Though often referred to as Stanley Kubrick's "unfinished masterpiece", the final edit of the film was actually presented to Warner Bros. (by Kubrick) a full four days before his death, though the score and other aspects were not finalized.
Stanley Kubrick died just four days after presenting Warner Bros. with what was reported to be a final cut of the film, after a legendarily long shoot. His friends and family, as well as the cast and crew of the film, all claimed that Kubrick's death was completely unexpected and that he never seemed in poor health while making the film.
Director Stanley Kubrick reportedly watched movies like Showgirls (1995), Basic Instinct (1992) and Fatal Attraction (1987) during the editing phase, to get the idea of how explicit the sex scenes in the movie could be and still retain the R-rated movie he had contractually agreed to deliver.
Stanley Kubrick once again made good on his reputation of infamous perfectionist after shooting a scene with an actor tapping a window. Kubrick liked the scene but was not satisfied with the tapping sound that was recorded. Rather than simply rerecording the sound with a stand-in, he had the same actor flown back to the set to reproduce the sound.
The password "fidelio" (from the Latin root "fidelis" meaning "faithful") is the title of Ludwig van Beethoven's only opera. In the opera, Fidelio is a woman who disguises herself as a man to save her lover.
The film is notoriously known for its secrecy during production and the secrecy even divided the two main stars, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. To exaggerate the distrust between their fictional husband and wife, director Stanley Kubrick would direct each actor separately and forbid them to share notes. In one painful example, for just one minute of final footage where Alice makes love to a handsome naval officer-an imaginary affair that haunts Bill over the course of the film-Kubrick demanded that Kidman shoot six days of naked sex scenes with a male model. Not only did he ask the pair to pose in over 50 erotic positions, he banned Cruise from the set and forbade Kidman to assuage her husband's tension by telling him what happened during the shoot.
Due to Stanley Kubrick's fear of travel virtually the entire film was shot in and near London (despite the movie's New York setting). Elaborate street sets built at Pinewood Studios were used for all the scenes showing Tom Cruise walking around the city.
Stanley Kubrick and director of photography Larry Smith tested out different film stocks and finally settled on one that had been discontinued by Kodak. As a courtesy, Kodak offered to supply as many rolls of this film as would be needed for the project.
The letters and the newspaper read by Tom Cruise are written in Italian for the Italian version of this movie. Apparently, Stanley Kubrick shot those scenes with papers written in different languages, as he did for The Shining (1980).
In order for the film to be given an R rating in the U.S. (as opposed to N.C.-17), some scenes contain computer-generated people in the foreground obscuring some of the more explicit sexual action. Although some claimed this to be a perversion of Stanley Kubrick's work, Kubrick had already proposed the use of computer-generated imagery prior to his death, should the M.P.A.A. deny the movie its desired R rating.
The thirteen-and-a-half minute billiard room scene between Tom Cruise and Sydney Pollack took about three weeks of filming with nearly 200 takes. The greeting scene at the party early in the picture took only two hours with around 16 takes.
The film was "pushed" two stops in processing, enabling Stanley Kubrick to film using existing source lighting (table lamps, overhead lights et cetera) whenever possible. The light level remained low even when lighting had to be supplemented with Lowell or Chinese paper ball lamps as fill or key lights.
When Tom Cruise's character is interrogated before the attendants of the orgy, and when he returns to the mansion, the mysterious, sinister music that is heard was first used in the 1946 David Niven film, Stairway to Heaven (1946) when Niven's character is being judged in Heaven.
When Bill Harford watches television in his living room apartment, an NFL game is on. The game is also on when he enters the Sonata Café. Stanley Kubrick was a huge NFL fan, as he reportedly received VHS recordings of matches taped by his friends back in the United States when he lived in England.
The tremendous hype around the release of this film resulted in several rumors about the plot. The most widely circulated rumor was that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman played married psychiatrists having love affairs with their patients.
