Cameron Crowe’s 2001 thriller Vanilla Sky has a reputation for being…divisive. (Incoherent, some might say.) It also turned to be weirdly prescient. In its opening scene, Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” plays soon before Tom Cruise finds himself in an empty Times Square — a sight that is unfortunately familiar now due to the pandemic. Cruise also wears a mask in the film. And in a new quarantine interview with Vulture, Crowe talks about some of the hidden Easter eggs in the movie.
The big one is this: Vanilla Sky sort of features Nirvana’s “You Know You’re Right,” illegally, a year before it was released. Cameron Crowe explains:
This is a good thing. I don’t think this has ever come out before: I did a lot of subliminal music cues, and in the scene where Cruise has his freakout and he’s come from [Sofia/Julianna’s] murder, and he’s coming down those winding stairs to Todd Rundgren, there are bits of studio chatter of Brian Wilson freaking out while he’s trying to make “Heroes and Villains,” mixed in with what was then the only unreleased Nirvana song, “You Know You’re Right.” We couldn’t credit it in the movie and it was actually illegal, but Courtney Love gave it to us. She said, “This is the only Nirvana song that’s never been released. Hide it in your movie somewhere.”
Of course, Cameron Crowe is a big music guy — Hello, Almost Famous! Hi, Roadies! — and there’s a lot of other music in the movie, much of it significantly less subliminal. “The music for Vanilla Sky, I’m really proud of,” Crowe says. The final scene had a live version of Sigur Rós’ “Untitled 4,” aka “Njósnavélin,” a year before ( ) came out. And of course, there’s the Radiohead scene at the beginning.
“[When we were filming], everybody was into Radiohead, and they let us have ‘Everything in Its Right Place,’ which we’d been listening to a lot making it, and at that point, it was kind of jolly,” Crowe explains. “But when you watch the movie with that song in it, it just gets under your skin. A big part of people who discover the movie — it stays with them, in large part I think, because of the music. And the performances. And the opening, which I hear about more and more over time.”
Crowe talks more about how they shot the opening scene in Times Square. And there’s this funny bit: “I remember getting a cab, and the driver says to me, ‘You know, they emptied out Times Square for Tom Cruise.’ I was like, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Only one other person they’d do that for. Billy Joel!’ So I always thought, if I ever meet Billy Joel, I’d say, ‘I think you got Times Square if you want it.'”
And in case you were wondering if Bob Dylan saw Vanilla Sky…he did. Crowe recalls:
I was writing something with Penélope Cruz in mind after we’d made Vanilla Sky, and I went to go see her on the set of her movie, Masked And Anonymous, with Bob Dylan. Somebody introduced me to him, though I’d interviewed him once. I was nervous, but he had this big grin. He said, “You did that movie Vanilla Sky, didn’t you?” And I said, “Yeah, I did,” knowing that I had his music and the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan meticulously recreated in the film with Tom and Penélope. And he said, “I saw your movie in Times Square, and I was watching it, and I was thinking, ‘I’ve been here before.’ And then I realized, I was! I was there before.” I was like, “Okay, I can check the box of Vanilla Sky right now. Bob Dylan took the Vanilla Sky ride and recognized himself. In a way, that was the dream. That everybody would take a little ride with that movie.
Read the full interview here.