When Stanley Kubrick went to meet his maker in March, the world mourned the loss of a great film director. Of immediate concern to Warner Brothers, however, was how to publicize Kubrick's valedictory opus, the erotic thriller Eyes Wide Shut.
Warner's task was to avoid offending Kubrick's family while ensuring that Eyes received an R rating and recouped its dollars 100 million-plus investment.
The trouble was, the studio was accustomed to deferring to Kubrick on virtually every decision. On previous films, the reclusive British-based director had called Warner execs in far-flung places such as Thailand to demand last-minute changes to publicity materials.
A further catch: Eyes stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Tom and Nicole and Stanley, in a single package, requires special treatment. That's why Pat Kingsley, founder of Hollywood talent agency PMK and personal publicist to Tom and Nicole, has a leading role in the publicity campaign for Eyes.
If one of her charges is starring in a film, Kingsley is bound to be hovering nearby. Her power lies in her broad client base, which includes other Hollywood heavyweights such as Brad Pitt and Courtney Love. Going up against Pat risks alienating the talent. And, as Warner quickly realized in the case of Eyes, Kingsley controls access to the film's only two (living) marketing assets, Cruise and Kidman.
Even the obsessive Kubrick recognized Kingsley's unique position. She was the only person that he allowed to see the film in its early stages, aside from the two stars and Warner chiefs Terry Semel and Bob Daly.
'We're all working together in a coordinated effort,' Kingsley told me. 'We also keep Stanley's family involved in the principal interviews.'
Kingsley targeted glossy magazines for Cruise and Kidman, including Harper's Bazaar (Cruise cover), Vogue, Good Housekeeping (Kidman cover) and Rolling Stone (Kidman cover). She also organized for Cruise and Kidman to attend the Los Angeles premiere of the film on July 12 and the Tokyo premiere in the fall. One observer summed it up: 'With Kubrick dead, it's become a Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman film. And that means Pat.'
His film may be in good hands, but Kubrick isn't quitting easily. In mid-March, shortly after his death, newsrooms across America were sent an 'unauthorized' teaser trailer anonymously via satellite. It included steamy scenes between Cruise and Kidman, and was played on every major news show, creating a temporary sensation. Warner execs denied all responsibility for the transmission, and pointed the finger at Kubrick.
It turns out that arranging the trailer was one of the maestro's last stunts before dying. Even from the great beyond, Kubrick had to have the last word.