Of all the rumors to filter out of the top secret production of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, the most evocative involved the mysterious departure of Harvey Keitel. According to a story broadcast by Howard Stern, the Daily News, and countless spots on the Internet, Keitel was filming a masturbation scene with Nicole Kidman and ended up ejaculating in her hair, prompting an enraged Nicole to demand Keitel’s dismissal. Denied roundly by all parties, this is nonetheless a perfect example of postmodern gossip: a multilayered rumor-mosaic that draws from Keitel’s previous sacking from Apocalypse Now, his notorious masturbation scene in Bad Lieutenant, the semen-in-hair gag from There’s Something About Mary, a 1998 news environment in which ejaculate figured prominently, and widespread belief that Nicole would sign on to this kind of film to appear “artsy” and “hip” and thereby avoid being second-billed to Sandra Bullock again but then freak out simply because of Harvey’s Method acting. It’s such an intricate fabrication that, not surprisingly, it’s the rage of Internet film discussion groups in France.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 29, 1998