What was it like working with Stanley Kubrick?

Last Saturday, January 8th at the Belcourt theatre, Nicole Kidman attended a very special screening of her new film, Rabbit Hole, of which she both is the producer and star of the film.  Following the screening, she gave a very engaging question and answer session…and I was there!  Not only was I there, but I got to ask her a question!!!
My wife and I sat on the third row of the theatre and on the brand-spankin’ new chairs that the Belcourt has pretty recently installed.  (They’ll always feel knew for those of us that remember those old seats!)  The closeness to the screen for the duration of the hour-and-a-half film was more than a fair trade-off for being just fifteen feet from Mrs. Kidman for the twenty minute Q&A.
Ever since I knew that Nicole Kidman had moved to the Nashville area, I knew that there was a slight possibility of running into her in a coffee shop in Franklin or at a restaurant in Green Hills.  These past few years I have had ready my one solitary, go-to question that I would ask her whenever that splendid opportunity occurred.  Last Saturday, I got my shot.
My Question: “What was it like working with Stanley Kubrick?”
It didn’t take my question to bring up the name, “Kubrick”, in the Q&A.  Kidman, herself brought him up almost right away when speaking on her role as a producer of Rabbit Hole, a low budget film, and the struggles that go with it like cutting costs and making location and off-set sacrifices in order to stay below budget.  Nicole compared this to Kubrick’s ability to always stay under budget.  It wasn’t beyond him to make those sacrifices for the sake of the film.  Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.  His last (complete) film was Eyes Wide Shut.  Nicole Kidman’s role in this film is hauntingly sensual.  It’s hard to describe the vibe that she projects through the screen, but her performance is powerful, yet subtle and under control.  Darkly angelic would be a good way to describe it.  I didn’t feel like I was really breaking topic (which was a bit of a concern of mine) by asking my question when it was my turn.  What I found very exciting was her engaging and thoughtful response.
 “What was it like working with Stanley Kubrick?”
Nicole gave an answer that spanned from a minute-and-a-half to two minutes.  She said working with Stanley Kubrick changed her life.  He ignited a pursuit of excellence in her.  At a point in time when she was a bit ashamed of being an actress, he challenged her, opened her up and stretched her as an actress.  Beforehand, if I were to guess I would probably have said that her experience with Kubrick was nightmarish.  He was a great director but was rather difficult to work with.  My expectation couldn’t be further from the reaction that I got from Nicole Kidman.  She said that Kubrick kept an office just off of the set and that he would let her and only her in his office all by herself, going through his books and just hanging out.  Nicole got special treatment.  But who wouldn’t cave in to the delightfulness of Mrs. Kidman?  Nicole’s appreciation for Kubrick remains adamant even today as she reminisces back to the days of working with him on set.  It seems the ambition and desire that imbues within her to this day can at least be partially accredited to the late and great Stanley Kubrick. It is very odd indeed that her experience with Kubrick was such a positive one.  After all, he has been called the “actor’s enemy” by Robert Duvall at a recent actors roundtable.  It’s been said that he was extremely demanding and first-hand accounts from the likes of Matthew Modine and Michael Herr can attribute to that.  Whatever the case, our friend Nicole Kidman seemed to have found his soft spot. 
Rabbit Hole begins its run at the Belcourt Friday, January 14 and is based on the very recent Broadway play.  Her performance in this film is BY FAR one of the best performances of her career.  In fact, the performances of the entire ensemble as a whole and individually were some of the best of the year.  Aaron Eckhart and Miles Teller give fantastic performances as does the great Dianne Wiest.  Rabbit whole is one of the top movies of 2010 and you absolutely must see this film. 
Rabbit Hole ****

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