The 1999 Stanley Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut turned out to be eerily prescient. Just a couple of years after the erotic drama was released in cinemas, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise – who co-starred as a couple struggling through a marriage riddled with infidelity – divorced.
Many continue to argue that the couple’s split was partly the fault of Kubrick himself, who famously put a huge amount of pressure on the couple during filming while also deliberately heightening their distrust of one another for the benefit of his movie.
There is certainly cause to believe that Kubrick’s methods were crude at best and actively destructive at worst. But judging from a 2011 interview with The New York Times, in which Kidman praised the director for his sensitivity, it would seem that Kubrick also took great care to ensure that his leading stars were comfortable with the requirements of their roles.
Eyes Wide Shut focuses on Dr. Bill Hartford (Tom Cruise) and his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman). After she admits to having sexual fantasies about another man, Bill becomes obsessed with having a real-life extra-marital sexual encounter. This fascination leads to his discovery of an underground sex cult. He attends one of the group’s ritualistic meetings and soon discovers that the world he has just entered is much more complicated than he originally thought.
As you would expect, the film features a fair few sex scenes. Opening up about the manner in which Kubrick decided to shoot these key moments, Kidman praised the 2001: A Space Odyssey director for his tact. “When I went to work with Stanley Kubrick, he was like, ‘I’m going to want full frontal nudity’, and I was like, ‘Ahh, I don’t know,'” she began. “So we came up with a great agreement, which was contractual. He would show me the scenes with the nudity before they made it into the film. Then I could feel completely safe. I didn’t say no to any of it. I’d wanted to make sure that it wasn’t going to be me standing there nude and everyone laughing at me.”
Kidman was right to be cautious. Until relatively recently, there was little female stars could do if they felt uncomfortable shooting sex scenes. In an era in which figures like Harvey Weinstein ran the show, actors like Kidman either agreed to shoot the scenes or risked losing their roles. Thankfully, Kubrick ensured that Kidman was “protected” so that she was able to “explore a complicated marriage” between the two film’s lead characters in the right way.
“I would never think of not wanting the storytelling to be told properly,” she concluded. “Having them say, ‘Once you’re OK with it, great, that’s it’ – what a fantastic place to be in as a woman.”