6 May 2008

More Heads Talk About Kubrick

Veteran film composer Gerald Fried talks about scoring all of the early Stanley Kubrick pictures from "Day of the Fight" to "The Killing," and "Paths of Glory." He met Kubrick as a kid over a baseball game in the Bronx. Did the other players resist playing with Kubrick because of Asperger? Fried also scored many episodes of "The Man From UNCLE." Another sideways Napoleon connection.

A Napoleon script's hiding place

This article from eight years ago, Mar 12, 2000, describes the storage facility where a copy of a draft of Kubrick's Napoleon script was found.

Kansas salt mine warehouse preserves nation's treasures
By ROXANA HEGEMAN | Associated Press Writer

HUTCHINSON -- The original film negative for "The Wizard of Oz." A collection of New York newspapers dating to the assassination of President Lincoln. Secret U.S. government documents. Thousands of medical research biopsies encased in wax. All these -- and so much more -- are buried 645 feet beneath the Kansas prairie in a vast underground salt mine warehouse teeming with treasures and oddities from across the nation. "It's a kind of Noah's Ark -- without the animals," says Lee Spence, president of Underground Vaults & Storage, Inc.

The Hutchinson company has built a thriving business in the mined-out sections of the salt mine, where temperature and humidity stay at near ideal conditions for preserving paper and film brought here from around the world. The caverns, accessible only by a rumbling mine elevator, are safely beyond the reach of tornadoes, floods and earthquakes. These salt deposits -- formed 230 million years ago as the inland sea that once covered Kansas evaporated -- are now being wired with the latest technology to give companies around the world high-speed data access to records stashed within a prehistoric formation underneath Kansas wheat fields.

Wearing a hardhat and carting his requisite canister of oxygen, Spence steps onto the mine elevator -- actually, more of a hoist with an aboveground operator to run it -- for the minute-long ride. He flips off his flashlight for a few seconds, and blackness engulfs the lurching contraption. "See how black it can get," he says. It is clear he enjoys showing off his realm to visitors. The flashlight back on, he aims the beam at a mass of wires running alongside the hoist. These link the world below to civilization above. This is how they run the lines down to link the computers, he explains. The elevator slows to a stop at the bottom, the equivalent of 60 stories below ground. The salt bed -- discovered in 1889 while drilling for oil -- is 100 miles long by 40 miles wide, and 325 feet thick. A miner greets him. "How's the weather up there?" It is common question for those who spend their waking hours deep in the bowels of the earth. The temperature here stays at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity is between 40 and 45 percent year round.

For the next 30 minutes, it is the warehouse's turn to use the elevator, and the mine's conveyor belt and rock crushing equipment are mostly quiet now as he passes them. Spence quickly reaches a doorway below the sign for Underground Vaults and steps inside. The low salt ceiling and antique mining equipment greet visitors for a few feet, before opening up to 10-foot ceilings and a friendly receptionist answering the phones. For a moment, you could almost forget you were sandwiched inside a salt formation. The rough rock walls and ceilings are painted white to keep the salt dust down. The cement floors are level. There is a lunchroom with a refrigerator and microwave for workers. And bathrooms. The storage vaults use only a few of the caverns left behind from salt mining activities. The company has available 800 acres of mined-out space, but so far has used just 12 acres of it. Another 26 acres are under development now, Spence said.

Meanwhile, The Hutchinson Salt Co. continues its mining operations just 1 1/2 miles away in the same formation, with warehouse employees sharing the mine elevator and much of the infrastructure that brings fresh air, electricity and phones deep underground. Among the biggest customers are California movie companies, who find the Kansas salt mines ideal for storing original film negatives along with all the outtakes from their productions. Spence stops at one of the salt bays and points out a few titles: "Journey to the Center of the Earth," "Gone With The Wind," "Ben Hur," and "Star Wars." All the Mash television episodes are stored down here, as are old silent movies.

In the past two months alone, 20th Century Fox has sent 22 truckloads of film here. "It is so cheap to store down here -- a lot cheaper than California," he says. It costs companies $3 a square foot to store their records here. That compares to between $20 and $30 a square foot for storage in places like California, where companies have to build a building, run air conditioning and heating and provide security systems. None of those costs are incurred in the salt mines, where temperatures are naturally constant and access is limited to the one operator-controlled mine elevator, he says.

