Vanilla Sky is a 2001 American science fiction psychological thriller film directed, written, and co-produced by Cameron Crowe. It is an English-language adaptation of Alejandro Amenábar's 1997 Spanish film Open Your Eyes, which was written by Amenábar and Mateo Gil, with Penélope Cruz reprising her role from the original film. The film has been described as "an odd mixture of science fiction, romance and reality warp".
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Cameron Crowe|
|Screenplay by||Cameron Crowe|
|Music by||Nancy Wilson|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$203.4 million|
The film stars Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz and Cameron Diaz, with Jason Lee and Kurt Russell appearing in supporting roles. It received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song, as well as Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe Award nominations for Cameron Diaz's performance.
David Aames, the owner of a large publishing company he inherited from his father, is in prison. Wearing a prosthetic mask, David tells his life story to court psychologist Dr. Curtis McCabe.
In flashbacks, David leaves the duties of the publisher to his father's trusted associates while living as a playboy in Manhattan. He is introduced to Sofia Serrano by his best friend, Brian Shelby, during a party. David and Sofia spend the night together at Sofia's apartment and fall in love, unaware that David's current lover, Julie Gianni, has followed them there. As David leaves, Julie offers him a ride, and soon reveals her jealousy of Sofia. She purposely crashes the car, killing herself and drastically disfiguring David. Doctors cannot completely repair David's face using plastic surgery, leaving it scarred and misshapen. Aames wears a prosthetic mask around others, but the mental and physical scarring from the accident causes him to become withdrawn and depressed. Brian convinces David to join him and Sofia at a club, but David ends up drunk and insults the two. They leave him to wallow in the street outside the club.
The next morning, Sofia returns to David, asleep on the street, and apologizes to him. She takes him home, and over time, helps David emotionally recover. Doctors find a way to surgically repair David's face despite their prior prognosis. While David's life seems perfect, he notices strange oddities, such as brief visions of his distorted face, and a man at a bar who tells David that he could control the world and everyone in it. One day, while at Sofia's, David wakes up to find himself facing Julie, with all the photos of Sofia's face replaced by Julie's. Out of confusion and shock, he suffocates Julie. David is arrested and imprisoned, and finds his face no longer reconstructed and he's once again wearing the mask.
Dr. McCabe conducts several more interviews, which serve to help David to recall the name "Life Extension". Seeing a company with that name nearby, McCabe arranges to take David there under guard. The company representative Rebecca explains how Life Extension uses cryonic suspension to save those with terminal illnesses until a cure can be found, keeping them in a lucid dream state to otherwise exercise their mind. David realizes that he is in his own lucid dream, escapes McCabe and the guards while calling for "tech support", and rushes for the building's lobby, which is suddenly empty. An elevator opens, revealing the strange man from the bar, who invites him in.
As the elevator climbs to the top of an impossibly-tall building, the man explains to David he is tech support, and that David has been in suspension for 150 years, starting shortly after the night at the club where Sofia broke up with him. David opted for Life Extension to be woken when technology could repair his face, and left the publishing company in the hands of his father's associates. As part of the program, David had opted for a lucid dream based on the "vanilla sky" from a Claude Monet painting The Seine at Argenteuil, starting the morning after Sofia's breakup. However, the equipment had merged elements of his subconscious, such as Julie, or McCabe as his father figure, within his dream, forcing them to pull him out of the lucid dream state.
They emerge on the rooftop, high above the clouds. Tech support tells David that while they have fixed his lucid dream, he has a choice of either being put back into the dream, or to be woken up in reality, requiring a literal leap of faith off the roof that will wake him from his sleep. David opts to wake up, despite a vision of McCabe warning him against it. Before jumping, David envisions Brian and Sofia to say his goodbyes. David jumps and his life flashes before his eyes before hitting the ground. A female voice commands him to "open your eyes", and David opens his eyes.
Alternative ending version
The 2015 Blu-ray release offers the option to watch the film with an alternative ending. This ending expands on the details at the end of the film. While it all leads to the same conclusion, there are additional scenes, alternative takes, and alternative dialogue.
After Rebecca describes the lucid dream, David rushes out of the room but does not immediately dash towards the elevator. He meets McCabe in the restroom who tries to convince him that this is all a hoax and a con and that his case is going to trial. David tells him that he's only in his imagination. Much like in the theatrical cut, the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" plays, but this version makes it clear that David hears the music and that he chose it; meanwhile McCabe tries to convince him there is no music.
At this point, David dashes out of the restroom for the elevator the way he does in the theatrical cut, but the scene in the lobby is expanded – David shoots the police officer who is firing at him and is then surrounded by a SWAT team whom McCabe tries to talk down, but the SWAT team fires at both of them. They black out and wake up in the emptied lobby where McCabe continues to applaud what he believes is a performance while David gets into the elevator with Ventura and tells him what happened at the end of his real life.
