially if, as Amy Nicholson recounts, you send a designer to NYC to “measure the exact width of the streets and the distance between newspaper vending machines.”

And when it came time to shoot on his fabricated Manhattan, Kubrick brought his infamous shooting philosophy with him. Luckily, Cruise and Kidman seemed willing to accommodate their idiosyncratic director. According to director Todd Field, who appeared in “Eyes Wide Shut,” the pair were “completely subservient,” and “prostate[d] themselves at the feet of [Kubrick].” So when, as Amy Nicholson claims, the director demanded “that Cruise do 95 takes of walking through a door,” the actor was seemingly happy to oblige.

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