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An Open-End Project

Film Clips: While fall 1998 is the optimistic release date for Stanley Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut,' secrecy and delays surround the $65-million modern-day update of 'La Ronde.' We can say no more.

January 18, 1998|Steven Smith | Steven Smith is a frequent contibuter to Calender

It's got Cruise, Kidman and Kubrick.

What it hasn't got, after over a year of production, is an official wrap date. As a result, two of Hollywood's top stars, and moviegoers around the world, are spending 1998 Waiting for Stanley.

"Eyes Wide Shut" is the first film from director Stanley Kubrick since 1987's "Full Metal Jacket." Shrouded in secrecy typical for its director--it's described in Warner Bros. publicity only as "a story of jealousy and sexual obsession"--it began shooting in November 1996, and was expected to finish by summer of 1997.

But like one of Kubrick's most memorable creations, Hal the computer in "2001," the movie seems to have an unstoppable agenda of its own. As of last month, "Eyes" production was wide open, as Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman found themselves still in London working on the film.

"Stanley has a particular way of making films and he never deviates from it," Kidman told the Calgary Herald last September.

"You know going in that it's going to take a long time, and that he won't speed things up to meet a release date or anything like that. He doesn't care how his films are received. They're what he's giving the world and when he dies, they're all that will be left of him."

Kubrick further stoked expectations last month by finally confirming the source of his project, co-written over 20 years with British novelist Frederick Raphael.

The film, which the Times of London has reported has a budget of $65 million, is based on the 1926 novella "Traumnovelle" ("Dream Book"), a tale of sexual misadventure and murder set in Freud's Vienna; its author is Arthur Schnitzler, best known for his cynical portrait of sexual liaisons, "La Ronde."

In Kubrick's modern-day update, Cruise and Kidman reportedly play psychologists who decide to act on their fantasies by exploring New York's underworld sex scene.

Kubrick biographer John Baxter told London's Sunday Times that the director was attracted by Schnitzler's cold logic and irony, adding that "Eyes Wide Shut" "could be as bleak as 'A Clockwork Orange' and as disturbing as 'Lolita.' "

What the film has already disturbed are the plans of Cruise and Kidman. In December, the two had planned to be in Los Angeles, to co-chair one of Hollywood's most prestigious fund-raisers, the Fire and Ice Ball.

When filming prevented their return, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson stepped in, with Hanks drolly informing the crowd that "unfortunately [Tom and Nicole] are both starting the second year of the filming of their motion picture. As far as Paramount Studios goes, I'll be happy to take over the 'Mission: Impossible' franchise as well."

Fortunately, Kubrick's cast--which includes Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming--seemed to enjoy doing time with a director whose legendary status hasn't always secured him the love of actors. (One cast member, Harvey Keitel, left "Eyes" after five months citing "scheduling conflicts," and was replaced by Pollack, according to London's Independent newspaper.)

Here's what three participants had to say, while surfacing last year to promote other projects:

"It's set in New York, but we did it at Pinewood in London," said Cumming, whose credits include "Buddy" and "Emma." "In one scene I tell Tom a lot of information about his friend, and I kind of have the hots for him. That was quite heavy [laughs]--I spent two days gazing at Tom Cruise's face!

"Stanley is really lovely. I thought he was going to be more scary than he was. He's a really nice man, very witty, just incredibly meticulous. And it's so great to spend that amount of time on a scene which normally would be done in an afternoon or a day. We just spent days and days on it, and it really does work [to do that]."

Last summer, Cumming left the Kubrick shoot for Los Angeles to promote the chimp comedy "Buddy." "What's really sad is, they were asking why I was coming to Los Angeles. I told Stanley and he said, 'Oh bring in a Polaroid!' So I had Tom Cruise and Stanley Kubrick poring over these Polaroids of chimps! We had such a laugh."

"I obviously can't tell you anything about the story," said Leigh,

"but I can tell you that everything that's been written about it is untrue. And I can tell you that I loved working on it.

"For me it was heaven. [Kubrick] is very gentle, very detailed, very open, and yet very specific. I know that sounds like a contradiction.

"And there's no sense of time at all. It really is like going through the Looking Glass. Time stops. And that's an amazing experience to have.

"When you're with him, you feel you're with a genius, but at the same time he makes you very comfortable. He's very approachable--you can ask him anything. So he's the opposite of everything you would think he'd be."

"He's a character," said Kidman. "I said to him the other day I'm really gonna miss him when we finish. Every day there's something new.

"It'll be nice to be able to talk about it. I think we're going to wrap up in about a month."

That was September. Three months later, Kidman and Cruise were still in London, on sound stages reportedly patrolled by a dozen security guards for secrecy.

As for when the film will stop being "For Kubrick's Eyes Only," Warner Bros. optimistically lists a fall 1998 release date. They know better than to ask the question an MGM executive did in 1967: "This '2001' . . . does it refer to the date when the film takes place, or when we'll finally see it?"

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