That makes it a favorite resting place for oil and gas companies to stash their seismic data and leases. Insurance companies keep their original policies here. Government offices store property records and parking tickets, among a slew of other documents. Architects put their blueprints here. A California company stores its old stock certificates in old wooden fruit crates. Hospitals and doctors keep old medical patient files here. Accountants store tax records. Even the federal government has a locked salt bay down here for its secret paperwork. And the salt warehouse also caters on a limited basis to individuals. There are a couple of old wedding dresses down here that have been passed down from generation to generation. Coin collections are stored here, someone even left a collection of newspapers dating to the early 1800s.

It can cost as little as $130 annually for a bit of storage space down here. About 65 warehouse employees work underground -- pulling record requests from companies, computerizing records for others and bringing more boxes down. The company runs two below ground shifts daily. Among those employees is Shirley Byard, who has worked 14 years underground. Her job is to keep the complex presentable and the kitchen done up, as she puts it. "We are like family here," she says. "If we get an oddball (employee) down here, they don't last." It takes some getting used to working below ground. Except for an emergency, the elevator out only runs at specified times each day. And after a day's work you can taste the salt on your skin.

The warehouse firm, which has a 99-year renewable lease with the salt mine, has been stashing things here since 1959. The idea to store archives underground was sparked by one of the company's directors who served in World War II, Spence says. He remembered that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had stored lots of items in an underground shelter as a way to preserve them. The privately held company has $8 million in gross revenues and 1,500 customers, Spence says. It also has an underground complex in Kansas City, Mo., which is accessible by truck and runs aboveground records centers in Topeka and Wichita.
The warehouse company slogan is "For Security. Forever." It's nice to know that the script is as safe against catastrophe as Dr. Strangelove was in his mineshaft, at least until the lease runs out on the storage facility.

30 April 2008

Kubrick's Daughter Documents the Making of The Shining

Vivian Kubrick was seventeen years old when her father was making "The Shining." I have posted below her the documentary she shot behind the scenes during the production of the movie, along with her commentary track.

Watch closely for the moments Stanley Kubrick is directing Shelley Duvall during the world record for the most takes for one movie scene. Is this further evidence that Kubrick suffered from Asperger?

Directors List Favorite Kubrick Films

TimeOut Magazine in London recently asked twelve directors to talk about the Stanley Kubrick film they admired most. Their replies are listed below.

Mike Kaplan (director of ‘Never Apologise: A Personal Visit with Lindsay Anderson’ and Kubrick’s head of marketing from 1968-1973) on ‘Killer’s Kiss’ (1955)(Moody B-thriller set in the back alleys, nightclubs and warehouses of 1950s New York): ‘I love the tactile feel of New York in the movie. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but movies that leave an impression on me often do so through their feel and sense of place, and this one certainly did. The scene I remember best is where Irene Kane and Frank Silvera walk through Times Square and eventually come down that long flight of stairs: the look and feel are just perfect. One of the hallmarks of Stanley’s films is that they all have a visceral impact: even back in 1955 it was there. You also have the constant police sirens in the background, which is really the sound of New York. There’s no doubt that after “Fear and Desire”, which Stanley wouldn’t let people see, “Killer’s Kiss” is the film that established his reputation and set his career rolling.

Neil Hunter (‘Lawless Heart’ and ‘Sparkle’) on ‘The Killing’ (1956)(Sterling Hayden leads a gang of petty criminals to rob a racetrack): ‘I think of “The Killing” as the film where Kubrick hit his stride. It has that fascination with constructing a perfect mechanism, in this case a racecourse heist, that he returned to later in “2001” and “Dr Strangelove”. He gives us that principle of order, the perfect crime committed by professionals, then throws in the opposite: chaos, anarchy – which is to say, humanity – embodied by the girlfriend of one of the gang, the racecourse teller. It doesn’t have the grand philosophy he would later lay claim to, though it does have the pessimism. It also doesn’t have the stylistic boldness and formal clarity of his later work: it’s looser. Yet it may be his most purely enjoyable film. It’s a true genre film, and a very powerful one, rather than an attempt to transcend genre or create a new form. His later films would employ a startling range of different sounds, and use music very deliberately and unpredictably. Here, it’s used in a more conventional way – the jazz, for example, telegraphing the unreliability of the teller’s girlfriend (as if her performance wasn’t doing the job!). But above all there’s the excitement of a great filmmaker saying, “Look what can be done. Look how easy it is.” There’s a speed and ruthlessness to the filmmaking which echoes the heist, the killing itself.’

