Of the many Japanese car manufacturers dominating the domestic auto market in the 1980s, Isuzu wasn't the most recognizable. The company, which arrived in the U.S. in 1981, had an ad budget that was less than a tenth of Toyota’s. Even if there had been more money to spend, television spots for vehicles were notoriously cookie-cutter. There were always long shots of sedans on swerving roads, quiet cabins, and relaxed drivers. It was hard for consumers to tell one from another.
That all changed with Joe Isuzu, one of the most dishonest, unethical—and successful—car salesmen of all time.
From 1986 to 1990, actor David Leisure played the fictional automotive dealer who lied through his plastered-smile face, turning the modest car company into a household brand name. Making outrageous claims about the abilities of his cars with a “He’s Lying” disclaimer flashing onscreen, Leisure became instantly recognizable as an amusing send-up of the shady salesman cliché.
The only problem: Joe Isuzu was so popular that people forgot he was trying to sell cars.
The Isuzu campaign was developed by the ad agency Della Femina, Travisano & Partners, who had been tasked by the carmaker to boost their profile in the U.S. With a limited budget, the firm decided to focus on a salesman who never met a tale too tall. Isuzu boasted about cars costing $10.80 (he moved the decimal point), able to drive up mountains, or getting 300 miles to the gallon.
Jon Lovitz was the firm’s first choice for the role, having perfected insincerity as the Pathological Liar on Saturday Night Live. But the agency eventually went with Leisure, an actor who had bit parts in the Airplane! films and enjoyed a measure of success in a series of phone book ads in 1983. (Prior to that, he lived in his car—a Volkswagen.) He filmed just one Isuzu spot before being called in to do six more.
Despite dealerships being apprehensive over a parody of their own sales staff, the spots were an immediate hit. Isuzu hit a reported 18 percent spike in sales during the rest of the year, with Leisure achieving the kind of spokesman recognition reserved for cereal mascots. As Joe, he filmed a cross-promotional commercial for Burger King in 1988; four years later, he pushed A&W root beer. In a speech, Ronald Reagan compared Isuzu's huckster demeanor to that of Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega.
But Isuzu’s popularity had a troubling consequence. After the 1986 spurt in sales, the company sold roughly the same amount of vehicles in the first half of 1987. (Actually, 50 fewer.) Both Isuzu and advertising industry experts expressed concern that Isuzu was such an entertaining persona that people were actually paying more attention to him and less attention to the product he was selling—the car.
Isuzu attempted to highlight more product features in subsequent ads. Leisure, however, remained the focal point in the eyes of the audience. In 1990, after more than 40 appearances, he received a first-class letter telling him the company was retiring the campaign.
While Leisure found work in sitcoms like Empty Nest, a struggling Isuzu shifted its focus to trucks. In 2001, they resurrected Joe to push their new Axiom, but it did little to impact their modest sales. By 2008, just 7000 of the more than 16 million cars sold in the States bore an Isuzu label.
Leisure reprised the role a handful of times, most recently for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Owing to Isuzu exiting the U.S. sedan market in 2008, he’s one of the few corporate mascots to actually outlive the corporation that employed him. Speaking on the character’s fame in 1987, the actor was prophetic. “Maybe people love the commercials,” he said, “but don’t know much about the cars.”
In the late 1990s, stories about what was happening on the set of Stanley Kubrick’s already-secretive film Eyes Wide Shut constantly made headlines. Everyone wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes with real-life celebrity couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and the 15-month shoot only intrigued people more. Finally, the film was released on July 16, 1999—more than four months after Kubrick had passed away. While there is still a lot we don’t know about the movie, here are 20 things we do.
1. Eyes Wide Shut is based on a 1926 novella.
Eyes Wide Shut is loosely is based on Arthur Schnitzler’s novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story), which was published in 1926. Considering that the movie takes place in 1990s New York, it is obviously not a direct adaptation, but it overlaps in its plot and themes. “[The book] explores the sexual ambivalence of a happy marriage and tries to equate the importance of sexual dreams and might-have-beens with reality,” Kubrick said. “The book opposes the real adventures of a husband and the fantasy adventures of his wife, and asks the question: is there a serious difference between dreaming a sexual adventure, and actually having one?”
