Film: Giggling with Kubrick
What ever happened to the scene in Eyes Wide Shut where Tom Cruise kissed a corpse? Julienne Davis was that body
Friday 06 August 1999
Initially, Julienne had reservations about the part. "I thought, oh my God, this is my first big movie part and I'm playing a drug addict/ prostitute. But then I saw that the character had layers, undercurrents, and she began to interest me." Davis developed her character partly through studying other depictions of drug addicts. "I watched the Uma Thurman character in Pulp Fiction, and I got a lot out of Trainspotting," she says.
On set, Davis was immeduiately aware that she was working with an unusual individual. "Kubrick was more eccentric than most - the way he looked, the way he did things - and I think that was because of his intelligence. He didn't approach tasks in a regimented, linear way. If there was A, B, C and D to do it would be, `Oh yes, D needs sorting out, and there's G over there, and let's go back to A now.' If you were quite an organised person it would drive you mad."
They bonded early on. "My father was employed by an offshoot of Nasa. He worked on one of the computers that put the first infrared satellite on Mars. Obviously, Stanley was into the whole space thing and he was really impressed. But the most endearing thing I remember is of him asking for a tape of my music. I almost fell off my chair when he came back the very next day and said how much he loved it, that my voice was fantastic, that his daughter was a composer and that he'd ring the managing director of Warners to get him to listen to it - which he did."
Kubrick, apparently, was far from dictatorial. "The atmosphere on set was light. The only one doing the roaring was the first assistant, and that's normal." But Kubrick was no pushover, either. "In a scene with Sidney Pollack I got the giggles. After we had to start to re-shoot the third time Stanley came up and gave me the stare. And this stare, I tell you, it's an over-the-glasses kind of stare that bores into you, and he says, `Julienne, you have to stop this now.'" She stopped.
Her scenes took, on average, 20 to 30 takes, more on occasion, though never the 50 upwards that Cruise and Kidman sometimes endured.
"In some of them I had to hold my breath for a minute and a half, and I couldn't blink, and that was very difficult." This was probably during the necrophilia sequence in which Tom Cruise kisses a corpse in a morgue. Kubrick included this scene in early versions of the film, but it was then dropped. Davis is contractually bound to stay silent about the plot - Kubrick's control continues from beyond the grave - and she loyally refuses to comment.
There's much speculation about the reason for this scene's disappearance. Most obviously, it may have been cut because the film was too long - Kubrick's edits were often overlength. Or inclusion could have prejudiced the film's US distribution; parts of the orgy scene have had to be digitally masked for US audiences.
It's also possible that Kubrick had second thoughts about representing such "perversion" on screen. The content of A Clockwork Orange and the subject matter of Lolita are strong counter-arguments to any suggestions of prudishness. Perhaps, though, as befitting a contented and ageing family man, his outlook on sexuality had become a bit staid.
Davis says cautiously, "His formative eras were the Forties and Fifties. He thought of women in a traditional way. He liked red lipstick and high heels." Kubrick was also uncomfortable with overt displays of affection. "I'd say, `Hi Stanley' and walk up and give him a big kiss on both cheeks, and he'd always look kind of pleased and shocked at the same time."
There were some constraints about the rendering of sexual images. By Davis's account, Kubrick stipulated that only actresses without implants could be used for nude shots. "The set was a silicone-free zone," she giggles. But whether the motivation behind this was aesthetic, moral or even feminist, is moot.
The work took its toll on Davis. "Afterwards I got ill for a couple of months. Maybe it was working 12-hour days, maybe it was playing a druggy - because when you enter that mindset for a period of months then it starts to affect you." None the less, she is keen on further suffering; when asked which other directors she'd like to work with, she says Oliver Stone is her first choice.
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