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Smith confirms that Kubrick was "totally absorbed" by his craft. "When he was working on something, he focused on it completely he couldnt think about anything else. He did a tremendous amount of research, which is probably why he didnt make as many movies as some other filmmakers. In fact, he did quite a bit of the research himself obviously, he would also get other people to gather certain bits of information for him, but if you gave him a slab of material, hed go through it and ask a barrage of relevant questions. He consumed a lot of books and journals, including American Cinematographer, which he read religiously he was always waving the magazine under my nose to see if Id read this or that article. If there was a new tool out there, he knew all about it, even though he didnt necessarily have hands-on experience with it. For that reason, he had no preconceptions about what a piece of equipment could do. Hed simply say, Well, lets get it and try this or that with it.
"During all of this research and testing, Stanley would gradually get an overall picture of what he wanted to do, how he wanted to do it, and where he wanted to do it. He had a great deal of foresight, and he didnt restrict himself to a particular mode of working. He created a new style every time he did a movie, and along the way, he invariably came up with some incredible ideas."
When filming was imminent, Smith says, Kubrick would obsess over every visual element that would appear in a given frame, from props and furniture to the color of walls and other objects. "Stanley would tell the production designers and set dressers exactly what types of lamps, chairs or decor he wanted, and he always preferred using the best materialshe wouldnt use paper and wood if it was possible to do it with plaster, cement or brick. If we didnt like the color of the walls or something else in the scene, hed have them changed.
"Once the sets were built, Id go in and light them. Id get the electricians in there, set up all of the practical lights, and then wire them to dimmers to give us the control we needed. After everything was in place, Id shoot various tests with different exposures. When we looked at the test footage, Stanley would say things like, I like that, I dont like that, Why dont we try this? or Why dont we go and shoot some more tests? A typical comment might be, I dont like the look of that lampshade, lets change the color. The process involved a constant series of adjustments, which is one of the reasons that our schedule was so long. In many ways, its a much more expensive and time-consuming way to shoot than simply using lights to achieve a certain color scheme, but thats the way Stanley worked on all of his movies. He was never afraid to go back to a certain set or location and change things around. He wouldnt show even a single frame of film that he wasnt happy with himself. When the paying public goes to see a Stanley Kubrick film, theyre not going to get something thats simply thrown together."
Smith and his crew would typically have a set completely ready the night before a given scene was scheduled to be shot. The next day, Kubrick would rehearse the actors for as long as he felt was necessary before rolling the camera. The cinematographer notes that Kubricks reputation for multiple takes, while accurate, was often misconstrued as perfectionism taken to eccentric extremes. "Stanleys views about actors are quite well-documented," Smith points out. "With certain actors on his previous pictures, I think he probably felt that he needed 70 takes to get them to do the scene properly! It wasnt like that with Tom and Nicole, however. We did occasionally do lots of takes, but it was more often due to a logistical problem than acting issues. Stanley didnt do take after take because he enjoyed it or wanted to drive everyone crazythe scene was either right or it wasnt right, and whatever kept it from being right had to be eliminated. It might be something very subtle, like an ashtray facing the wrong way, but Stanley had a phenomenal eye for small details."
On Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick was inspired to work with existing light fixtures and a minimum of "movie lights"a strategy he had previously pursued to stunning effect on both The Shining (see AC August 1980) and Barry Lyndon (which earned John Alcott the Oscar for Best Cinematography; see AC March 1976). While shooting the latter picture, Kubrick used a pair of special super-fast f0.7 Zeiss lenses (36.5mm and 50mm) to film candlelight scenes with virtually no supplemental lighting. The custom-made instruments were actually still camera lenses developed for use by NASA in the Apollo moon-landing program, later modified for Kubrick by Ed DiGiulio of Cinema Products Corporation in Los Angeles.
Smith reports that Kubrick actually asked DiGiulio to recalibrate the Barry Lyndon lenses for use on Eyes Wide Shut, but eventually scrapped that plan. "Stanley wanted to shoot with available light and real sources wherever possible," Smith relates. "We discussed the idea of using the f0.7 lenses from Barry Lyndon, but they just werent right for the type of shooting we were doing. Stanley wanted to be able to show some of the sets, such as the ballroom in the opening party sequence, in 360 degrees, via extensive Steadicam work and wide-angle lenses. He wanted to give the actors the flexibility to move wherever they needed to, and he also wanted to swing the camera around the room without worrying about where the lights were. Furthermore, Barry Lyndon was made more than 25 years ago, when film stocks were rated at 100 ASA. Now we have the luxury of 500- and 800-speed stocks, which eliminates the need for specialized lenses like those old f0.7 Zeisses."
Kubrick framed Eyes Wide Shut in the standard 1.85:1 format, primarily using a set of Zeiss Superspeed T1.3 spherical prime lenses, but occasionally opting to employ Arris T2.1 variable prime lenses or a zoom. Smith notes that the auteur favored wider lenses to show off the production values in his sets; most of Eyes was shot with the Zeiss 18mm lens, and the filmmakers rarely went longer than 35mm. A longtime fan of Arriflex cameras, Kubrick deployed a pair of 535Bs, operated by Martin Hume, throughout the production. The filmmakers also made frequent use of a Steadicam rig equipped with a Moviecam SL, operated by either Elizabeth Ziegler or Peter Cavaciuti.
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