Almost every single Stanley Kubrick movie is loved and adored by movie fans across the world, with many considering everything from his debut Fear and Desire to his Vietnam war drama Full Metal Jacket to be quintessential classics. Commanding a strict creative vision over each and every one of his projects, Kubrick is known for his idiosyncratic ways, making his final film in 1999s Eyes Wide Shut a little too inaccessible for fans.
Considered by many to be his most divisive film, Eyes Wide Shut is a playful erotic thrilling infused with titillating sexual desire and underground conspiracy, starring the Hollywood icons Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles.
Adapted from the 1926 novella Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler, the filmmaker had been stewing the project for three decades before it came to fruition in 1999, with the recent release of the book Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker shedding some valuable insight into the film’s production. Written by David Mikics, the comprehensive look into the life and movies of the iconic cinema icon provides several shocking revelations.
The most intriguing of these revelations is that Tom Cruise was not Kubrick’s first choice for the starring role, with the filmmaker initially intending for a far different tone entirely. “In the Seventies, [Kubrick] fantasised about casting an actor in Dream Story who would have a comedian’s resilience,” Mikics writes, before revealing that the filmmaker imagined, “Steve Martin or Woody Allen in the leading role”.
Whilst Steve Martin is an obscure choice, it is the proposition of having filmmaker Woody Allen in the lead role of Kubrick’s erotic thriller that truly gets us wondering ‘what if’. Bumbling around the streets of New York with a great deal of self-deprecation and cynicism, we can’t help but feel that Eyes Wide Shut would have been far worse off with the Annie Hall director at the forefront.
Listing several others that Kubrick considered, Mikics adds, “In a notebook from the Eighties he listed a series of possible leading men, including Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, Alan Alda, Albert Brooks, Bill Murray, Tom Hanks and Sam Shepherd”. With each of these actors having something of a funny bone, thankfully Kubrick avoided this avenue altogether, going for the iconic Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise.
Choosing the actor for a very specific reason, Mikics further explains, “Significantly, when Kubrick finally made his version of Dream Story, he cast an actor without a comic bone in his body, the earnest, highly deliberate Tom Cruise. Comedy would have been a weapon for the hero’s self-defence; Kubrick makes him, in the end, defenceless”.
Met with indifference upon release, Kubrick’s lasting final statement to the cinematic world has since gained an appreciation, a film more akin to the works of David Lynch than his own previous films. Whilst in the process of a public relationship struggle in real life, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play characters eerily similar to their offscreen selves. After Kidman’s ‘Alice Harford’ reveals an act of sexual deviance with another man, William (Tom Cruise), sets out on a night of aimless contemplation, seeking empathy, erotic revenge and egotistical validation.
As the director’s final cinematic encore, Eyes Wide Shut is a fascinating drama of paranoia that fits eerily well into the contemporary world of the 1990s.