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How Tom Cruise Really Felt When He Joined Nicole Kidman In Eyes Wide Shut

It's one thing to be married to a fellow actor and shoot a movie together, but imagine working together for over a year on what was not only a legendary director's last film, but also a movie that explored the intricacies of keeping together a mundane marriage while withstanding outside temptation. This is what Tom Cruise and his then-wife Nicole Kidman went through while shooting Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut."

Released in 1999, "Eyes Wide Shut" centers around Dr. William "Bill" Harford (Cruise) and his wife Alice (Kidman), a Manhattan-based married couple who have gotten so used to the routines of domestic life that the only way sexuality plays a role anymore is through the temptations of strangers and mystery. Things start to unravel as William finds himself seeking a new kind of pleasure as he ventures outside the city to a mansion hosting a masked party at which an underground sexual ritual is taking place.

While "Eyes Wide Shut" is notable for its unique storytelling and blatant erotica, its probably best known as Stanley Kubrick's last film, as the director died before the movie was released. It's also known as one of the most "exhausting" shoots for any cast and crew (via Vanity Fair). According to Vanity Fair, when "Eyes Wide Shut" began shooting in the fall of 1996, Cruise and Kidman "fully expected to return to Hollywood by spring." However, filming didn't finish until 1998. Cruise and Kidman wound up spending 15 months working on "Eyes Wide Shut," which earned the Guinness World Record for "the longest continual film shoot."

So, how did Cruise feel when Kidman joined the cast of the historic film?

Brutal honesty

Originally aiming to cast Steve Martin in the lead role in 1980, 15 years later, Stanley Kubrick eventually landed on casting Tom Cruise, at the suggestion of his producer Terry Semel. According to the Independent, Cruise flew to England to meet Kubrick in 1995, and after some basic conversation about "vintage cameras, planes, the New York Yankees," the filmmaker asked Cruise to star in "Eyes Wide Shut." After accepting, Cruise suggested his real life wife at the time play his on-screen wife as well. Kubrick apparently loved the idea, as it "introduced a new layer of psychosexual subtext" to the movie.

The couple went through a grueling shoot with Kubrick, whose unique filmmaking methods began affecting Cruise and Nicole Kidman's marriage. Kubrick decided he would psychoanalyze his married lead actors. Per Vanity Fair, Kubrick pushed Cruise and Kidman into admitting what they feared most about marriage during "conversations that the three vowed to keep secret." According to Kidman, these conversations left her then-husband subjected to "things that he didn't want to hear," and the discussions were "brutally honest at times." She also told Vanity Fair that while it was exciting that the lines of reality and fiction blurred, it was also dangerous. Cruise agreed: "I wanted this to work, but you're playing with dynamite when you act. Emotions kick up."

'Pluses and minuses' to filming a movie with your real-life spouse

In a 1999 press conference, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were asked if they felt safe playing a married couple on screen, or if they would have felt better working alongside someone else. Cruise responded that he was "glad she played [the role in 'Eyes Wide Shut'] because of her talent." He elaborated, "As an actress, I was really excited, because she's such a great actress and artist and to share that experience together is something very special and I think that we had a lot to offer because we are married." Cruise also admitted that the entire experience "had its pluses and minuses."

While Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise would eventually divorce in 2001 after 11 years of marriage — and only two years after the release of "Eyes Wide Shut" — they are reportedly open to a reunion as friends or co-workers as of early 2021 (via OK! Magazine). Plus, in 2017, Kidman told Deadline that she would have continued working with Kubrick for years on end, as she really enjoyed the experience. 

"I could have stayed with Stanley [Kubrick] for five years. Never come back," she said. "I look back at that and go, 'Thank God I had this slightly zen approach to things.' Because I was married and I had my kids there. It wasn't like I was rushing to get finished, to get somewhere else. I was there, with Stanley, and I didn't care. Whatever." Kidman added, "He had a great wit and he was a philosopher, but he was never preachy. It was always coming from a place of curiosity and questioning and exploration."