About The Story (Continued)
The company shot for approximately six weeks in New York, during the city's peak Thanksgiving/Christmas season. Moving back and forth, from Central Park and the Upper West Side to Times Square, Soho and Brooklyn, the peripatetic production provided an exciting attraction for tourists and throngs of paparazzi.
One of the film's most ambitious and successful scenes occurred in Times Square. The shot required the Steadicam operator to build an apparatus, similar to a rickshaw, which allowed him to stay low enough to meet Cruise as he pulled up in his sports car. Then, as Cruise ran down the street, the cameraman hopped onto a crane and followed the actor from high above as he sprinted down Times Square.
What made the shot even more astonish ing was that the normally bustling avenue was completely deserted except for Cruise and company. In an unprecedented event, the city gave "Vanilla Sky" permission to shut down
Times Square one Sunday so that the shot could be completed. Of course, this also meant that all the support vehicles and equipment had to be parked elsewhere, giving "Vanilla Sky" sole access to everything between 48th and 42nd Streets, including the subway. It was a tight shoot, but because Cruise, Crowe cinematograph
er John Toll and the shooting crew had practiced it several times, the shot proved to be both
successful and very effective.
"From the very beginning, I wanted a shot where David Aames is alone in Times Square," explains Crowe. "We had to have the shot because it's from a dream that David is having where he's running tragically alone in the world. The producers did some magic to get us Times Square to ourselves, and it helped us provide the shot with an eerie, inspired feeling."
In the stirring finale of this breathtaking scene, Cruise runs down the street and spins around. As the camera follows him, all the neon advertising and billboards that characterize Times Square are highlighted. At the time, the red
Mobius strip of a news ticker was informing everyone of the voting snafu during the Bush-Gore Presidential election, which would have completely dated the film, so Crowe arranged to add anything he wanted to the NASDAQ sign in postproduction.
Although in this particular sequence Cruise is surrounded by obvious, contemporary pop-culture, more oblique references recur throughout the film. Indeed, Crowe stuffed his dog-eared script with various photographs and clippings — everything from advertisements and vintage movie stills to artwork and album covers
— each a symbolic source of inspiration.
"Vanilla Sky is a pop culture ride," says Cruise. "It's one of the sub-themes of the movie, how pop culture affects us, and how we use it as a standard as to what we expect from our own lives."
Perhaps the ultimate pop-culture icon manifested itself as the entire set that served as Aames Publishing and David's office. Vanity Fair kindly lent the production its advertising wing -in the new 48-story,
Conde Nast Building at 4 Times Square, in the heart of Manhattan. The company moved in to shoot in the magazine's offices on the day of the famous Christmas tree lighting in Times Square, but because of the holi day event, the offices themselves were devoid of the usual staffers. They had just closed the magazine's fabled Hollywood Issue, and everyone had happily vacated the premises for the film crew.
The Vanity Fair offices proved to be the ideal location. A long glass corridor lined one side
of the bank of cubicles leading to David Aames's office, allowing Crowe to set up a long moving shot that followed David as he charmed his office staff. Fittingly, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter's office, with its broad window overlook ing the hectic panorama of Christmas in New York, made the perfect office for David
"We needed a place with the t
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