Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, the film was Stanley Kubrick's last work before his death

July 23, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

”Nicole and I talk about it so much at night. When we’re 70 years old, sitting on the front porch, we’ll be able to look back and say, ‘Wow! We made this movie with Stanley Kubrick!’ We know it may take a long time to finish, but we don’t care. We really don’t.”

That was Tom Cruise in younger, more innocent days, way back in November 1996, just weeks into shooting Eyes Wide Shut. At the time, the poor guy figured it would take six months to finish the film, eight at the most. ”We’ll be done by June,” he cheerily predicted. ”But however long it takes is fine with us.”

Well, he got the month right, anyway: The cameras finally stopped rolling on Eyes in June — of 1998 — ending one of the longest shoots ever bankrolled by a major studio (or at least the longest since Kubrick’s last two-year production).

Also one of the most gossiped about. Like a lot of the late great director’s movies, Eyes was shot in total secrecy, its sets at Pinewood Studios in England locked tighter than that CIA vault Cruise dangled into in Mission: Impossible. Whatever the film’s married costars were up to inside Kubrick’s sealed soundstages — one (false) rumor had Cruise wearing a dress — the world would have to wait to find out. And wait. And wait some more.

Not anymore. This week, Kubrick’s final film — he died at 70 of a heart attack just days after screening a finished cut — will at long last unspool. All the speculation about its plot (”a story of sexual jealousy and obsession” is all Warner Bros. had said about the production) will finally be over. All the questions about how kinky (and naked) Cruise and Kidman would get will finally be answered.

Still, there is one mystery that won’t be revealed on screen this week. And it’s this: Those two years Kubrick took to finish Eyes? How exactly did he spend them? How, precisely, did he make the movie? And — most titillating of all — what was it like inside those closed sets, where the world’s most demanding director held Hollywood’s most powerful couple hostage for so long they almost did end up in rocking chairs on their front porch?

To solve that mystery, all you have to do is keep your ears wide open.

”He was a really normal guy,” Kidman said of Kubrick shortly after his funeral last March. ”A really smart, really great guy. We were even talking about doing another film together.”

Kubrick has been called many things over the years — brilliant, inspiring, abrasive, tyrannical — but ”normal” is a new one. Rumors of his eccentricities ranged from the mildly loopy (never motoring over 35 miles per hour) to the oddly paranoid (he was said to be terrified of America, even though he grew up in the Bronx) to the downright notorious (he supposedly drove actors mad with his relentless perfectionism, insisting on shooting retake after retake). Obsessively private and press shy, he seldom left England and almost never attended public events (recent photographs are almost impossible to find). Which, of course, only made him more fascinating.

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