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Why Stanley Kubrick Kept Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman Separate On Eyes Wide Shut

It's no secret that Stanley Kubrick could be an extreme filmmaker. His cast and crew would often be pushed to their limits to achieve the obsessive perfectionism present in his work. Such was the case for what would end up being the director's final film, "Eyes Wide Shut."

The erotic drama centers on New York doctor William Harford (Tom Cruise), who, after learning of his wife Alice's (Nicole Kidman) displeasure with their relationship, embarks on a night-long journey that leads him to a mysterious masked cult with provocative intentions. Given that Cruise and Nicole Kidman were a real couple at the time, Kubrick sought ways to build wariness between them to instill believability in their characters. His solution: keep them as separate as humanly possible. 

His efforts varied in their extremeness, from directing each performer individually to getting Kidman to shoot nearly a week's worth of imaginary sex scenes for what amounts to little more than a handful of William's paranoid thoughts. To top it off, the actors weren't allowed to discuss their characters with each other, even when performing some of the film's more intense moments. These strange experiences and more earned "Eyes Wide Shut" a distinct — and unfortunate — honor.

Eyes Wide Shut's difficult shoot holds a world record

While "Eyes Wide Shut" is celebrated for possessing everything that makes Stanley Kubrick's work so revered, the movie's production exemplified what made working with the director so tumultuous. The filmmaker's extreme efforts to perfect his vision would result in the final product securing a troublesome place in film history. 

"Eyes Wide Shut" began filming in November 1996, with most anticipating the shoot to last no more than six to eight months. As time passed, that outlook proved to be a little more than optimistic. Further predictions of the production ending in July 1997 were similarly shut down as filming continued in earnest. The movie finally finished in June 1998, wrapping up an arduous 15-month-long shoot. This resulted in the film receiving the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous film shoot of all time, a distinction it still holds.

As can be imagined, the grueling production came with a fair share of painful experiences (Cruise got an ulcer working on "Eyes Wide Shut"). Actors intended to have minor roles, such as Alan Cumming and Vinessa Shaw, stayed in the production significantly longer than expected. Meanwhile, Harvey Keitel became so frustrated after performing nearly 70 takes of walking through a door that he stormed off the set, with Sydney Pollack taking over his part.