All this week, Film School Rejects presents a daily dose of our favorite articles from the archive. Originally published in November 2011, David C. Bell explores some of the toughest roads to the big screen for a score of great movies.
Most films tend to be technological and logistical nightmares right from the start; clusters of egos working together with complicated equipment in an attempt to capture what is essentially a really elaborate lie tends to be a rather surreal process, so it’s not really surprising to hear that a whole lot of craziness can go down during the making of a movie – however as unsurprising as it may be, it’s still damn entertaining.
That’s why DVD documentaries, in my opinion, are like the ultimate kind of reality TV: stick a bunch of millionaire actors, union laborers, and eccentric artists in a room with expensive and possibly life-threatening electrical equipment and you’re surely going to get something worth watching. These are the sets that were no doubt the worst to be party to, and the best to be a fly on the wall for – that is if you happen to be a really sadistic fly.
6. Eyes Wide Shut
The torment that comes from Stanley Kubrick’s final film was not from the conditions of the set, nor was it even from any complications that arose during shooting. It certainly wasn’t Nicole Kidman’s nude scenes. What made working on this film a living hell was much more elegant than any disaster or ego clash – it was the pure tedium. 15 months of it.
Kubrick is known for being a rather meticulous director, and for this film he went above and beyond, setting an actual Guinness World Record for “longest constant movie shoot” at 400 straight days. That means that for those 400 days production never took a break. The reason for such a long shoot is of course Kubrick’s extreme attention to detail and perfectionism. At one point he shot a take of Tom Cruise walking though a door 90 times before he thought it was right. Ten whole days were spent deciding whether or not a character should make a certain hand signal. A 13-minute scene with Sydney Pollack took three full weeks of filming to get.
Of course it’s not like they didn’t know what they were getting into – as Vincent D’Onofrio, who had previously worked with Kubrick, told the actors “Rent a house or an apartment, because you’re going to be in England for a while.” And later in an interview Cruise himself expressed both his excitement and awareness of the possible length of the shoot saying “Nicole and I talk about it so much at night. When we’re 70 years old, sitting on the front porch, we’ll be able to look back and say, ‘Wow! We made this movie with Stanley Kubrick!’ We know it may take a long time to finish, but we don’t care.” When asked how long was a long time, he predicted six months. Oh so close!
Not long after the film was finally completed Kidman and Cruse famously separated, no doubt because they were sick of looking at each other.