2. Production on Eyes Wide Shut began in 1996.
By then, Kubrick had been holding onto the rights to Traumnovelle—which screenwriter Jay Cocks purchased on his behalf, in order to keep the project under wraps—for nearly 30 years. Kubrick had planned to begin working on the film after making 2001: A Space Odyssey, but then got the opportunity to adapt A Clockwork Orange.
3. The studio pushed Stanley Kubrick to cast A-list names.
Terry Semel, then-head of Warner Bros., told Kubrick, “What I would really love you to consider is a movie star in the lead role; you haven't done that since Jack Nicholson [in The Shining].”
4. Stanley Kubrick wanted to cast Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.
Kubrick liked the idea of casting a real-life married couple in the film, and originally considered Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. (He also liked the idea of Steve Martin.) Eventually, he went with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, who were married from 1990 to 2001.
5. London stood in for New York City.
Though the film is set in New York, it was filmed in London. In order to construct the most accurate sets possible, Vanity Fairreported that Kubrick “sent a designer to New York to measure the exact width of the streets and the distance between newspaper vending machines.”
6. Some of the shots in Eyes Wide Shut required no set at all.
In order to give the movie a dream-like quality, the filmmakers used an old-school method of shooting—and a treadmill. “In some of the scenes, the backgrounds were rear-projection plates,” cinematographer Larry Smith explained. “Generally, when Tom’s facing the camera, the backgrounds are rear-projected; anything that shows him from a side view was done on the streets of London. We had the plates shot in New York by a second unit [that included cinematographers Patrick Turley, Malik Sayeed and Arthur Jafa]. Once the plates were sent to us, we had them force-developed and balanced to the necessary levels. We’d then go onto our street sets and shoot Tom walking on a treadmill. After setting the treadmill to a certain speed, we’d put some lighting effects on him to simulate the glow from the various storefronts that were passing by in the plates. We spent a few weeks on those shots.”
7. Eyes Wide Shut holds a Guinness World Record.
The film has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest constant movie shoot, with a total of 400 days, which was a surprise to the cast and crew. Cruise and Kidman had only committed to six months of filming. The extended shoot was a lot to ask of Cruise in particular, who was at the height of his career. He even had to delay work on Mission: Impossible II to finish Eyes Wide Shut. He didn’t seem to mind though. “We knew from the beginning the level of commitment needed,” Cruise toldTIME. “We were going to do what it took to do this picture.”
8. The script for Eyes Wide Shut kept changing.
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According to Todd Field, who portrayed piano player Nick Nightingale (and is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker in his own right), “We’d rehearse and rehearse a scene, and it would change from hour to hour. We’d keep giving the script supervisor notes all the time, so by the end of the day the scene might be completely different. It wasn’t really improvisation, it was more like writing.”
9. Tom Cruise developed ulcers while shooting Eyes Wide Shut.
“I didn't want to tell Stanley," Cruise told TIME. “He panicked. I wanted this to work, but you're playing with dynamite when you act. Emotions kick up. You try not to kick things up, but you go through things you can't help.”
10. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman slept in their characters' bedroom.
In order to reflect their real-life relationship, Cruise and Kidman were asked to choose the color for the curtains in their on-screen bedroom, where they alsoslept.
11. The apartment featured in the movie was a re-creation of Stanley Kubrick's.
According to Cruise, “The apartment in the movie was the New York apartment [Stanley] and his wife Christianne lived in. He recreated it. The furniture in the house was furniture from their own home. Of course the paintings were Christianne's paintings. It was as personal a story as he's ever done.”
