Lisa Leone remembers final days working with Stanley Kubrick

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Lisa Leone and Tom Cruise in ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’ courtesy Warner Bros.

Continuing our post from yesterday, where the talented Lisa Leone, research photographer/set decorator/second unit production manager/actress in Eyes Wide Shut, who happens to live and work in Miami, shared her experience working with the film’s legendary director Stanley Kubrick, we turn to the days immediately following the director’s death. She says she was in touch with Kubrick through the final stages of the filmmaking process, down to his very last day alive. Speaking over the phone, she reveals, “We were still communicating and working. I spoke to him the day he died, and he died that night.”

She says the director was already moving on to his next project, A.I., and she was going to be part of it. “He already started talking about film tests and visuals and stuff, so it’s one of those things that I thought he’d be there forever,” she admits. “You know, we were like a family. They used to joke, ‘Oh, so I hear they’re getting a room ready at Childwickbury,’” she says with an audible smile, mentioning the manor in England where Kubrick lived with his family. “I knew, like, I was gonna continue and do A.I., and that was gonna take five years, so it was just pretty heartbreaking, so there was a lot of emotion.”

She says attending the premiere in Los Angeles about four months after the director’s passing became an intense experience. “I went to the premiere with Vivian [Kubrick, the filmmaker’s daughter] and a bunch of us that worked on it,” she says. “There was a lot of grief still. We were still grieving. Within the four years, I got very close.”

Tom Cruise and Lisa Leone in ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’ courtesy Warner Bros.

If the state of mourning wasn’t enough to make the movie tough to watch, Leone admits there’s something else that made it difficult. To her, the final film is like a pastiche of all the work she put into its making. “I was such a part of everything,” Leone notes. “I shot the translights, I got the furniture, you know? The mail and all the prescription drugs, I took from my mother’s house [as props]. You know what I mean? There’s so much in it.”

She also says she sees stories and memories with Kubrick in the details of the movie. “I remember the story of when I sent the taxi cabs over [from New York City], and Stanley said, ‘These can’t be right. They’re so small.’ He was looking for the chubby checker cabs. I said, ‘They don’t have the chubby checkers anymore.’ He’s like, ‘But these are so tight and tiny.’ ‘I know, but that’s what it is.’”

She recalls many similar conversations “because he wasn’t in New York in 20 years,” she continues. “He’s like, ‘Where’s this?’ And I’m like, ‘That’s gone!’ So we used to joke all the time … so we had a lot of fun sort of reminiscing about New York.”

Tom Cruise in ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’ courtesy Warner Bros.

She reveals that his sense of nostalgia for the city he grew up was so intense that it even informed the layout of the apartment where the main characters — played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman — lived in the movie. “He was like, go to my old apartment and knock on the door.’ I was like, ‘All right.’ So I went to his old apartment in Central Park West and measured it for Tom and Nicole’s apartment, or I went to his apartment when he was really young, living on East 10th Street, knocked on the door, and I’d go, ‘You know, Stanley Kubrick used to live here,’ and took pictures for him … He just really wanted to get a sense of what was really happening in New York.”

The big question that continually haunts the film (from the addition of digitally-rendered cloaked figures to cover some of the more intense moments of an orgy scene in order to appease the ratings board of the MPAA to rumors the film just wasn’t finished by the day Kubrick died) is whether the movie indeed authentically represents Kubrick’s final vision. “The thing is, he died on a Saturday, so Thursday was the first time that Warner Brothers and Nicole and Tom saw the film, and then he dies on that Saturday,” says Leone, “so I mean, the film wasn’t color corrected … it wasn’t sound mixed. It wasn’t finished in that way, but it was a cut he was happy with, happy enough to show the studio.”

She says there was some serious consideration of how to finalize the film on those technical levels, and it was decided there would be no cuts to what Kubrick delivered to his stars and the studio. “When he died I stayed at the house, and we buried him, and afterwards there was a meeting with the family, and so we assemble and say, ‘OK, the film can’t be touched,’ so it was agreed that Leon [Vitali] would do the color correction and sound mix and everything because he was the one that was always doing it throughout all of his films, and Leon was communicating with the lab anyway, so it just made sense.”

Madison Eginton, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’ courtesy Warner Bros.

Asked whether the rumors persist, she says, “I don’t really know. The thing is, as a filmmaker myself I find you’re always tweaking until the end, so there could have been little tweaks here and there, but I also feel the family wouldn’t show it to anybody, especially to the studio and Tom and Nicole, if he wasn’t’ in a place where he felt like, OK, this is where I’m at. Like, he’s not showing anybody a rough cut.”

The problem lies in the power of the Kubrick mythos, especially the verified story that Kubrick made changes to 2001: A Space Odyssey (How Stanley Kubrick broke the rules of Classical Hollywood cinema and made a better film with ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’: My MA thesis redux – part 1 of 4) following a divisive world premiere screening of the movie where he went back to trim the film back by about 15 minutes following the mostly puzzled reaction by the audience. However, the 1968 Stanley Kubrick was not the 1999 Stanley Kubrick. His power of final cut and his experience making some of the best movies of his career had begun to inform the kind of filmmaker he was: a living legend who could do no wrong. Leone says the studio knew this. “There was nothing like, he got notes, and they were gonna cut things,” she says of that Thursday where he presented the film to the producers and actors. “No, definitely not. He had final cut on the movie. There wasn’t anybody telling him anything.”

Hans Morgenstern

Below you will find the only trailer Kubrick cut himself to hype the film at Showest. I personally remember watching it on “Entertainment Tonight” back in the day.

Eyes Wide Shut plays one night only as a co-event between the Miami Jewish Film Festival and the Coral Gables Art Cinema “After Hours,” Saturday at 10:30 p.m. Leone will be present to introduce the movie. Get tickets here.

(Copyright 2019 by Independent Ethos. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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