Vanilla Sky : Production Information

About the story

In one night David meets a girl of his dreams and loses her by making a small mistake. Thrust unexpectedly onto a roller-coaster ride of romance, comedy, suspicion, love, sex and dreams, David finds himself on a mind-bending search for his soul and discovers the precious, ephemeral nature of true love.

Vanilla Sky (2001)Paramount Pictures presents "Vanilla Sky" A Cruise/Wagner - Vinyl Films Production. A Cameron Crowe Film. The film stars Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Kurt Russell, Jason Lee, Noah Taylor and Cameron Diaz. Directed by Cameron Crowe, "Vanilla Sky" is produced by Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner and ]Cameron Crowe], from a screenplay by Cameron Crowe, based upon the film "Abre Los Ojos (1997)" written by Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil. Jonathan Sanger and Danny Bramson serve as Executive Producers. The Associate Producer is Michael Doven.

Bramson serve as Executive Producers. The Associate Producer is Michael Doven. Paramount Pictures is part of the entertainment operations of Viacom Inc. , one of the world's largest entertainment and media companies, and a leader in the production, promotion and distribution of entertainment news, sports and music. This film is rated 'R' by the Motion Picture Association of America for sexuality and strong language.

Paramount Pictures is part of the entertainment operations of Viacom Inc. , one of the world's largest entertainment and media companies, and a leader in the production, promotion and distribution of entertainment news, sports and music.

About the movie

Alejandro Amenábar's 1997 Spanish romantic thriller, "Abre los ojos (1997)," became the catalyst for "Vanilla Sky. " Producer Paula Wagner says the film appealed to her, Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe, and it offered an opportunity for them to work together again.

"We saw 'Abre Los Ojos (1997)' separately and together," Wagner notes, "and we all knew that this was the right project. To us, 'Vanilla Sky' is the equivalent of doing a cover to a great song. We pay homage to the film, but we also hope to bring our own nuances and interpretations to it. "

"What I wanted to do with 'Vanilla Sky' was to take people on a modern, emotional journey," says Crowe, "I think people go to the movies to be transported, and this film gently guides you to a bizarre and passionate place in your heart. We constructed the movie, visually and story-wise, to reveal more and more the closer you look at it. As deep as you want to go with it, my desire was for the movie to meet you there."

Wagner feels certain that 'Vanilla Sky' lives up to not only the filmmaker's expectations, but that it will also live up to the audience's.

"This film pushes the edges," she says. "It breaks the mold of conventional filmmaking, while at the same time, it is very accessible, warm and emotional. There are many elements and layers to it, and at the end, you realize something more about the truth of life."

Indeed, "Vanilla Sky" pushes the envelope in many ways. In fact, Crowe adds that he also wanted to take a deeper look into the meaning of love and sex in the new millennium, and that "Abre Los Ojos (1997)" was a catalyst to exploring this very rich topic.

"I wanted to do a movie about the world of casual sex and about young adults taking responsibility for their lives," Crowe explains. "'Abre Los Ojos (1997),' inspired me to make my own statement. It was like a perfect kind of Petri dish to explore all this stuff. Hopefully we've created a cool dialogue with Amenbar's original movie."

To that end, Wagner likens Crowe's directorial style to that of a conductor leading a symphony. "Cameron orchestrated 'Vanilla Sky' beautifully," she says. "It was his vision. He put in all the players, all the notes and all the tones, and every performance has been finely tuned. " But an actor's performance is only as good as the dialogue he or she has to work with, and "Vanilla Sky," like all of Crowe's screenplays, is laced with dialogue so memorable that much of it stays with viewers long after the film is over

"Somehow, Cameron has the ability to sum up a human experience in a single line," muses Wagner, who adds that while "Vanilla Sky" marks Crowe's first screenplay to be adapted from an existing film, the writer/director had a singular vision about the material from the start."

"It's a romantic thriller about the search for the eternal nature of love," Wagner says. "It's emotional, it's humorous, but it's also a thrill ride as the character David Aames uncovers eternal truths about love, himself and the world. Cameron had a deep connection to the story and the characters."

As excited, as Crowe was about the film itself, he was equally as enthusiastic about working again with Tom Cruise.