Nick Broomfield (‘Kurt and Courtney’, ‘Battle for Haditha’) on ‘Paths of Glory’ (1957)(Bleak moral drama set during World War I): ‘This harrowingly describes an incident when three innocent men are executed. We are introduced to a bare-chested Kirk Douglas and are reminded of his later appearance in Kubrick’s “Spartacus”. Douglas stars in the film as a colonel seeking justice for his men. The film shows how the army chain of command promotes ruthless ambition and corruption of the worst kind at the expense of everything else, including military efficiency. It is shot in long takes either with the actors moving around the frame or in long tracking shots. This is particularly effective when we see Douglas walking along the trenches past his men. It is a contrast to the fast-cutting action sequences of contemporary cinema. It reminds one that the army – rather like the free market economy and privatised industry of the day – is a system which serves the rich and powerful, and everyone else is just cannon fodder to be sacrificed.’

Andrew K├Âtting (‘Gallivant’, ‘This Filthy Earth’) on ‘Spartacus’ (1960)(Critical and commercial smash about a slave revolt in Ancient Rome): ‘The last time I saw it was as a kid. The main thing I remember about the film is what a fantastic physique Kirk Douglas had. There’s that wonderful frisson between him and Tony Curtis. The gay subtext of the film is something that, even at an early age, I was aware of and, in a strange way, moved by. I always thought if Kirk had just had a really good session with Tony the whole thing would have been resolved a lot easier, don’t you think? Slavery and all that. It’s kind of sad that my only memories of the film are crass ones. There’s the “I am Spartacus” thing too, it’s become something of a gag now: I used to say it all the time when I was in trouble. If I’d done something wrong I’d always put my hand up and confess to it as Spartacus. And people would often join me.’

Peter Whitehead (‘Charlie is My Darling’, ‘The Fall’) on ‘Lolita’ (1962)(James Mason is nymphet-obsessed Humbert in Kubrick’s adaptation of Nabokov’s novel): ‘I was pretty angry when I first saw this in 1962 – and I’ve seen it since and my opinion hasn’t changed. Kubrick’s version of Nabokov’s 1955 novel is not at all satisfactory. It’s very obviously watered down, tame and was merely exploiting or building on the reputation of the novel. Kubrick set himself an impossible task because the novel is so literary and interior and dark. We were in forbidden territory with the book – and Kubrick’s film is not forbidden on any level. The novel was very psychologically exact about certain aspects of the relationship between old age and teenagehood. The film was trying to be provocative – but it didn’t go far enough. The girl (Sue Lyon) was obviously far too old. It was a rape of the novel. Perhaps Kubrick was just too young and nobody would have let him make it another way anyway. John Huston would have been perfect as a director. The later version of “Lolita” [Adrian Lyne’s 1997 film with Jeremy Irons] was much better. At least the girl was the right age.’

Mike Nichols (‘The Graduate’, ‘Charle Wilson’s War’) on ‘Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ (1964) (Kubrick’s third film about war – this time, the Cold War – is a masterpiece of black humour): ‘He was a friend and I loved and revered him. I think that my favourite moment is Peter Bull as the Soviet ambassador and the fight with Peter Sellers as Dr Strangelove. It was that improvised, half-assed, completely brilliant aspect of Stanley that I loved the most. Then, later, he became the opposite: he had to have total control over everything, doing 500 takes just to get it right. It was another kind of genius, but it would never have permitted those moments of improvised mastery that were in “Strangelove”. In the end, I think he began to have trouble, because if you can’t leave home, you lose track of reality, and I think that happened to him. Still, he made great movies and he was a completely gifted director. If you look at “2001: A Space Odyssey”, you suddenly realise: My God, there’s nobody in this movie! There are those two guys who you can’t quite tell apart as they have no real characteristics, and the rest is just… Well, what is it?!’

