Excerpt from: "Lust & Trust" by Nancy Collins (interview with Nicole Kidman)
From: Rolling Stone - July 8-22, 1999
This is a difficult time for you, since the opening of “Eyes Wide Shut” is tempered by the death of your great friend Stanley Kubrick. What do you think he wanted the movie to say?
He wanted to make a personal film about a stage in a relationship, about jealousy, sexual obsession and guilt.
And did he?
Stanley made a very, very fine film, and I’m so proud to be in it. Even trying to define it, without Stanley here is . . . [her voice trails off]. It’s tainted the experience a bit for Tom and me.
But what a compliment to be starring in the last film by the man who directed such classics as “Dr. Strangelove” and “Lolita.” And what about that provocative trailer?
Stanley sent it to us saying, “Here’s the trailer.” And I said, “You’re kidding! This can’t be the trailer.”
Why did it shock you?
Because I’m naked in it, Nancy!
But you knew you were going to be.
But not in the trailer [laughs]. I showed it to my mother, who said, “Wow. I want to see the film.”
That is the point of a good trailer, hut I’m afraid what most people will remember is that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are nude and making love.
I realized that when the trailer came out. Though to me those are characters up there, everyone else interprets it as Tom and Nicole. And it is revealing. As people, Tom and I aren’t exhibitionists; we've never been. It’s not in our personalities. We’re more inhibited than that. Besides, the film is not just about sex.
Were the nude scenes difficult to do?
At the time? No. Because we were playing the characters.
How many people were on the set?
Stanley, Tom and I. Stanley shot it himself. The music you hear in the trailer was playing. We shot it for a day but set it up for days before.
Was it difficult being that sexually explicit, even with your husband?
Hard to see, rather than hard to do. When you’re doing it, you get lost in the character. Though at first it was kind of like . . . normal. [She glances back over her shoulder, as if looking at Tom; her voice gets sexy] “Baby. Oh, hi. How ya doing?” [Laughs]
It’s said that you and Tom play psychiatrists who are married to each other.
No, I’m not a psychiatrist. Because we said nothing, it’s become a fact that we play psychologists who are having sexual liaisons....
With their patients. But Tom is a psychiatrist?
Nope. That’s all inaccurate.
Can you say what he does play?
But you’re married in the movie?
No, we have a child.
And you live in New York?
Yeah. Bingo! [Laughs] You’ve gotten more out of me than anybody else.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about “Eyes Wide Shut”?
People think it’s going to be some huge sex romp, and they’re wrong.
How do you define “sex romp”?
That, onscreen, Tom and I are having sex for an hour. The sex is such a small part of the story.
The word is that your character in the movie shoots heroin.
Nope. All of that is wrong. There’s actually no sex [laughs]. No, I’m joking. But there’s no drugs, no Tom in a dress, no psychiatrists.
But the film is based on [Arthur Schnitzler’s] novella “Traumnovelle,” in which the man is a shrink.
The movie is only loosely based on the book. In fact, Stanley wouldn’t let us read the book. It’s better not to.
About Kubrick the man, then. How did he come to meet you and offer you this role?
Over the years, Tom had been running faxes with Stanley. Then he sent us each a fax and a script, but separately. I was astounded. He said, “I want you in my movie; please play Alice,” which is the name of my character.
What did you say?
I said, “I don’t even need to read the script [laughs]. If my character’s got one line, one word, I’ll play Alice.” In fact, Tom and I both went into the movie saying, “You have us. All of us. We want to dedicate our lives to making this film.”
What did Kubrick say?
He expected it! [Laughs] He wouldn’t have settled for anything less. He expects utter devotion, and we were willing to give it.
When did you first meet him?
In his kitchen [outside London]. We had dinner - Tom, me, Stanley and his wife, Christiane. And I thought, “Once he sees me act, he’s going to think I’m terrible and want to get rid of me.” Part of the rehearsal process for me is getting over my shyness about having everybody watching. It’s a strange thing, as an actor, to battle.
What did you talk about at the dinner?
Everything except acting and the film: computers, politics, philosophy.
What is Christiane Kubrick like?
One of the warmest people you’ll ever meet. She showed me all her paintings. She’s a gifted artist.
Hard to think of Kubrick the family man.
Very close family. The man was a good father, husband, great filmmaker.
Did you leave that dinner feeling you had struck an empathetic relationship?
No. I thought, “Oh, God. How are we ever going to get to know each other?” But Tom and I drove away so excited about the possibilities. About four months later, we moved to England. We shot for about ten months but were there for three years [laughs].
Kubrick was that rare director who could’ve tied you and Tom up for three years.
Time is what Stanley bought. And he was always working and never wasted money. He brought the film in under budget.
Kubrick had the reputation of seeing actors as the least important part of the process.
Tom and I had a different relationship with him than most actors - usually it was about actors resisting him and the way he worked. But we didn’t resist. I don’t believe he was trying to hurt us psychologically. Nobody was being exploited - that is not Stanley Kubrick.
But he could be very demanding?
He was demanding, so demanding.
In what way?
Of your time, your concentration. He wanted it. He wanted . . . you. Wanted you to reveal things, be there for him at all times. I’m in only half the movie, so once I went for a week to Australia, and when I came back, he looked at me and said, very wryly, "Unfaithful woman" [laughs]. He had a great sense of humor.