According to writer Frederic Raphael, the final form of Bill's family name (Harford, as opposed to Scheuer in the original story) was inspired by a debate about Bill's character. Raphael felt Bill should be Jewish as in the original, but Stanley Kubrick insisted Bill and Alice be "vanilla" Americans, without any details that would arouse any presumptions. Kubrick said that Bill should be a bit like Harrison Ford - hence the name Harford. Ironically, Ford himself is Jewish on his mother's side.
Harvey Keitel and Jennifer Jason Leigh originally played Victor Ziegler and Marion Nathanson. After Keitel and Leigh had shot some scenes, Keitel left the production due to his obligations to another project. His scenes needed to be reshot, but Leigh was not available to reshoot them (due to a scheduling conflict with eXistenZ (1999)). Consequently, Sydney Pollack and Marie Richardson were brought in to play the respective roles.
In the film, Todd Field plays a character who dropped out of medical school ten years earlier and now plays the piano. Ten years before this film was released, Field played a pianist who dropped out of medical school in Gross Anatomy (1989) which starred Matthew Modine who played "Joker" in Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987).
While VHS and region 2 DVD editions sold in Great Britain, Germany and France have always been completely uncensored, the original region 1 DVD contained the U.S. theatrical cut which contained computer-generated people in the foreground obscuring some of the more explicit sexual action during the orgy sequence. However, the U.S. version of 2007 double DVD special edition (encoded, as now appears to be Warner Bros. standard practice, for regions 1, 2, 3 & 4) contains the full uncensored European theatrical print, making it the first time Stanley Kubrick's final cut has been made directly available in any form to customers in the U.S.
This was one of Nicole Kidman's personal favorite experiences while working on a film, citing working with Stanley Kubrick being a kind to "attending film school". Kubrick also talked her out of her plans to retire from acting, when she considered dedicating more time to her family. He allegedly told her "You owe to your talent not to stop".
Kubrick was set to make 'Aryan Papers,' an adaptation of a novel called 'Wartime Lies' by Louis Begley. It was about a Jewish family in Poland trying to evade capture by the Nazis. But as he was ready to go into production, Steven Speilberg had began making 'Schindler's List'. Feeling the similarities were too great, Kubrick reluctantly shelved 'Aryan Papers'. This led to Kubrick's next project being 'Eyes Wide Shut'.
Harford's wallet is quite full at the beginning of the film but later it's clear he's rather outmatched financially. When he arrives home and his wife is helping their daughter with her homework, they're working a math problem about two people who have different amounts of money.
At Victor' s party, Bill Harford is being led away by two models. When he asks where they're going, one of them replies, "Where the rainbow ends. Don't you want to go where the rainbow ends?" Later, Bill rents a costume and mask from Rainbow Fashions. Rainbow is the name of a Masonic organisation. "Where the Rainbow Ends" is the name of a morality play by Clifford Mills and John Ramsay.
Just barely averted, as Kubrick delivered the final cut (without the digitally added people in the orgy sequence) to Warner Brothers just a few days before his death. And apparently Kubrick himself was prepared to insert digital people should his cut not receive an R rating.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When Bill enters his apartment for the last time (right before he discovers the mask on his pillow) we can see a stack of Stanley Kubrick videos from on the long table under the painting. The one on the top is Full Metal Jacket (1987).
Abigail Good, a runway model who plays the mysterious woman who intervenes at the ceremony and is led away presumably to her death, spoke her lines during filming, but her voice was dubbed by another actress in final production.
A real-estate agent's sign that appears briefly in shot at the end of a street carries the name Vitali. The newspaper article that Bill reads announcing the death of Mandy mentions that she was a model and that she had been involved with a designer named Leon Vitali: one of Stanley Kubrick's longest-serving colleagues who also plays Red Cloak.
The final scene of the film has Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's characters discussing what they would like to do, and Kidman's character says she wants to fuck. As this is the final film ever made by Stanley Kubrick, it means that the last word ever spoken by a character in a Kubrick film is "fuck."
The scene where Dr. Harford is walking down the street being followed. He stops at a newspaper stand to buy one. The headline on the page reads "LUCKY TO BE ALIVE". This is the paper where he learns of Mandy's death.