"Tom is a gift to any director," says Crowe. "He brings a kind of emotional center to anything he does, and in our movie he makes David Aames every man so the audience can identify with him. Tom captures real life. He puts everything you want to express in a script on the screen and he works tirelessly until you're happy."

In turn, Cruise had nothing but praise for Crowe, as well as for the film itself.

"I think Vanilla Sky is terrific, and a definite credit to Cameron's storytelling." Cruise says. "He's a brilliant writer, a brilliant director, and he's brilliant with actors. When you're working with him, you're just constantly growing and challenging yourself."

Cruise describes his character with just as much passion. Like Crowe, he says that David Aames is kind of like a "Prince of New York," who has inherited everything, worked hard at nothing, and is essentially the facade of what people think they want to be.

"He's a guy with a lot of potential, and the film is his journey of self-awakening," explains Cruise. "It's the price that he pays for being careless with other people's feelings. It's a great character to play."

The love of David's life appears in the small, sensual form of Sofia Serrano, portrayed by Penélope Cruz. Ambitious and optimistic, Sofia exudes a positive, down-to-earth life force and a sexuality that cuts through David's rarefied world of sycophants and opportunists. Instantly, she attracts him. She's the last 'guileless' girl in New York City, says David Aames.

Cruz says she lobbied for the role, which she secretly considered her own, since she had played Sofia in "Abre Los Ojos." It didn't take much to convince Crowe, Cruise and Wagner that she was their Sofia as well.

"Casting Penélope is an example of how we pay homage to the original film," says Wagner. "With Cameron's direction, she's basically created a completely different character."

"Penélope Cruz playing Sofia Serrano was a dream of mine," admits Crowe. "She's a wonderful link to Amenbar's original inspirationand I also heard privately that she was going to come after whoever remade "Abre Los Ojos (1997)" with an Uzi if they didn't cast her." Crowe laughs, then adds that he thought at the time, "Now that's the kind of passion you want in your leading lady!"

Crowe went on to describe how both Penélope's and Tom's passion for their roles translated into a wonderful on-screen chemistry.

"I fell in love with this couple through the lens," says Crowe. "In fact, I would come to work every day and be anxious to see their scenes together, to see what their characters were going to bring out in each other. "

"We worked very hard, but we had a blast together," admits Cruise, who also had a lot to say about his leading lady. "Penélope brings reality and humanity to her character with such grace and perfection. It's no wonder anyone would immediately fall in love with her, and that's what happens to David Aames."

Although Cruz's part in "Abre Los Ojos (1997)" and "Vanilla Sky" are technically the same, Cruz adamantly considers the two Sofias completely different women.

"It really wasn't the same part at all, and I felt like I was in an entirely different movie," Cruz says. "Cameron brought out so much more of the love story between Sofia and David. You got to know much more about Sofia as a person through their relationship in 'Vanilla Sky. ' That's why it never felt like I was redoing a role I had already played. "

Cruz is a friendly, open woman whose staggering beauty belies an engaging, ingenuous goofy streak that manifests itself in her fondness for the animated hit, "South Park. " She also has a big-hearted ability to take a joke. For example, Crowe and cinematographer John Toll delighted in sometimes hiding wicked little notes for the actress to discover on the set during her scenes. The Spanish-born Cruz's reactions to these playful pranks, as well as her occasional malapropisms, earned her some good-natured ribbing and the nickname "Lupe," which Crowe bestowed on her. In fact, the director probably called out, "Action,Lupe," as much as "Action, Penélope" throughout the production.

"I didn't mind. Everyone was so kind, and all the teasing came from affection," says Cruz, who in turn cheerfully pronounced Crowe's first name with a Spanish cadence, camarn, which in Spanish means, "shrimp. "

Names, in fact, were a big issue on "Vanilla Sky. " Between Tom's and Penlope's similar last names, Cruise and Cruz, and especially between Crowe's and Diaz's identical first names, Cameron, monikers were a bit confusing. Ultimately, Cameron Diaz answered to "CD. "

"Yes, the solution was to call me CD. It took me awhile to get used to it because I'm usually the only Cameron in the room," Diaz notes. "People would talk to Cameron Crowe, and I'd instinctively respond. It was always very surprising, but it wasn't bad. In fact, it was fun to have a new name. "

Diaz says her character, Julie Gianni, is a vulnerable woman despite her outward assurance and allure. She finds herself in a precarious emotional position common to many women.

