Stanley Kubrick’s final film “Eyes Wide Shut” went misjudged and misunderstood by many during its initial release, but 20 years later, it feels like the perfect kind of cryptic grace note to a career that always kept audiences guessing. Outwardly the story of Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise), his wide Alice (Nicole Kidman) and his nightmarish odyssey through a sexually-charged community of privilege and secrecy, Kubrick’s adaptation of the 1926 novel by Arthur Schnitzler touches on some important and uncomfortable truths about marriage, intimacy, gender roles and desire that prompt new interpretations with every viewing. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the film’s release, Moviefone looks back at the legend that has grown around its epic production for a few of the lesser-known details about its making, its meaning, and the man who remains one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.
1. Stanley Kubrick first acquired the source material, Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle in 1968 after completing 2001: A Space Odyssey.
2. In the 1970s, he reportedly imagined it with Woody Allen in the lead role. In the 1980s, he re-conceived a version of the story as a melancholy sex comedy starring Steve Martin. Kubrick briefly considered Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger for Bill and Alice Harford as well.
3. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman won their roles after visiting the Kubrick estate during the shooting of Kidman’s film “Portrait of a Lady” in England. Meanwhile, Bill and Alice were given the last name “Harford” as a reference to Kubrick’s onetime desire to find a leading man like Harrison Ford for the film.
4. Harvey Keitel was originally cast as Victor Ziegler and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Marion, the daughter of Bill’s patient. Although shooting began with them in the roles, both had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts and they were later replaced by Sydney Pollack and Marie Richardson. Eva Herzigova was offered the role of Domino that eventually went to Vinessa Shaw, but turned it down because it required too much nudity (though there’s none featuring the character in the final film).
5. Despite the film’s New York setting, Kubrick shot almost the entire film in London at Pinewood Studios, where he recreated Greenwich Village. Exteriors in New York were shot and rear projected behind Cruise for several walking scenes by second unit cinematographers such as Malik Sayeed (“He Got Game”).
6. Kubrick reportedly sowed disharmony between real-life couple Cruise and Kidman on set, marrying art and life: after intimate therapy sessions whose contents were never to be disclosed, Kubrick forbade Cruise from visiting set while Kidman was shooting her erotic scenes with the Naval Officer in her character’s fantasies.
7. Stanley Kubrick makes a small cameo in the film sitting across from Bill’s table at the Sonata Café.
8. For the sex scenes, Kubrick researched “Basic Instinct,” “Showgirls” and other erotic thrillers such as TV's “Red Show Diaries,” primarily to evaluate how far he could push the film’s sexual content without running the risk of an NC-17 rating. Nevertheless, his final cut was considered too explicit my the MPAA, leading Warner Brothers to use CGI couples during the orgy scenes in order to minimize the explicit content. (The original unrated version is the one currently available on Warner Blu-rays.)
9. Cate Blanchett provided ADR for the mysterious masked woman who approaches Bill at the orgy, rather than actress Abigail Good, whose English accent was too thick.
10. A scene late in the film between Bill and Victor Ziegler reportedly took three weeks and nearly 200 takes to get right.
11. “Eyes Wide Shut” won recognition from Guinness Book of World Records for the longest constant movie shoot, lasting 400 days.
12. The extended shooting schedule wreaked havoc on the stars' upcoming commitments, including "Mission: Impossible 2," which was pushed back considerably.
14. Stanley Kubrick died of a heart attack just four days after presenting his final cut to Warner Brothers. Various rumors and disputing accounts have suggested that the filmmaker was unhappy with the film or that additional changes needed to be made, but according to those closest to him, Kubrick was very happy with the film and showed Warner what he considered his definitive version.
15. At $162 million worldwide, “Eyes Wide Shut” is Kubrick’s highest-grossing film.