Vanilla Sky – Entertainment Tonight

Tom Cruise at Work

In order to create a dream sequence for the opening frames of the new Tom Cruise movie, the makers of ‘Vanilla Sky’ faced a daunting task…and consequently made history in never-sleeps New York City!

“It’s very easy to type the words, ‘David Aames is dreaming. Times Square is devoid of humanity.’ It’s a little harder to actually do it,” smiles director Cameron Crowe.

Tonight on ET, we have the exclusive behind-the-scenes story on this spectacular ‘Vanilla Sky’ production feat!

New York has never shut down Times Square for anything, much less a film crew.

At any given time of day, close to 200,000 pedestrians crowd the square, home to numerous businesses and media outlets, 12 hotels and, of course, the legendary theaters of Broadway. In fact, some 30,000 people come to the area daily just to take in the famed productions of the Great White Way!

But with the help of the New York Mayor’s office, the city’s film commission and the New York police Department, the ‘Vanilla Sky’ crew actually pulled off a total Times Square closure, arranging to clear the entire area for 90 minutes on a Sunday morning in November of 2000.

“I’ve never really had ornate shots in movies that I’ve written or directed. But this one was necessary, and the whole idea was to complete this in the short window that we had Times Square to ourselves,” explains Crowe of his mission: nearly impossible.

“We practiced the camera moves with a crowded Times Square, we practiced in the back lot of a film company, and we had really one shot at it for a few hours.”

With the help of one very dedicated crew, 85 additional production assistants, 40 uniformed traffic officers, the cooperation of the MTA bus service, and of course, star Tom Cruise himself, ‘Sky’s’ creators got what location manager Len Murach calls “the million dollar shot.”

“We had Times Square to ourselves, which was an eerie, inspiring feeling,” adds Crowe.

Of course, amid this highly organized operation, there was still the variable of a huge crowd who had gathered to watch Cruise shoot his newest movie. The excitement in the air was incredible.

“We were all working so hard that I had thoroughly kind of forgotten the whole Tom Cruise aspect of it until people started to flood into Times Square and we were about to lose our accessibility to it!” recalls Crowe.

“And what’s funny is, you’d never know that just six feet out of the [camera] frame are all these people yelling and screaming for autographs. It was our own version of Beatlemania.”

In addition to completing this incredible sequence, Tom delivered the goods to the screaming crowd, signing autographs, waving and flashing that famous grin.

But Tom was more impressed with the feat of orchestrating the Times takeover than he was with his own star power.

“It was a great experience,” he reports. “Everyone’s going to think, ‘Is that CGI [computer generated images]?’ It’s not CGI. It’s real. We shut down Times Square.”

Courtesy of Entertainment Tonight – December 19, 2001