"Julie is the good-time girl, the one who always knows how to make people, especially guys, feel comfortable without any pressure. But that isn't enough for her anymore, especially once she meets David Aames and falls in love with him. They don't make that commitment to one another, and at first, that's fine. But when we meet Julie in the film, she's trying to define the direction of the relationship, and that affects everything in her life. "

Diaz explains that she was drawn to the role because Julie not only has a unique personality, but she is also someone with whom many women can relate.

"She's 27 years old, she's not in a committed relationship, and her career is in transition," Diaz says. "She feels disconnected, even desperate, and then she meets David Aames. She loves him, and he seems to have feelings for her, but the relationship is not quite coming to fruition. Slowly, she realizes he won't protect her, he won't be her knight, and she loses her step a little bit. "

Diaz adds, "I think that all women have experienced that moment in their life when they're just not getting what they need from a relationship, and instead of walking away, they keep trying. I think we've all driven by a guy's house on the way home, just to see if the lights are on, because he didn't call. And Julie's gotten into that place, with very dire consequences. I understood what she was going through. It was pure pain, and when you are in pain, you do stupid things. If she had another chance, if she was able to get some perspective, Julie would probably do things differently. "

Meanwhile, Diaz's off-screen relationship with her co-star Cruise was much more rewarding than Julie's fictional one with David Aames.

Vanilla Sky (2001)"Tom brought complete humanity to the role," Diaz says. "He's got everything that David Aames doesn't have, in that he is caring, compassionate and generous. David Aames might have all the charm that Tom has, but he can't be there for people. He can't commit to anyone or anything, not to his friends, or to his career. He lives in a self-centered world, which doesn't mean he's a bad guy. It's just that that he keeps life at a distance, in a very appealing, but ultimately, lonely way. "

A friendly working relationship between the two on-screen rivals, Diaz and Cruz, also developed, and together with their shared on-screen paramour Cruise, the trio had a great time. In fact, though the three actors didn't share many scenes together, they were inseparable on those days that their work dovetailed, laughing and joking between takes. Both Cruz and Diaz attribute that happy environment to Crowe and Cruise and their passion for the project.

"Cameron and Tom are so thoughtful and appreciative that it was always a pleasure and fun to come to the set," Cruz says. "There was a sense of friendship and playfulness that created a safe place to do the best work possible, to explore the characters and their relationships. "

According to Cruz, Crowe worked in a particularly nurturing way with her. Often rehearsing with her off-set, he'd toss her not just new lines, but also less obvious artistic cues, from various sounds, to Spanish expressions, to feelings. It was a lot like a jazz musician riffing with a band mate.

"It was a very organic kind of acting," Cruz says. "Cameron and Tom made it all very safe and comfortable to play with new ideas. Cameron encouraged me to experiment, too. He talked to me all during the takes, suggesting different things for my character. It was a very exciting way to work, really thrilling. "

Diaz agrees with Cruz. "Cameron and Tom were two people that I wanted to work with for a long time, so this was a great opportunity. Cameron is the nicest man who ever walked the earth. He's so generous and gifted. He really knows how to be there, to be present, and he totally loves his actors. Tom is so supportive, and was there for us every second, in terms of acting, so it was like constant, instant gratification with him. And Cameron, he knows what he wants. His style is so laid-back, and when you do something he likes, he's so enthusiastic that you can't help but want to please him. It was a wonderful atmosphere on the set, and the team of Tom and Cameron was amazing. They really connect creatively, they speak the same language, and they have great chemistry that they convey with such joy and energy. We all really enjoyed one another as people. "

The feeling is mutual for Crowe, who admits that he is a big fan of his stars, not just because of their acting ability, but because of whom they are.

