Over on the Scouting New York blog, this post about the impossible geography of Kubrick’s settings in The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut triggered a memory from 1997.
I was in production at Pinewood Studios when Eyes Wide Shut was filming. My office was in the long main building but on the other side of the lot, visible from afar, was Kubrick’s New York exterior set.
The set was highly secure while the work was under way, and you couldn’t get anywhere near it. But once shooting was over, the guards disappeared along with the crew and no one prevented me from walking over and poking around.
It was the usual situation that you find with any outdoor studio set. From the outside all you could see was an array of flats and scaffolding. Step inside and suddenly you’re The Omega Man or Will Smith in I Am Legend, or else you’re The Last Woman on Earth (a movie that I thought I’d just now made up for the purposes of gender equivalence, until I looked up the title and found that Roger Corman has actually made it).
The Eyes Wide Shut set consisted of a couple of New York city blocks but here’s the thing that struck me – on at least 50% of the set, every single piece of signage was reversed. Store signs, street names, even graffiti.
Without being party to any of the detail that would no doubt be mentioned in the movie’s famously lengthy schedule, I assume that Kubrick took scenes on the streets dressed as normal and then the art department did a mirror-image redress, after which he shot more scenes and reversed the photographed image to get double value out of the same limited piece of backlot real estate.
I’m a fan of Kubrick though not, alas, of Eyes Wide Shut, which I think of as Dennis Wheatley Makes a Porno.
(The title of the post was my suggested name for those digital embellishments added to cover the movie’s sexy bits, to create a version that could secure distribution in the more over-excitable territories.)