He sounds quite controlling.
It wasn’t controlling; it was wanting you to be dedicated.
Did he deal with Tom in the same way?
Because Tom is in every scene in the movie, they had a different relationship, a very private one. Stanley really understood Tom. And me. He said that Tom was a roller coaster and I was a thoroughbred. When I wasn’t working, I’d go sit in Stanley’s office for hours -just knock on his door, drink coffee, read books, talk to him. He loved that. On a set you wear a bathrobe, and I’d hang around in mine. Even when I wasn’t working, I’d wear my bathrobe and go sit on the office floor. I liked being around him. He also directed us very differently. He allowed me more freedom. He and Tom worked very closely together on the character, while with me he’d say, “You can ad-lib.” He loved to improvise - then he’d go write it. With Peter Sellers in Lolita, he’d have two cameras going, because he said you’d only get it a couple of times and you better have the cameras on. He was like that with me, too. He’d say, “Now you can play.” And I would.
Kubrick was known for endless takes.
Stanley rehearsed a lot. His lighting, framing, finding the thing between the actors were very important to him. Sometimes he’d do ten takes, sometimes a lot more. But I’d always ask him for another. He’d say, “Nicole you’re the only actor I’ve ever worked with who’s asked for another take.”
Was Kubrick a father figure or a friend?
Both. Stanley was so different from how everyone perceived him. He was so nurturing toward me. Gentle.
Why was Kubrick different?
I loved his true belief in the power of film. That’s what he did with his life. He lived in his house, made his movies, didn’t play by the rules. He was seventy years old and still not cynical about the process - even though his work could have a cynical viewpoint. His belief in mankind wasn’t strong; he thought we were destroying ourselves.
Just human nature. Stanley was quite a moral man, though not judgmental. He had a cynicism but also a hope, an emotional attachment - particularly to animals [sighs]. Cats and dogs. He’d always come to work with cat hair on him [laughs]. One of his cats passed away while we were filming, and he was very upset.
Did he seem ill during shooting?
No. That’s why his death was such a horrible shock. The night before he died, he left a message saying, “Nicole, call me. Can’t wait to talk to you.” We’d seen the film six days prior, and I’d sat there dumbfounded. And then I watched it again straightaway. It was a hypnotizing experience. But I’d lost my voice, and though I wrote to Stanley, we couldn’t speak. I normally talked to him three or four times a week. Tom had talked to him, which really got me because I couldn’t. Stanley was so happy that we liked the film. Anyway, my voice finally came back, and I was to call him. I’d just finished baking for the kids - chocolate croissants, which I’ll never make again - and I got a call from Leon, Stanley’s assistant, saying he was dead.
Was Tom with you when you heard about Kubrick’s death?
He was in Australia; I was in New York. I called him immediately and we kept saying, “no, no,” and crying, crying, crying. Couldn’t stop crying. For days. I never had that happen before. [Suddenly, Nicole, looking anguished, tears up.] Stanley’s imagination is such a loss to the world. I was so close to him. I can’t believe he’s not around. I loved thinking of him over in England conjuring up things.
How did you get through that first day?
I went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral [in New York] that night, alone. I wante to light a candle for Stanley. Basically, spent time there. I felt comforted.
When did you finally see Tom?
He flew in the next day. He’d gotten on a plane from Australia to New York, which is twenty-four hours, to pick me up and fly me to London. I wouldn’t have been able to go by myself. I was a mess. Sobbing. So we flew together. Stanley hated funerals [laughs]. I’m surprised he didn’t will himself out of one. But it was really for Christiane and the girls. I found it quite traumatic. I went to Princess Di’s funeral - Tom knew her; I’d only met her a few times - but I’d never been to a very intimate, private funeral.
What did Kubrick teach you about you?
He was always encouraging about me as an actor and as a woman. The shock for Tom and me is that nobody knew us the way Stanley did. Not even my mom and dad. Nobody. It was three years with just the three of us. He knew us.
You had to tell him everything about your relationship?
Yeah, but he also saw the machinations, the way we operated with each other. He’d help me. He’d say, "Come here. I’ve been married for all these years, and you can’t say that to a man." [Laughs] He was our friend. So strong, but intense. Tom would make pasta and salad, and Stanley would eat lunch with us every single day. He’d never been that close with actors before. He said that. He wrote me a beautiful note.
Is this the first time you’ve dealt with personal grief?
When my mother was going through her cancer, I was eighteen, and there was that grief - feeling, “I’m positive she won’t make it.” A constant weight on your shoulder. With Stanley, it was so abrupt. It was like, “Ooh” [deep sigh].
Recently you filed a libel suit against the “Star” tabloid for reporting that for “Eyes Wide Shut,” sex therapists had to be hired to teach you and Tom how to make love for the camera. Why sue?
Because not one tiny element of that story is true. There were no sex therapists. What happened onscreen happened because the three of us worked on this together, with no outside people coming in. In fact, we have a legal affidavit from the two therapists [named], saying they never did a thing. From now on, Tom and I will fight things. We’ll sue.
How do you think people will respond to “Eyes Wide Shut”?
I don’t care. For us, it’s about Stanley and happiness. He’s not here, and he was our leader - the guy who headed it up, the Man. In a sense, it is not us, not ours. So we’re flailing about.