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The Stanley Kubrick film that spent an unprecedented 400 consecutive days in production

It is no revelation that making a good film can be a difficult job, especially those that involve large-scale productions. Over the years, there have been many productions that have been derailed by all kinds of disruptions. However, one particular film by Stanley Kubrick actually broke records when it spent 400 consecutive days in production.

Due to his unrelenting pursuit of artistic achievements, Kubrick had developed a strong reputation in the industry for being a perfectionist. While it intimidated some actors, there were other artists who wanted to work with Kubrick just because of that reason. Among the latter, Tom Cruise got lucky because he nabbed the opportunity of working with the pioneering auteur on his final project.

Titled Eyes Wide Shut, this 1999 erotic opus was the perfect farewell for Stanley Kubrick in many ways. It not only provided the appropriate final flourish to an almost flawless filmography but it also reinforced the belief that Kubrick’s artistic vision was unwavering even in those final years. Although the film is celebrated now, that wasn’t the case when it first came out.

At the time of its release, many critics dismissed Eyes Wide Shut as the flawed product of an ageing director’s whims and idiosyncrasies. Kubrick himself had passed away a few days after showing the final cut of the film to Warner Bros which led many to speculate that the finalised version of the film wasn’t what Kubrick had intended.

Christopher Nolan noted that there were many imperceptible technical flaws in the editing and other aspects of the film which would never have been there if Kubrick had the opportunity to iron them out. In fact, Kubrick had already devoted a lot of time to the project since the film spent 400 days in production which was completely unprecedented.

The initial plans involved a six-month shoot which eventually stretched to 15 months. According to the accounts from the set, Kubrick took 95 takes of Cruise just walking through a door while Harvey Keitel was forced to leave the production because of the extended period of shooting. Since it spent 400 consecutive days in production, the film actually managed to get a unique achievement.

It was awarded the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous film shoot, lasting five times more than the average Hollywood standards. Writing about the film in an essay, Martin Scorsese rightly observed: “When Eyes Wide Shut came out a few months after Stanley Kubrick’s death in 1999, it was severely misunderstood, which came as no surprise.”

Adding, “If you go back and look at the contemporary reactions to any Kubrick picture (except the earliest ones), you’ll see that all his films were initially misunderstood. Then, after five or ten years came the realisation that 2001 or Barry Lyndon or The Shining was like nothing else before or since.”

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