Shekhar Kapur (‘Elizabeth’) on ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)(Sci-fi epic loved by stoners and intellectuals alike): ‘Forty years on and we are still trying to comprehend its visual and poetic philosophy – what more can you ask from a film? Just for sheer achievement in the art and technology of cinema, “2001” remains a defining movie for me. It is certainly the film that made me fall in love with cinema and want to become a director. Visually, it was one of the most compelling of its time, setting standards in visual effects that have yet to be bettered. Most people now associate “The Blue Danube” waltz with that amazing cut from the broken bone defying gravity as it sails up in slow motion to the space ship floating in space: a cut that not only leaves the audience to imagine the entire history of human development, but also is one of the best uses of classical music in film that I have ever seen. It still takes my breath away.’

Nicolas Roeg (‘Performance’, ‘Don’t Look Now’) on ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) (Colourful study of psychological conditioning with rape, violence and Beethoven): ‘I never met Kubrick. We came very close at one point, and then drifted away again. It was around the time of “A Clockwork Orange”. Si Litvinoff owned the rights to the book and we had planned to do it together. I’d been working on a treatment and I’d even met with Anthony Burgess. We talked about it and decided to take a completely lateral look at the piece. I received a call from Si who said the producer and studio executive John Calley had phoned him from the US and told him he was coming to England to see Stanley. So I said, “Stanley who?” and he said “Stanley Kubrick”. He knew we owned the rights to the book and d he was interested in getting them for Stanley. ‘Kubrick, obviously, wanted total control, and the studio finally did a deal with him. I must say I did like his attitude towards film and the fact that he was an artist and complete unto himself. He wasn’t under corporate censorship, and he was never trying to make a film that you’d be able to pigeonhole in any particular genre. I think that was the case with all his films. One day, some time later, after they’d done the deal, Si said that he’d offered the book to Stanley when he first picked up the rights. Kubrick later said to him, “Oh yeah, I remember you sent it to me but I didn’t read it. I didn’t like the cover!” ’

Stuart Cooper (‘Overlord’) on ‘Barry Lyndon’ (1975) (Lavish Thackeray adaptation often deemed Kubrick’s most underrated work): ‘My link with Kubrick is that we both shared the same director of photography, the great Johnnie Alcott. “Barry Lyndon” alone is probably enough to hang your hat on. I remember at the time there was some mild criticism saying it was a beautiful film, but perhaps lacking in substance. It was probably his softest picture, though without question one of the most exquisite movies ever made. Alcott brought an enormous amount to the film, which was reflected in his Oscar. Johnnie was the master of natural light. My recollection was that there was a very special zoom lens they used which was given to them by Nasa. It was what they used to get all those landscape shots that look like Renaissance paintings.’

Edgar Wright (‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Hot Fuzz’) ‘The Shining’ (1980)(Stephen King adaptation with Jack Nicholson in one of his most extrovert roles): ‘My most profound epiphany in cinema is the moment in “2001: A Space Odyssey” when the planets align with the monolith in some galactic equation. The sense of cosmic order floors me every time. But just as Kubrick inspires awe with his harmonic compositions, he can equally instil terror. The most chilling aspect of “The Shining” is the blunt symmetry of endless corridors and patterned carpets. A shot of an empty hall and a lone, red door disturbs you even before the blood starts to flow. ‘It is these graphic images that keep me coming back. I was underwhelmed when I first saw “The Shining”. Perhaps I wanted the detail and the closure of the novel. But its eccentricity and ambiguity gnawed at me and forced me to re-watch. Its shattering images haunt me to this day.’

Guillermo del Toro (‘Hellboy’, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’) on ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987) (Critique of the Vietnam war, filmed in London): ‘I admire Kubrick greatly. He is often accused of being a prodigious technician and rigid intellectual, which people say makes his films very cold. I don’t agree. I think that "Barry Lyndon" or "A Clockwork Orange" are the most perfect marriages of personality and subject. But in fact, "Full Metal Jacket" is even more so. It looked at rigidity and brutality with an almost clinical eye. It is, for me, a singular film about the military, about war and its consequences. The famous scenes like the induction with R Lee Ermey where he renames the soldiers and reshapes them into sub-human maggots had a particular impact on me. Also the suicide scene with Vincent D’Onofrio in the bathroom. And the sniper set-piece at the end. Those are absolutely virtuoso pieces of filmmaking.’

