“Bill, I have seen one or two things in my life, but never — never — anything like this.”
–Todd Field in Eyes Wide Shut
AT THE 11:30 A.M. SHOWING AT MANN'S CHINESE THEATER LAST FRIDAY, YOU could carve the tension with a butter knife. The crowd was jittery and pocked with celebrities such as Tony Scott, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Christian Slater. Kubrick's directing credit received applause, as did the first shot of Nicole Kidman's butt. But nothing apparently had prepared the audience for how blinkered the film was on the subject of Topic A. By the time of Kidman's boozy flirtation scene, the audience was noticeably restless. By the pillow-talk scene, there was tittering. And by the so-called orgy scene, there was open laughter. When the inquisitor demanded of Tom Cruise, “What is the password for the house,” someone in the back shouted, “Bullshit!”
There were a number of walkouts, a trend which continued throughout the day. By Saturday, at the 9:40 p.m. show at the Vista in Silver Lake, a crowd of tattooed men and women gathered outside afterward, borderline angry and shaking their heads, but too shell-shocked by what they'd just seen to disperse. In retrospect, it's worth noting that so few people saw this film ahead of time, that much of what we knew came from Warner Bros.' co-chairmen Bob Daly and Terry Semel — including Kubrick's ostensible assessment that this was his best film ever. And Semel and Daly — as they like to say in this town — are no longer with the project.