Eyes Wide Shut is more or less about a sexual awakening that seems to be happening throughout movie and the reaction of the main characters that takes place. There’s also a very good reason why Harvey Keitel quit the movie though you might think it’s a bit ridiculous. Personally I don’t after hearing this clip since it’s already been well established that Stanley Kubrick was a hard man to work with as a director. The man was a genius behind the camera without any doubt but that didn’t mean he was the friendliest person or the easiest to understand. Keitel, who is a great actor in his own right, quit because he couldn’t understand what Kubrick wanted from him.
Known to be somewhat eccentric and focused on his vision quite often Kubrick was the kind of director that would tell an actor to perform an action again without telling them what he wanted. This could become understandably frustrating since just telling someone to do something without saying exactly what you want might be construed as many things. Harvey Keitel seems like a man, just like any actor, who would want to know what the director wants and how he wants something done. Without any basis on how to act it’s kind of difficult to know what you’re doing wrong or what needs to change. Kubrick was absolutely horrible when it came to this, even if he wasn’t being argumentative. He had his good and his bad days just like anyone but the act of telling a person to do the scene again without telling them why or what they needed to fix seems a little counterproductive.
In his own mind however that could have been Kubrick’s way of sorting things out, reasoning just what needed to be added and what was working as it was. It’s a strange process for anyone that doesn’t understand, but not everyone vocalizes what they’re thinking as they prefer to internalize it and play it back again and again until it finally looks right. The major issue is that it forces everyone around them to become mind readers, which is not going to happen on a whim and be increasingly frustrating. On the one hand I can side with Kubrick by stating that having to work things out in your own head is something that a lot of creative folks need to do. Sometimes it makes more sense in your head than it does in the real world and you might be trying to reconcile the two in order to find a suitable compromise. However I can sympathize with Keitel as well since being told to do something without reason and without knowing if you’re doing it right is entirely nerve-wracking. The idea of ‘you should know’ doesn’t work all the time.
Harvey had had enough of this and simply walked off the set, without anyone other than Kubrick really feeling like blaming him since Kubrick was kind of demanding. Of course Harvey could have handled it differently but communication is still important.