Barbet Schroeder (‘Reversal of Fortune’, ‘Terror’s Advocate’) on ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (1999) (Kubrick’s last film was an erotic psychodrama starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman): ‘It was a strange phenomenon with his movies: they were never completely understood when they were released. Then, once you let a few years pass, they are suddenly deemed masterpieces and no one really discusses them. It even happened with his last movie, “Eyes Wide Shut”. When it came out, people were floating. In my opinion they didn’t really “get it”. There is so much substance and so much craft, it’s visually quite staggering. The right amount of time hasn’t quite passed for it to be reconsidered. It always takes a few years. It’s very strange. The reason for this, I think, is that each of his films is so different, there’s no precedent for any of them. Every movie stands on its own. And that’s what I like.’
Interesting how envy does not seem to affect most of these directors in their assessment of Kubrick as much as admiration for his technique.

23 April 2008

CGI Army for Hire

MASSIVE (Multiple Agent Simulation System in Virtual Environment) is a high-end computer animation and artificial intelligence software package used for generating crowd-related visual effects. Crowd scenes are a specialty for MASSIVE, as these TV commercials show.

MASSIVE was used by Peter Jackson to create the huge army battles for his Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Had this technology been around during the late 1960s Stanley Kubrick would have been all over it for his Napoleon project.

Old School Documentarian Interview

Snip from the 2006 edition of The Documentary Film Makers Handbook. The authors interviewed 111 industry professionals, among them Michael Apted. He echoes a common theme from the book: originality is the most important element to any good documentary. Or story, for that matter.

Q - What does the term "documentary" mean to you?

Michael - That's a very important question these days with the rise of reality TV. One of the hazards these days is that, reality is perceived by some people as documentary. If reality goes down the toilet as it surely will, as all things are cyclical, will documentaries go down the toilet with them? So it's nearly impossible to define what a documentary is. But I suppose I'd call it the observation of real life in a non-interventional way. It's important to see the difference with reality, which is at its heart, contrived. Some of it is very successful and illuminating, but it's contrived to put people into situations and see what they do. A documentary has them in a natural setting.

Q - What advice would you give a documentary filmmaker about choosing their subject matter?

Michael - The great thing about documentaries is that it's totally democratized. At very little cost you can go out and shoot, cut and finish a documentary. Before, it was a whole huge investment deal. That's the good news and the bad news. There are a lot of terrible films made because they don't think it through. "Let's make a film about my grandmother, " and off they go and do it. I think the important thing is not the choice of subject - it's your approach to it. Before you approach your documentary, you should figure out a very elementary structure to see what and where you want to go with the idea. The excitement of a documentary is that it's a real thing happening in front of you - you aren't working with a script in a way one does in fiction. But my advice would be to plot out a story so that it does have some purpose to it. Just don't go out there and shoot a ton of stuff on a subject and then hope you or someone else can come in and make sense of it. While it's much easier to make a documentary, it's much harder to get them seen. So if you want that to happen, you have to be doubly thoughtful about what it is.

Q - What advice would you give to new documentary filmmakers on the topic of interviewing subjects?

Michael - I've found that the best way to interview people is not to be very well prepared. You know what the subject is and you know what is going on, but to run through a list of questions is usually deadly. The only way to interview someone is to have a conversation with them and listen to what they say. This is best if you want something emotional and intimate. If you want the facts and you need it done crisply and cleanly, then of course, go in as crisp as you can. For all interviews, don't say very much. There's nothing worse than an interviewer who has diarrhea of the mouth. Keep the questions short and don't be afraid of silence. Sometimes silence is your best weapon. People will want to fill a silence and when they do, maybe they will come up with something for you. And don't go through the interview with them beforehand, as you only get it fresh and interesting once. If you blow that by driving in a car or having a cup of coffee with them while planning it out, you're dead. You'll wish that you'd been filming that time in the car or at coffee because you will never be able to capture that moment again.

Q - Is it difficult to be objective with subjects that you've been following for a long time?