"These are all people that just kind of voraciously enjoy every minute of the process, and I was inspired by them," says Crowe. "Penélope throws herself into the experience of filmmaking, Cameron Diaz is the same wayand Tom, he's legendarily known for that. It's really telling that many of the very biggest stars are fans of the process themselves. The joy shows in the way they act. "

"Cameron Diaz, Penélope Cruz, Jason Lee, Kurt Russell, all of these people are professionals, and they really brought their game on this picture," adds Cruise. "We were like a community of people all working with the same intention and working toward the same goal to make the best picture we can. In fact, the mood on every set Cameron works on is one of generosity and communion. "

Besides reaping the benefits of Crowe's insightful direction, Diaz also received an additional gift from him in the form of a theme song for her character.

"Julie is making a transition in her career from model to singer, and she's cut an album," Diaz explains. "So she's got this CD that she shuffles around town, trying to get people interested in her music. Her songs, of course, are inspired by her life, and the song we hear, naturally, is called I Fall Apart. Well, Cameron Crowe is married to Nancy Wilson from Heart. I grew up listening to that rock band, and I used to stare at the album covers of these talented, beautiful women. My sister and I were in awe of them, and we saw them in concert 400 times. So, at one point, Cameron told me, 'We have this song we'd like you to sing. Actually, Nancy has been working on it, and she wants to come in to sing it for you, to find out what you think about it. ' I thought, Nancy Wilson wants MY opinion? I was completely stunned. "

Diaz and Wilson later recorded I Fall Apart in the same studio that Fleetwood Mac recorded the record-breaking album, "Rumors. "

"The whole experience was really cool," Diaz says. "Of course, they had to add some of Nancy's voice over mine, but I'm still totally delighted. "

Not surprisingly, music was an integral part to Crowe's directorial style. With the help of associate producer Scott Martin, who served as the set's unofficial DJ, Crowe used an eclectic array of music throughout the shoot. Signaling Martin to play a key piece of a certain song right before various takes and sometimes during them, Crowe set the mood for the actors and provided them with a new avenue of inspiration. He used the same technique while shooting Almost Famous (2000), with equally good results. On that film, however, he veered toward classic rock, and while he did use some Beatles tunes on the set of "Vanilla Sky," Crowe usually turned to edgier fare, such as imported dance music and techno beats.

The actors loved this musical influence. In fact, during a weeklong party scene on the set of David's apartment, the music played nonstop during takes and while the crew set up shots. The whole shoot was very festive, and the grips, camera operators and electric crew practically danced as they rigged equipment.

"Music is very important to me, and often it is the jumping off point for a movie," says Crowe. "A lot of times it begins with a song, and in the case of "Vanilla Sky," this great, little-known artist named Julie Miller had a song called 'By Way of Sorrow' that started everything rolling. So we play it all the time on the set, and it changes the way everyone works. It even changes the way the actors act. "

This musical approach was no surprise to Jason Lee, who plays Brian Shelby, David Aames' best friend. Lee is an alumnus of Cameron Crowe's films, having played lead singer Jeff Bebe in Almost Famous (2000). " A gifted musician himself, with an impressive recording studio in his apartment, Lee says that music on the set helps clue him into the attitude of the scene and of the characters.

"The characters and their relationships are important to Cameron," Lee says. "For example, 'jerry maguire (1996)' is a film about the journey of one particular sports agent. But it was so much more than that because it was Cameron directing. He finds moments and touches that elevate the characters beyond the obvious and make them real. On 'Almost Famous (2000),' the word he used more than any other word was 'real. ' This has to be real. The relationships have to be real. The situations have to be real. The stage presence of the band has to be real. This isn't a movie about the '70s clichs. It is a movie about people relating and having similar experiences. It happens to take place in '73. '"

Lee explains that Crowe always puts the characters first, and in "Vanilla Sky" it's especially true when fantasy and reality blend together.

"We always played the fantasy as reality, and that could be tricky with another director," Lee notes. "With Cameron, however, you feel safe right from the get-go. You know he is going to put the character first. "

Because of that, Lee adds, his part has become much more than just that of the standard "sidekick. "

"Brian Shelby is a good, honest friend to David Aames. They've been friends for 20-something years, and David is paying Brian to write his first novel. I tend to play 'The Best Friend' in a lot of movies. I'm the character who is always affected by something or someone. That could get old. But Cameron wants substance, and he never goes for the obvious. Brian changes subtly throughout the film, and in general, he has an integrity and dignity about him. So, while David Aames is the guy who has all the popularity, the women and the money, Brian is very cool about it and finds the humor in it, even when David does despicable things. In fact, Brian respects and admires David, even at his worst. Basically, Brian is big enough to let David have his world. "

Vanilla Sky (2001)Cruise adds that not only does his character, David Aames, believe in Brian, but also he, Tom Cruise, believed in Jason Lee as an actor to pull off such an integral character in the film.