Once they reach the roof, McCabe re-enters again and his pleas to David not to believe Ventura become more and more desperate until he collapses onto the ground in despair. David's interaction with Sofia is extended as he tells her he loves her but "can't settle for a dream". He then jumps off the building, screaming "I want to wake up!" as images from his life flash before his eyes. He wakes up in bed and a voice tells him "Open your eyes. You're going to be fine."
- Tom Cruise as David Aames
- Penélope Cruz as Sofia Serrano
- Cameron Diaz as Julianna "Julie" Gianni
- Kurt Russell as Dr. Curtis McCabe
- Jason Lee as Brian Shelby
- Noah Taylor as Edmund Ventura/Tech Support
- Timothy Spall as Thomas Tipp
- Tilda Swinton as Rebecca Dearborn
- Michael Shannon as Aaron
- Ken Leung as Art Editor
- Shalom Harlow as Colleen
- Oona Hart as Lynette
- Ivana Miličević as Emma
- Johnny Galecki as Peter Brown
- Alicia Witt as Libby
- Laura Fraser as The Future
- Conan O'Brien as Himself
- Tommy Lee as Car Salesman
- Steven Spielberg as Guest at David's Party (Uncredited)
—Cameron Crowe, explaining his reason for directing Vanilla Sky.
After the American debut of Alejandro Amenábar's 1997 Spanish film Abre los ojos (Open Your Eyes) at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, Tom Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner optioned the remake rights. Hoping to entice director Cameron Crowe, who previously collaborated with Cruise on Jerry Maguire, Cruise invited Crowe over to his house to view the film. Cruise has stated:
I've been offered a lot of films to buy and remake, and I never have because I felt it was too connected with the culture of that place, whatever country it was from. But this was a universal story that was still open-ended, that still felt like it needed another chapter to be told.
The title of the film is a reference to depictions of skies in certain paintings by Claude Monet. In addition to Monet's impressionistic artwork, the film's tone was derived from the acoustic ballad "By Way of Sorrow" by Julie Miller and a line from an early interview of Elvis Presley in which he said, "I feel lonely, even in a crowded room."
Principal photography for Vanilla Sky began in late 2000 and lasted six weeks. On November 12, 2000, shooting for the scene of the deserted Times Square in New York took place in the early hours of the day. A large section of traffic was blocked off around Times Square while the scene was shot. "There was a limit on how long the city would let us lock everything up even on an early Sunday morning when much of NYC would be slow getting up," said Steadicam operator Larry McConkey. "Several times we rehearsed with Steadicam and Crane including a mockup of an unmovable guardrail that we had to work the crane arm around. [Cruise] participated in these rehearsals as well so we shared a clear understanding of what my limitations and requirements would be."
Filming lasted for six weeks around the New York City-area, which included scenes shot in Central Park, Upper West Side, SoHo, and Brooklyn. One prominent location in the area was the Condé Nast Building that served as Aames Publishing and David's office. After filming finished in New York, production moved to Los Angeles, where the remainder of interior shots were completed at Paramount Studios. Crowe intentionally left in shots of the World Trade Center after the September 11 attacks in 2001 as a tribute.
Despite the film's distorted aspects of reality, the style of cinematography remains grounded for much of the film. "I didn't do anything that was overtly obvious, because the story revolves around the main character not knowing whether he's in a state of reality, a dream or a nightmare, so we want it to feel a little ambiguous," said cinematographer, John Toll. "We want the audience to make discoveries as [Cruise]'s character does, rather than ahead of him." American Cinematographer magazine wrote a feature story on the lighting designer Lee Rose's work on the film.
Aside from the opening sequence featuring the song 'Everything In Its Right Place' by Radiohead and selected works by Icelandic group Sigur Rós, the musical score for Vanilla Sky was composed by Crowe's then wife, Nancy Wilson, who previously scored Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. Wilson spent nine months working on the film's music, which was done through experimentation of sound collages. "We were trying to balance out the heaviness of the story with sugary pop-culture music," said Wilson. "We made sound collages of all kinds. We were channeling Brian Wilson to a large extent. I was recording things through hoses, around corners, playing guitars with cello bows, and with [music editor] Carl Kaller, we tried all kinds of wacky stuff. In the murder–sex scene sound collage, Cameron even used Brian Wilson's speaking voice from a Pet Sounds mix session."
According to Cameron Crowe's commentary, there are five different interpretations of the ending:
- "Tech support" is telling the truth: 150 years have passed since Aames killed himself and subsequent events form a lucid dream.