Michael -You can't be objective. The word objective is bizarre. It means going in and being cold and formal with an interview in a documentary. That's not the way to do it at all. You have to build trust with the person. They have to know they're safe with you. You have to be emotionally involved. You need to be subjective. That's not to say you do whatever they want to do or agree with whatever they say. My point again is that you have to know what you are after. You have to know what your end result is even if it is a circuitous route to getting to it. If objective means distant and cold - forget it. If objective means being even-handed and fair minded, that's another thing and sometimes even that is irrelevant. If you are making a very passionate film about what you think is an injustice then you don't want to be even handed. But you have to be honest at least with the people you deal with. Then the way you approach them depends on what you are doing. If you want anything emotional or revealing then you have to be very much at one with your subject so you will give them the confidence to be open with you.

Q - Are there any differences when you interview children?

Michael - I find the best thing with children is not to patronize them. Treat them like adults. Once you start putting on funny voices or talking down to them, kids resent that.

Q - What advice would you give to new filmmakers on ethics?

Michael - It's a private matter. I don't think you can legislate for it. You have to be honorable. You have to tell people what you're going to do and do it. Don't cross any line to them. Don't lie to them. Don't deceive them. You might think I'm going to have to do something because it's very important that I get some statement out here and t may have to misrepresent it. Maybe you do, but it's a question of your personal ethics. I love arguing with people that documentary is a pure form whereas narrative films are contrived. But every edit you make is a judgment. Making a documentary film is full of judgment calls and therefore full of ethical calls as well. And I don't think doing something like paying people compromises things necessarily. I paid people on the Up films because it's a business and someone is trying to make money out of it and therefore why shouldn't they. If people are only doing it for money or they're being paid a lot to say something then there may be a strong ethical breach. Then you're buying information. But if you're paying people for their time or the exposure they have to deal with, there's a difference between those two things.

Q - To what extent should a filmmaker be thinking about their audience?

Michael -Always. We are in the business of entertainment. And too many documentaries show no thought of some end result. You have to make it for people. You are trying to communicate something. You don't patronize the audience. You don't confuse the audience. Pay attention to their needs. Know who your audience is so you can talk the right language to them. You're never making it for yourself.

Q - What are the common mistakes that you see new documentary filmmakers make?

Michael - The structure issue. The thought that all you have to do is shoot a lot of material and somehow the story will emerge. It's true with experienced documentarians as well. And it's become more endemic with the relative cheapness of stock and digital. Have some sense of the structure and the end product in your mind.
Maybe examining a provocative theory like Stanley Kubrick suffering from autism as a youngster is an original approach for our documentary about his obsession with Napoleon.

16 April 2008

Kubrick's Final Days

I don't know if the story posted below adds more fuel to the fire surrounding the claim that Stanley Kubrick was autistic or again just describes a cineaste obsessed with secrecy. Kubrick could easily have asked for the projectionist to wear earplugs so as not to hear the soundtrack from "Eyes Wide Shut" at its first screening for studio executives.

March 10, 1999
All Eyes for a Peek at Kubrick's Final Film

Stanley Kubrick's work, like his life, was shrouded in mystery and secrecy.

And his final film, ''Eyes Wide Shut,'' also remains, in many ways, a source of mystery and secrecy. Mr. Kubrick, one of the great postwar filmmakers with classics like ''2001: A Space Odyssey'' and ''A Clockwork Orange,'' told a friend that it was his best film.

Mr. Kubrick's death in his sleep on Sunday, at 70, came only five days after the first screening of the movie for Bob Daly and Terry Semel, the co-chairmen of Warner Brothers, and the film's stars, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. At the request of Mr. Kubrick, the screening in New York took place in such secrecy that the projectionist was asked to turn away and not watch the film.

An autopsy had confirmed that Mr. Kubrick died of natural causes. Among those scheduled to attend the private funeral on Friday are Mr. Semel and Mr. Daly, as well as Mr. Cruise and Ms. Kidman.

Mr. Semel said the movie would be released as scheduled on July 16. ''The film is totally finished'' except for ''a couple of color corrections'' and ''some technical things,'' he said. ''What he showed was his final cut.''

