While I was a student I was briefly seeing a Norwegian girl who was working over here as an Au Pair. One day we were in a pub and she pointed to the TV that was showing a trailer for one of Tom Cruise’s movies that was going to be on TV later in the day. She made a comment about him being really nice, I thought at first she meant something different but it actually transpired that she had met him (on several occasions) and found him to be a charming and funny man. Stunned by this casual reference to knowing one of the biggest stars in the world I was keen to know more. She explained that when she first came to England the agency she worked for placed he at Luton Hoo* that was being used as a location for a movie.
Her job was to look after the children of the cast and crew during filming. This immediately got my attention; I wanted to know what they were filming. She couldn’t tell me, she was on or around the set for several weeks but didn’t really know what was going on, the most she could tell me was that there were lots of people and they wore nice clothes. It wasn’t until I asked what Cruise’s then wife Nicole Kidman was doing while she looked after the kids that things started to fall into place, she casually mentioned “oh she’s in the film too”. The movie she had witnessed been made was Eyes Wide Shut and she had also met the director Stanley Kubrick although she didn’t know his name and didn’t really have anything to do with him. As for Nicole Kidman, she had less contact with her than her “charming and funny” husband so didn’t really form an opinion but did say “she is even more beautiful in real life”. So two years pass Stanley Kubrick dies and the movie finally comes out. I later found out that the parts of the movie shot at Luton Hoo where mainly the interiors of Victor Ziegler’s (Sydney Pollack) New York house and the party scene set their would account for the “nice clothes”
But was the movie any good? It Received mixed reviews on release but did quite well at the box-office grossing nearly two and half times its $65million budget despite poor marketing. I actually really enjoyed it and it ranks highly of my top ten movies of 1999 (probably the best single year for movies in my memory) and it was the first DVD I ever purchased (I was given The Matrix and Go around the same time).
The biggest problem with the movie is people’s expectations. Some went in expecting something approaching porn, others wanted to see a typical Tom Cruise blockbuster what we actually got was a slow, thoughtful, impeccably constructed and beautiful movie. For me, from an acting point of view I think it represents a career high for both Cruise and Kidman who appear to be putting their heart and soul into the performances. It has been reported many times that the actors were completely subservient to their auteur director on a long and arduous shoot, we will probably never know if making the movie had a negative effect on the couple’s marriage that ended a couple of years later but it is possible.
The last word spoken in the movie (by Nicole Kidman) is “Fuck” that would probably have been my reaction after first seeing the movie if I wasn’t completely speechless. In the case of Kidman’s character, Alice the word is a solution to the couples problems but spoken in such a way that it is open to countless interpretations. To put it into context, it’s the final scene the couple are in a department store Christmas shopping with their daughter (out of earshot) when they say:
Alice: I do love you and you know there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible.
Bill: What’s that?
For me the word fuck was more an expression of what have I just seen? Eyes Wide Shut is a movie I love but have never been able to find the words to review it. I sat down with the intention of reviewing it today but was unable to hence my recount of this little story.
Written as part of the LAMB “Director’s Chair”. Be sure to check out the other Stanley Kubrick related blogs.
*Luton Hoo is a mansion set in 1065 acres of English countryside that straddles the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire borders near the town of Luton. In 2007 it was turned into a luxury (£400 a night) Hotel and Spa, prior to that it is best known as a location for movies such as: A Shot in the Dark, Never Say Never Again, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The World Is Not Enough, Quills and Enigma. It is also conveniently located around five miles from where Stanley Kubrick in Harpenden.