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Kubrick Keeps 'em in Dark With 'Eyes Wide Shut'

September 29, 1998|CLAUDIA ELLER

Just how much money Stanley Kubrick's psycho-sexual drama "Eyes Wide Shut," starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, will wind up costing Warner Bros. is one of the best kept secrets in Hollywood.

Industry guesstimates have ranged from $65 million to far higher for a movie that had the longest production schedule in modern motion picture history--18 months--and will sit in the can another 10 months before its mid-July release.

Warner Bros. co-Chairman Terry Semel insists, "I know you won't believe me, but it's in the 60s." Even at that, it's the most expensive movie Kubrick has ever made. Then again, the legendary director hasn't made one in more than a decade. Semel refused to talk about Kubrick and Cruise's deals, but both will get substantial chunks of every dollar that comes to the studio.

Sources say Kubrick--whose distinguished career as one of Hollywood's most celebrated filmmakers includes such classics as "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Paths of Glory," "Dr. Strangelove," "A Clockwork Orange," "Lolita" and "The Shining"--is getting around $8 million to direct and produce "Eyes Wide Shut," which he also co-wrote, against around 10% of the gross.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday September 30, 1998 Home Edition Business Part D Page 5 Financial Desk 2 inches; 64 words Type of Material: Correction
Kubrick defended--Due to an editing error, the following paragraph was inadvertently left out of an article on director Stanley Kubrick published Tuesday.
Sony Pictures chief John Calley defends his friend Kubrick, saying that, while he may be frugal, he's hardly cheap: "He lives wonderfully and is generous to a fault. There's nobody more economically disposed than Stanley. He's a conservative filmmaker--efficient and concerned about costs."

While Kubrick's past movies have by and large been profitable, his directing-producing deal has never been on a par with someone like Steven Spielberg--who as a director-producer has commanded as much as 50% of the profits on his films.

Sources say that Cruise, who normally receives $20 million against 20% of first-dollar gross, agreed to $15 million against 15% to work with Kubrick. Between them, the superstar and director are guaranteed no less than 25% of the film's gross profit.

But those who have worked with Kubrick before say that no matter what the film ends up costing it will undoubtedly be far less than what it would have cost in the hands of a less cost-conscious director.

"I promise you that a Hollywood-type production with a major star like Tom Cruise and a world-class director like Stanley Kubrick would have cost someone else $80 million or $90 million," suggests Semel. "It would have been shot in less time and would have cost multiples more per day."

Semel added that on a typical studio movie, "there are very costly ongoing running costs, and in Stanley's case they were kept to an absolute minimum."


The day-to-day shooting cost of a movie is often the most expensive element of any production, along with lengthy post-production schedules. Where a big studio production with major movie stars typically costs from $150,000 to $300,000 a day to shoot, Kubrick is said to have spent as little as $12,000 a day.

Sources said that when Sony Pictures needed to borrow Cruise to promote "Jerry Maguire," the studio was surprised to learn that it would only cost $60,000 a week to shut down the production.

Kubrick, whose unique deal guarantees him zero studio interference on his movies, is reportedly fanatical about costs.

"He's very concerned about wasting money," Semel says. "He treats the studio money as if it's his own. It bothers him if a dollar gets wasted."

Kubrick, who controls every aspect of his productions from the script to the print quality of the posters, works with a small crew whose members don't get paid during shut-downs over the course of production. In the U.S., crews are guaranteed pay during hiatus periods. But the 70-year-old director-producer, who hates flying, always makes his films in England, where he's lived for more than 35 years.

Several Hollywood sources characterized Kubrick as being "notoriously cheap," particularly when it comes to his crew.

Kubrick also wears many hats on his productions, operating the camera and performing other technical functions that a studio would otherwise have to pay someone else to do. He edits all of his own movies on the computerized editing system and post-production facilities he has at his 172-acre estate near St. Albans, about 20 miles north of London.

Known for being a fanatical craftsman, Kubrick is even said to personally work on the dubbing of his European trailers.

"He is the smartest manager of distribution and that's why his films do inconceivable sums of money in Europe," says Sony Pictures movie chief John Calley, who during his tenure as a top executive at Warner Bros. from 1968 to 1980 worked on three Kubrick films--"A Clockwork Orange," "Barry Lyndon" and "The Shining"--and remains one of his closest friends.


Calley defends his friend, saying that, while he may be frugal, he's hardly cheap: "He lives wonderfully and is generous to a fault. There's nobody more economically disposed than Stanley. He's a conservative filmmaker--efficient and concerned about costs."

He recalled how he and Kubrick fought for weeks over the budget of "Clockwork Orange," the director's controversial 1971 movie.

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