Mr. Semel added that Mr. Kubrick had selected 90 seconds of a scene to show on Wednesday in Las Vegas to the Showest convention of theater owners at which studios offer glimpses of their coming movies. ''Eyes Wide Shut,'' a psychosexual drama, is loosely based on Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 novella ''Dream Story.'' Ms. Kidman and Mr. Cruise play psychiatrists. ''It's the story of a married couple and their sexual exploits,'' Mr. Semel said. ''The part that also blew us was it's a terrific suspense thriller. It's a wonderful film. It's a film that's really challenging and is filled with suspense.''

Mr. Semel said he last spoke to Mr. Kubrick on Saturday morning from his hotel room in Syracuse. ''I said, 'Who is this?' and he said, 'Stanley,' and I said, 'Stanley, you're my wake-up call,' and we then spent a fantastic hour on the phone talking about the details of Showest and the release. He was in the highest spirits, the greatest mood. I haven't heard Stanley like that in many years. We were laughing. We were joking.

''He was thrilled with the collective reaction all four of us had to the film. He called an hour later to tell me a joke he had heard. The good news is he definitely went to sleep that night with a smile on his face.''

Another Warner Brothers executive, Julian Senior, the senior vice president for European marketing, said the movie involved two married psychiatrists whose fantasies intersect with their real lives.

Mr. Senior said that Mr. Kubrick called him on Saturday afternoon for an hourlong conversation, and that he told Mr. Kubrick that he was watching a rugby game on television, but the filmmaker began using baseball analogies. Mr. Kubrick, who was born in the Bronx, was a fervent fan of the Yankees.

''He always used baseball terms with me,'' Mr. Senior said. ''He said: 'Forget what you're watching. It's time to go to bat on the movie.' He said that Terry and Bob and Tom and Nicole had seen it and loved it, and he was thrilled. He said, 'Let's do it right.' ''

At one point in the conversation, Mr. Senior recalled, Mr. Kubrick said excitedly, ''It's my best film ever, Julian.''

Mr. Semel said he had read the closely guarded script in a London hotel because Mr. Kubrick did not want copies circulated. The film, made under almost military secrecy, took an unusually long 15 months to shoot.

No director, with the possible exceptions of Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood, had as much control as Mr. Kubrick. He did not have to endure the process in which filmmakers show studio executives their director's cut, which is often a starting point for further editing and even filming. There were also no previews to gauge audience reaction.

''When he showed the movie, it was his final version,'' said Mr. Semel, who met Mr. Kubrick while the director was making ''Barry Lyndon'' in 1975. He said Mr. Kubrick had agreed to make ''Eyes Wide Shut'' for an R rating. (No one under 17 may attend without an adult.) The film is believed to have numerous sexual situations, and there had been reports that it would be given a more restrictive NC-17 rating, barring all viewers under 17.

But Mr. Semel said he expected that the film, which cost about $65 million, would receive an R rating. ''It was not only our deal, it was what Stanley wanted,'' Mr. Semel said. ''He wanted the film to be available to the masses.''

The work will be the 13th full-length film of Mr. Kubrick's 40-year career, which began in 1953 with a melodrama, ''Fear and Desire,'' and continued with such classics as ''Paths of Glory'' (1957), ''Spartacus'' (1960), ''Lolita'' (1962), ''Dr. Strangelove'' (1964) and ''Full Metal Jacket'' (1987).

Mr. Kubrick moved to England shortly after completing ''Spartacus,'' a big-budget epic starring Kirk Douglas. By several accounts, he was dismayed by his lack of control in the studio and wanted to make movies free of interference. In the process, he became as publicity-shy as J. D. Salinger and Greta Garbo.

But Mr. Semel and Mr. Senior said that Mr. Kubrick kept in touch by fax, E-mail and phone and read publications on the Internet. He was also highly informed on movie marketing and distribution and could discuss the seating capacities of large theaters in the United States and abroad, Mr. Semel said.

Months ago Mr. Kubrick and Warner Brothers agreed to release the film in the United States in July, partly because it was ''a strong date'' and partly because it would coincide with its release in Europe, Mr. Semel said.

''To say he was reclusive is not true,'' Mr. Senior said. ''He didn't want a photo spread about himself in Hello magazine, but he was aware of everything going on and especially with what was going on with his beloved New York Yankees. He loved life, he loved chess, he loved documentaries. You'd go over to his home and there'd be John le Carre in his kitchen. He was not reclusive at all.''