Kubrick dies days after WB pic's first screening

Ever the iconoclast, “Eyes Wide Shut” director Stanley Kubrick shocked Hollywood one final time with his sudden death from a heart attack Sunday.

His death came just five days after the first screening of “Eyes Wide Shut” for Warner Bros. toppers and the film’s stars, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, last Tuesday in New York. And it added another layer of intrigue to a pic that has been shrouded in secrecy — even to WB — through nearly two years of production and post-production.

Kubrick was a perfectionist who obsessively micro-managed his films from earliest pre-production through to trailers, posters and theater bookings. Warner Bros. had announced the film for a July 16 release. Presumably, Kubrick’s death will not alter the post-production or release plans of the film.

On Wednesday, exhibitors at the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas will get an early look at a 90-second teaser that may be shown.

Talk about ‘Eyes’

Kubrick’s final conversation with Warner co-chairman Terry Semel came Sunday a few hours before he died. The discussion covered the pic’s marketing and minor additions to the score.

“We were laughing, having a terrific time,” Semel said. “We were all on cloud nine.” Kubrick talked about two versions of an ad for the film as well as a few tweaks. This was the fourth Kubrick picture under Semel’s aegis as either distribution or studio chief.

Semel told Daily Variety that the print will run roughly 2 hours and 19 minutes with titles, which have not yet been completed. “The score is principally classical and Kubrick wanted to add a few beats to it,” Semel said.

The rating is still in question, however, as word has leaked out about racy scenes with stars Cruise and Kidman.

Kubrick’s widow, Christiane, refused to cancel the ShoWest event, which she said meant a great deal to Kubrick. Warner is weighing the possibility of a short retrospective of Kubrick’s work in Las Vegas.

One industryite close to Kubrick said a full-fledged retrospective of his work is being planned for June at the Museum of Modern Art in Gotham.

Semel and co-chair Bob Daly, along with Cruise and Kidman, became the first to screen “Eyes Wide Shut” in New York last week. Always secretive, Kubrick had his assistant make the projectionist turn away from the screen so the foursome could watch it alone.

Normally, Kubrick requires executives to assemble in London for the final screening. But since Kidman had been ill (she had temporarily withdrawn from “The Blue Room” on Broadway), Kubrick’s editor had flown to New York with the print. Kubrick doesn’t fly and didn’t attend.

Marathon production

The film has been a long time in coming: It started shooting in November 1997. More than 12 months later, it wrapped and both Warner Bros. and Hollywood pundits were left in the dark about the look, feel or texture of the film.

Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman John Calley was devastated by the news of Kubrick’s death.

“I couldn’t believe it when I got the call,” Calley said. “My wife and I were with him about two months ago. We had a wonderful dinner. He was just Stanley.”

Calley, formerly a president of production at Warner Bros., worked with Kubrick as an exec on many of his legendary pics and acknowledged Kubrick’s perfectionism.

“Stanley’s process always encompassed the release of the film,” Calley said. “He would be worrying about every detail of the release.”

Calley said he spoke with Kubrick Thursday and the director was ecstatic about “Eyes Wide Shut.”

“He was so excited because Terry and Bob had seen his film and they loved it. Nicole and Tom had seen it and they loved it,” Calley said. “I’ve never heard him as excited about a film.”

Cruise, who was in Australia, and Kidman, in N.Y., offered a joint statement through publicist Pat Kingsley.

“He was like family to us. We are in shock and devastated. We did see the movie and it was completed except for final looping and mixing. We are thankful to have had the opportunity to share this experience with him. He was a true genius, a dear friend and we will greatly miss him.”

Cruise and Kidman worked on the film for more than 12 months, stopping shooting only for a few weeks at Christmas and later in the spring of 1998.

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