- The entire film is a dream, evidenced by a sticker on Aames' car that reads "2/30/01" (February 30 does not occur in the Gregorian calendar).
- The events following the crash form a dream that occurs while Aames is in a coma.
- The entire film is the plot of the book that Brian is writing.
- The entire film after the crash is a hallucination caused by the drugs that were administered during Aames' reconstructive surgery.
Vanilla Sky opened at #1 at the box office in the United States when it was first presented on December 14, 2001. The opening weekend took in a gross income of $25,015,518 (24.9%). The final domestic gross income was $100.61 million while the foreign gross income was slightly higher at $102.76m for a worldwide gross income of $203,388,341.
Roger Ebert's printed review of Vanilla Sky awarded the film three out of four stars:
Think it all the way through, and Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky is a scrupulously moral picture. It tells the story of a man who has just about everything, thinks he can have it all, is given a means to have whatever he wants, and loses it because—well, maybe because he has a conscience. Or maybe not. Maybe just because life sucks. Or maybe he only thinks it does. This is the kind of movie you don't want to analyze until you've seen it two times.
As it leaves behind the real world and begins exploring life as a waking dream (this year's most popular theme in Hollywood movies with lofty ideas), Vanilla Sky loosens its emotional grip and becomes a disorganised and abstract if still-intriguing meditation on parallel themes. One is the quest for eternal life and eternal youth; another is guilt and the ungovernable power of the unconscious mind to undermine science's utopian discoveries. David's redemption ultimately consists of his coming to grips with his own mortality, but that redemption lacks conviction.
Salon.com called Vanilla Sky an "aggressively plotted puzzle picture, which clutches many allegedly deep themes to its heaving bosom without uncovering even an onion-skin layer of insight into any of them." The review rhetorically asks:
Who would have thought that Cameron Crowe had a movie as bad as Vanilla Sky in him? It's a punishing picture, a betrayal of everything that Crowe has proved he knows how to do right. ... But the disheartening truth is that we can see Crowe taking all the right steps, the most Crowe-like steps, as he mounts a spectacle that overshoots boldness and ambition and idiosyncrasy and heads right for arrogance and pretension—and those last two are traits I never would have thought we'd have to ascribe to Crowe.
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian and Gareth Von Kallenbach of the publication Film Threat compared Vanilla Sky unfavorably to Open Your Eyes. Bradshaw says Open Your Eyes is "certainly more distinctive than" Vanilla Sky, which he describes as an "extraordinarily narcissistic high-concept vanity project for producer-star Tom Cruise." Other reviewers extrapolate from the knowledge that Cruise had bought the rights to do a version of Amenábar's film. A Village Voice reviewer characterized Vanilla Sky as "hauntingly frank about being a manifestation of its star's cosmic narcissism".
Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called Cameron Diaz "compelling as the embodiment of crazed sensuality" and The New York Times reviewer said she gives a "ferociously emotional" performance. Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle similarly says of the film, "most impressive is Cameron Diaz, whose fatal-attraction stalker is both heartbreaking and terrifying." For her performance, Diaz won multiple critic's group awards, as well as earning nominations for the Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, Critics' Choice Movie Award, Saturn Award, and AFI Award. Penélope Cruz's performance, however, earned her a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actress (in addition to her roles in Blow and Captain Corelli's Mandolin).
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- Crowe, Cameron (January 11, 2002). "So lonely I could cry". the Guardian. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
- Rodriquez, Rene (December 19, 2001). "'Jerry Maguire' Director, Star Reteam". The Miami Herald. Lakeland Ledger. p. D6. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
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- Mentioned by the director in the commentary track for the DVD release.
- "Vanilla Sky Production Notes". The Uncool. Paramount Pictures. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
- "John Toll, ASC". Local 600: International Cinematographers Guild. August 11, 2001. Archived from the original on July 19, 2012. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
- McConkey, Larry. ""Empty Times Square"". SteadiShots.org. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
- Christopher Zara (September 11, 2012). "One World Trade: Film And TV Producers Navigate New York's Rapidly Changing Skyline". International Business Times. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
- Jay Holben (March 2002). "The Man Behind the Mask". American Cinematographer. pp. 52–55.
- Maura Kelly (August 1, 2007). "An Interview with Nancy Wilson". The Believer. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
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- "Ebert and Roeper Top Ten Lists (2000-2005))". The Inner Mind. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- Holden, Stephen (December 14, 2001). "FILM REVIEW; Plastic Surgery Takes A Science Fiction Twist". The New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
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- Michael Atkinson (December 11, 2001). "Icon See Clearly Now". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on April 3, 2018. Retrieved December 3, 2018.
- Kenneth Turan (December 14, 2011). "From Paella to Pot Roast". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 6, 2008. Retrieved December 2, 2018.