"Jason's character is, as always, incredible," says Cruise.

"This is my second movie with Jason, and it's a gift to work with people who know your idiosyncrasies," says Crowe. "I've always admired the directors who have regular actors appearing as different characters in their movies. Billy Wilder often used the same stable of actors. They swirled through his films and gave his movies continuity that's fun to follow as a fan. "

Kurt Russell plays psychiatrist Curtis McCabe. Although technically Russell was not an Almost Famous (2000) veteran, his stepdaughter Kate Hudson played the luminous Penny Lane in the film. It was on the Almost Famous (2000) set where Russell got his first taste of what it might be like to work on "Vanilla Sky. "

"I'd visited the Almost Famous (2000) set a couple of times, and I was very impressed with the way Cameron worked," Russell recalls. "Tom and I were friends already, and we had talked over the last ten years or so about the possibility of working together, but the right ingredients hadn't come together for that to happen. I was at the point where I was wondering what path I wanted to take, in terms of the business, and what I really looked forward to was working with great people. In fact, I didn't even read the script. That was not the point. I wanted to have the opportunity to work with people like Cameron Crowe and Tom Cruise, and I thought it would be a blast. I was really thankful that the opportunity finally presented itself, and that they wanted me to do it. "

Happily, Russell did have a blast on the movie. His scenes were mostly with Cruise, and the two laughed easily and often between takes and while rehearsing lines with each other. Even when a movie light in the ceiling mysteriously popped during an intense scene, it was laughter that always prevailed.

"I had a ball working with Tom," Russell says. "There are some people with whom, for some reason, you share a camaraderie. Tom and I have a lot of the same likes in life. Plus, I've always enjoyed his work. He's extremely entertaining and a very good, accomplished actor. "

Russell went on to describe Cruise's well-honed acting style.

"We had several emotional scenes together, and Tom handled them with a certain ease and grace. For example, when McCabe tries to draw David out of his nightmare --that is, his literal and figurative mask -- Tom just sort of locked into it. He gets to the truth. I also think Tom is extremely versatile in his ability to take a line and play it 20 different ways and still tell the story in a truthful, compelling way. I find his ability to move the story along in character, as opposed to doing things that just pull me out of the movie, very admirable. "

Describing Crowe as "part of the pack of great directors," Russell elaborates on his admiration for the gifted filmmaker.

"His perceptions are unique, and in my opinion, incredibly right on target," Russell says. "I think that's probably what other actors feel like when they work with him. His instincts make sense; that is, what he wants you to try and feel. The way he communicates that is in the way of the great directors. Life is interesting, and any one scene can be expressed in a number of ways. But Cameron is only interested in the choice that's going to bring about the truest sentiment or perception. His work has a very realistic yet stylized flavor, but it's all anchored in an emotional truth. "

Obviously, Russell eventually read the script repeatedly.

"When I read the script the first time, I found it to be compelling," Russell recalls. "By the seventh or eighth time, I realized that with every read, I got another piece of the puzzle. In fact, I think that it'll be interesting to find out if this isn't one of those movies that you get more out of the fourth or fifth time you see it. "

"I've always been a fan of Kurt Russell," says Crowe. "He's got such an effortless, likeable and somehow always deep quality. He's just plain fun to watch. He works harder when something isn't working. He wants to please you and you want to please him. "

Cruise, who has been not only a fan of Russell for years, but also his friend, couldn't agree more.

"Cameron and I were discussing who could play the psychiatrist and we both agreed Kurt has to play it," says Cruise. "So he came on the set, shot for a couple of weeks, and he just really scored. "

Crowe, who truly enjoyed working on the entire production, sums up his experience working with Russell and with the entire cast best: "It was truly a great collaboration. "