Stanley Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut' Still Holds the Record for the Longest Film Shoot: 'You’re Playing With Dynamite'

Stanley Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut' Still Holds the Record for the Longest Film Shoot: 'You’re Playing With Dynamite'

To some people, Stanley Kubrick was one of the most legendary filmmakers ever to live. He directed classic films like Full Metal Jacket, Spartacus, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. For others, he was a heartless taskmaster who pushed his performers to their wit’s end. His film, Eyes Wide Shut, holds the record for being the longest constant film shoot of all time. Here’s the unbelievable story of Kubrick’s commitment to long shoots and the toll it takes on his actors. 

Stanley Kubrick’s legendary work ethic sometimes went too far

Kubrick was well-known for being quite demanding on his sets and asking his actors to perform dozens of takes before moving onto another shot. For some actors, he went too far. 

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, star of The Shining Shelley Duvall discussed the challenges of working with Kubrick stating, “[Kubrick] doesn’t print anything until at least the 35th take. Thirty-five takes, running and crying and carrying a little boy, it gets hard. And full performance from the first rehearsal. That’s difficult.”

Duvall would listen to sad music to get her in the right state of mind to get a more emotionally honest performance. Duvall said it took a tremendous toll on her “To wake up on a Monday morning, so early, and realize that you had to cry all day because it was scheduled — I would just start crying. I’d be like, ‘Oh no, I can’t, I can’t.’ And yet I did it. I don’t know how I did it. Jack [Nicholson] said that to me, too. He said, ‘I don’t know how you do it.’ “

Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ holds the record for longest film shoot

According to Guinness World Records, the record for longest constant film shoot belongs to Eyes Wide Shut. The production took place over the course of 15 months, including a grueling 46 consecutive weeks. That film starred Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, who at the time were married in real life. 

How the ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ shoot affected Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

The shoot was challenging for both Cruise and Kidman. According to Vanity Fair, Cruise struggled at times with Kubrick’s demanding style, though he never complained and never blamed the director. He reportedly developed ulcers while filming. 

Kidman said that she struggled with the blurred lines between acting and reality that developed during filming. She stated, “As an actor, you set up: there’s reality, and there’s pretend…And those lines get crossed, and it happens when you’re working with a director that allows that to happen. It’s a very exciting thing to happen; it’s a very dangerous thing to happen.”

As far as Cruise was concerned acting alongside his then-wife, the emotional aspect of the film was challenging. Cruise said, “I wanted this to work, but you’re playing with dynamite when you act. Emotions kick up.”

Co-star Vinessa Shaw noted that Cruise’s enthusiasm waned during the long shoot, stating that near the end of the shoot, “He was still into it, but not as energetic.” The film was not successful, and critics ravaged Cruise for his performance in the film despite Kubrick’s often asking him to do dozens of takes to get the scene the way Kubrick wanted it. 

Kubrick died shortly before the film’s release. After he turned in the movie’s final cut, Cruise and Kidman’s marriage dissolved two years later. It’s impossible to say whether the long shoot had anything to do with either event, but it certainly didn’t seem to help. 

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