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Let's talk about sex

Cruise: "Eyes Wide Shut" "is not pornography -- it's me kissing and touching my wife."

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By Jeff Craig

July 15, 1999 | Nicole Kidman has a thing for her husband's hands. "Hands are very sexy," she says. "I do have a hand fetish [for] powerful hands that can be gentle. You can fall in love with a man's hands."

Tom Cruise, for his part, says that he finds nearly everything about his Australian wife sexy. "It changes at different moments," he explains. "What I find the most erotic sometimes is the nape of her neck." But it can also be "the way she smiles, the way she smells, sometimes it could just be her lips."

Meeting international media-types earlier this week at a Hollywood Foreign Press Association junket, the married couple spoke frankly about the highly anticipated "Eyes Wide Shut" -- as well as their own 10-year relationship.

Kubrick died in his sleep on March 7 this year, just days after completing the final edit of the film. Secretive to the point of being neurotic, the director allowed few details of the film to escape from the set. Rumors flourished.

According to Cruise, "Eyes Wide Shut" isn't about sex. It's a thriller. The opening sequence of Cruise and Kidman, however, was racy enough that Kubrick filmed the couple without a crew. But even that "is not pornography," Cruise says. "It's me kissing and touching my wife."

The experiences of filming such personal scenes were tough on both actors. Cruise plays a Manhattan doctor who, when his wife tells him she's had a fantasy about sex with another man, goes on a jealous quest of his own. "I just put a lot of stress on myself," Cruise says, "trying to figure the character out." The stress actually gave him an ulcer, which he insists wasn’t related to Kubrick's perfectionism.

"Stanley had a way of working and it worked for him," Cruise says. "He took time to explore every scene. He rewrote every scene as we worked on it -- he was discovering along with us. If we didn't want to do something -- and that never came up -- Stanley would never force us. He took care of us."

The stress of Kidman filming a dream sequence in which she has passionate sex with a Naval officer was also substantial, the two actors say. "I worked every day on the movie except the day Nicole did those scenes with the Naval officer," Cruise says. "And sometimes it would wear on me and we really had to take time to try and be good to each other and kind to each other."

Kidman says she was nervous about filming such a graphic scene, especially with a stranger, but she trusted Kubrick. "We filmed them over three days and we shot a lot of stuff," Kidman recalled. "I don't think I would do what I did for any other director. I did it because I thought it was important for the film. The film deals with sex and sexual obsession, and the scenes could not have been of me in a bra and panties pretending to have sex with somebody. It had to have a graphic quality to it.

"It was difficult going home to my husband after those scenes, but we both decided we were basically going to get lost in this world for a year and a half, and that's what we did. It was a big, intense experience we went through together, and I think it has made us stronger and closer."

"It was very demanding," says Cruise, "both emotionally and physically, for both of us, and there were times when Nic and I were uneasy with each other. We just couldn't help it. It was pervasive at times, but I think Stanley understood that and respected what we were doing and what we were giving. I don't like to bring work home but sometimes, because of the characters and the nature of the scenes, it was very difficult not to think about it and become slightly obsessed with it."

"I'm glad we were married as long as we were because it would have been a lot more difficult if we had been in the first year of our marriage," Cruise says. "I know what it's like to be jealous, to feel that emotion, that obsession. Nic and I have good communication, but when you are dealing with these kinds of issues, it is confronting and you really have to go through with it and discuss it. There are a lot of things we brought to the picture, and I think Stanley appreciated it. I think he knew what it cost us to go through with these scenes."

Asked if they would ever consider giving up two years of their lives -- and untold millions that they could be making on other films during that time -- Cruise says yes, because their experience with Kubrick was so positive. "I remember thanking him," Cruise explains "I just felt really proud to have been a part of it, his body of work. Both of us thanked him for the roles, for the opportunity."
salon.com | July 15, 1999

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About the writer
Jeff Craig is a freelance writer in Hollywood.

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