12. Stanley Kubrick temporarily banned Tom Cruise from the set.
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Given his penchant for accuracy, it’s quite possible that Kubrick wanted to stir up some real-life jealousy between his stars in order to help them embody their characters. In a fantasy sequence, Kidman’s character has sex with another man, which motivates the rest of the film’s plot. Kubrick banned Cruise from the set on the days that Kidman shot the scene with a male model. They spent six days filming the one-minute scene. Kubrick also forbid Kidman from telling Cruise any details about it.
13. It took 95 takes for Tom Cruise to walk through a doorway.
Six days for a one-minute scene is nothing compared to the time Kubrick had Cruise do 95 takes of one simple action: walking through a doorway. After watching the playback, he apparently told Cruise, “Hey, Tom, stick with me, I’ll make you a star.”
14. Security on the set was tight.
Aside from Kubrick, Kidman, Cruise, and their tiny crew, no one was allowed on the set, which was heavily guarded. In May 1997, one photographer managed to capture a picture of Cruise standing next to a man that the photographer thought was just an “old guy, scruffy with an anorak and a beard.” That man was Kubrick, who hadn’t been photographed in 17 years. After the incident, security on the set was tripled.
15. Paul Thomas Anderson spent some time on the set.
One person Cruise did manage to sneak onto the set was his future Magnolia director, Paul Thomas Anderson. While there, Anderson asked Kubrick, “Do you always work with so few people?” Kubrick responded, “Why? How many people do you need?” Anderson then recalled feeling “like such a Hollywood a**hole.”
16. Stanley Kubrick makes a cameo in the movie.
He’s not credited, but the film’s director can be seen sitting in a booth at the Sonata Café.
17. Stanley Kubrick died less than a week after showing the studio his final cut of Eyes Wide Shut.
Kubrick died less than a week after showing what would be his final cut of the film to Warner Bros. No one can say how much he would have kept editing the film. One thing that was changed after his death: bodies in the orgy scene were digitally altered so that the movie could be released with an R (rather than an NC-17) rating. Although many claim that Kubrick intended to do this, too. "I think Stanley would have been tinkering with it for the next 20 years," Kidman said. "He was still tinkering with movies he made decades ago. He was never finished. It was never perfect enough.”
18. By the time Eyes Wide Shut was released, a dozen years had passed since Stanley Kubrick's last directorial effort.
Eyes Wide Shut came out a full 12 years after Kubrick’s previous film, 1987's Full Metal Jacket.
19. Eyes Wide Shut topped the box office during its opening week.
The film earned $30,196,742 during its first week in release, which was enough to take the box office’s number one spot—making it Kubrick’s only film to do so.
20. Tom Cruise didn't like Dr. Harford.
One year after the film’s release, Cruise admitted that he “didn’t like playing Dr. Bill. I didn’t like him. It was unpleasant. But I would have absolutely kicked myself if I hadn’t done this.”
Paul McCartney of The Beatles and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones sit opposite each other on a train at London's Euston Station.
Victor Blackman, Express/Getty Images
Who are America’s all-time favorite musicians and bands? When it comes to the best-selling artists of all time, The Beatles still rule—yes, even a half-century after their breakup. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), these are the 50 best-selling artists of all time.
Albums sold: 183 million
Albums sold: 148 million
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Albums sold: 146.5 million
Albums sold: 120 million
Albums sold: 111.5 million
Albums sold: 84.5 million
Albums sold: 84 million
LENNART PREISS/AFP/Getty Images
Albums sold: 78.5 million
Albums sold: 75 million
Albums sold: 72 million
Albums sold: 69 million
Terry Fincher, Express/Getty Images
Albums sold: 68.5 million
The Rolling Stones
Albums sold: 66.5 million
Albums sold: 66.5 million
Albums sold: 66.5 million
Albums sold: 64.5 million
Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Albums sold: 64 million
Albums sold: 63 million
Albums sold: 58.5 million
Albums sold: 56.5 million
Albums sold: 54.5 million
Jason Kempin, Getty Images
Albums sold: 52 million
Albums sold: 50 million
Albums sold: 49.5 million
Albums sold: 48 million
Noam Galai, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival