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When Paul Thomas Anderson met Stanley Kubrick on the set of 'Eyes Wide Shut'


Though it may not seem like it from the outside, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut is a Christmas classic of the most cynical order, criticising the constructs of the consumerist society we find ourselves trapped within. Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, two icons of contemporary Hollywood, Kubrick’s final film breaks down the constructs and secrets of the underworld of modern life. 

That is the notion which is explored in the novel How 1999 Blew Up the Screen by author Brian Raftery, who offers a unique behind-the-scenes view of the making of Eyes Wide Shut, a film that captured the zeitgeist of the closing 20th century. Dying shortly after the completion of the theatrical cut of the film, Eyes Wide Shut has become Stanley Kubrick’s most enigmatic film, shrouded in mystery and the tragic final thoughts of the iconic director. 

Due to Kubrick’s own overwhelming fear of flying, much of the production of the film took place in London at Pinewood Studios throughout 1996, with the production tightly secured as to not let any cinematic secrets out to the press. With the security so tight, it’s impressive that fellow filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson managed to find his way onto the set, ushered in by Tom Cruise who was due to star in the director’s 1999 film, Magnolia.

The meeting of the two creative minds was rather frosty on set, however, with Anderson noting, “Kubrick had a really small crew,” with Anderson asking the Eyes Wide Shut director, “Do you always work with so few people?”. Looking confused at Anderson, Kubrick replied, “Why? How many people do you need?” before Anderson recalled thinking, “I felt like such a Hollywood asshole”. 

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Whilst Paul Thomas Anderson’s meeting with Kubrick left a bit of bad blood, Tom Cruise’s encounter with the director was far more constructive, with the Top Gun actor taking a helicopter to Kubrick’s home before the production of Eyes Wide Shut. Covering all sorts of topics from their love of New York to the Yankees and airplanes, Cruise recalled, “He walked me around the grounds, and I just remember thinking, ‘This guy is kind of a magical, wonderful guy’”. 

Eyes Wide Shut was met with widespread indifference upon its release with many disappointed that the film apparently did not meet the same level of grandeur as the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Paths of Glory and A Clockwork Orange. In contemporary cinema, Eyes Wide Shut is considered somewhat of a cult classic, speaking to a more modern truth that wasn’t as prevalent during the release of the film in 1999. 

Inspiring the likes of Christopher Nolan, Denis Villeneuve, David Fincher and Quentin Tarantino, Eyes Wide Shut is today considered a classic of Stanley Kubrick’s glittering filmography.