Fifteen years ago, on July 16, 1999, Stanley Kubrick's final film, "Eyes Wide Shut," opened nationwide. Setting records for the longest shoot in movie history, it was an excruciating labor of love for lead stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman -- one that would often be traced back to the alleged start of their marriage's decline. Throughout the process, cryptic reports implied that Kubrick's obsessive perfectionism had reached peak levels, which was especially eyebrow-raising given the film's sexual explicitness. The director, who won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects for "2001: A Space Odyssey," died of a heart attack in March 1999, days after screening the final cut. Had he lived, perhaps we'd have more perspective on the movie's production -- or perhaps not, as Kubrick was notoriously reclusive.
An excerpt from Amy Nicholson's book, "Tom Cruise: Anatomy of an Actor," printed in Vanity Fair, offers details about the project's goings-on. Coupled with a 1999 Entertainment Weekly article pegged to the film's release and a Los Angeles Times report about its box-office expectations, the passage reveals some things you may not know about "Eyes Wide Shut."
1. Kubrick always intended to cast an actual married couple as the movie's leads, but Cruise and Kidman weren't who he had in mind. The initial pair he thought of was Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.
2. Sidney Pollack's role first went to Harvey Keitel, who dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.
3. Jennifer Jason Leigh was originally tapped to play Marion Nathanson but left mid-production due to scheduling conflicts. Marie Richardson wound up playing that part.
4. When Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise arrived in London in the fall of 1996 to shoot the movie, they expected to be wrapped and back in Los Angeles by the following spring. Instead, the production didn't conclude until January 1998, making it the Guinness World Record's longest-running film shoot in history. (Kidman and Cruise reportedly signed open-ended contracts that stated they'd stick with the project no matter how long it took to complete.)
5. To say Kubrick is a perfectionist is an understatement: His intent was to film scenes so many times that it would wear down his actors and they'd forget the cameras existed. During the course of shooting "Eyes Wide Shut," the director filmed 95 takes of Cruise walking through a door.
6. Cruise was so anxious about giving the legendary director what he wanted that he developed an ulcer. He never told Kubrick.
7. Frenzied tabloids ran reports that Cruise and Kidman's marriage was crumbling in late '90s. If anything, that notion was only enhanced by their "Eyes Wide Shut" dynamic. Kubrick coaxed the couple into sharing their personal reservations about the marriage with him, in turn transferring those troubles onto their characters, Bill and Alice. Kidman called it a kind of "brutally honest" anti-therapy, as no one asked how they felt about each other's criticisms.
8. Director Todd Field ("Little Children," "In the Bedroom"), who starred in the movie as piano player Nick Nightingale, said of Kidman and Cruise: “You’ve never seen two actors more completely subservient and prostrate themselves at the feet of a director.”
9. Kubrick was terrified of flying, so instead of traveling to New York City to shoot in Greenwich Village, he built a top-secret replica of the neighborhood at England's Pinewood Studios. A set designer was sent to measure the exact width of the streets and distance between newspaper stands.
10. Kubrick allowed only a skeleton crew to remain on the set throughout filming. One rare outsider permitted to watch the action unfold was "Boogie Nights" director Paul Thomas Anderson. Cruise was in talks for the lead role in Anderson's "Magnolia" and had to sneak him past security. ''I asked [Kubrick], 'Do you always work with so few people?' Anderson recalled. "He gave me this look and said, 'Why? How many people do you need?' I felt like such a Hollywood asshole.''
11. Cruise isn't the only actor who filmed dozens of takes. Vinessa Shaw, who played the prostitute Domino, recalled having shot about 90 takes for a single scene.
12. Had Kubrick not died before the movie opened, he may still be making adjustments to it today, like he did with "The Shining" after its release. "I think Stanley would have been tinkering with it for the next 20 years," Kidman said. "He was still tinkering with movies he made decades ago. He was never finished. It was never perfect enough."
13. Warner Bros. wanted a $20 million opening weekend to consider the movie a success. It surpassed that, grossing $21.7 million across 2,400 screens. Marketing tracking studies for the film showed it had an awareness level of 78 but lacked the first-choice status among moviegoers that other summer fare like "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" and "Big Daddy" saw.
Pollack, Kidman and Cruise at the movie's July 13, 1999, world premiere in Los Angeles: