Nicole Kidman Speaks Out On Taking Risks, Roles And Taking Over Cannes: Interview

With two movies premiering in  the Official Selection on successive nights and big worldwide market pre-sales announced for an upcoming film in which she plays Grace Kelly, Nicole Kidman ruled the Croisette in the second half of the Cannes Film Festival this week, and though she looked every inch the glamorous movie star on those back-to-back jaunts up the steps of the Grand Theatre Lumiere, it’s hard work invading the world’s most famous film festival. Perhaps that is why when she arrived Friday morning for Deadline’s interview and entered the Majestic Hotel’s 6th floor suite with its sweeping views of the Cote d’Azur all she wanted to do was take off her shoes and relax for a few minutes. No such luck in the crux of this go-go-go festival.

Kidman has been working a lot lately but all she’s looking forward to next is finally getting back to her “normal” life again before tackling Grace Kelly’s anything-but-normal life in late Fall  here in the South of France. Since making changes in her team a couple of years ago (she signed with Geyer Kosinski who also manages Angelina Jolie), the kinds of movies she’s doing are consistently more challenging and of a risk-taking nature, which is the way she likes it. The Oscar winner (The Hours) has often been drawn throughout her career to edgier material but now it seems to be her mantra. From her role as a Southern trollop in Lee Daniels’  The Paperboy which got Cannes twittering on Thursday to her first big TV project playing pioneering war correspondent and Ernest Hemingway’s third wife Martha Gellhorn in HBO’s Hemingway And Gellhorn directed by Philip Kaufman (which had the rare honor of a Cannes premiere for a TV movie) she has made a lot of noise just as Cannes 2012 is winding down. Add to that the challenge of being one big star playing another in the upcoming Grace Of Monaco and recently completing the great Korean director Chan-Wook Park’s (Oldboy, Thirst) first English-language feature Stoker, Kidman’s plate is full of fascinating projects. Things really turned around in late 2010 when the independently made  film version of the devastating David Lindsay-Abaire Pulitzer Prize winning play Rabbit Hole, which she also helped produce, won her a third Best Actress Oscar nomination along with rave reviews. She was somehow even attempting to fit in a Broadway revival of Sweet Bird Of Youth opposite James Franco but it didn’t ultimately pan out. It’s not as if she needed the work.

So what’s it like being back in Cannes with not one, but two very different roles? “I’ve been here many times but this is my first time to have two. Usually you do one film and go home and say ‘bye-bye’ but now here I am again today, ” she said in this brief respite between premieres as she apologized for the hoarseness in her voice. “It’s unusual because they are so different and that’s what I love as an actor – to try different things.”

Everyone will be able to see her performance as Gellhorn when HBO premieres the 2 ½-hour movie on Monday night. She’s dedicated her work in it to war journalist Marie Colvin who died tragically in February covering the conflict in Syria. Colvin was a modern day Gellhorn along with others like Christiane Amanpour. “She was doing what Martha would be doing right now. And she loved Martha. Martha was such a great woman. In the hands of Phil (Kaufman), because he loves women, I think it is great that he’s told her story now. Not everybody’s story gets to be told but she trailblazed for a lot of female journalists to be sure. She was also a role model for women now and for people,” said Kidman who admits she wasn’t at all familiar with Gellhorn but started researching her and told Kaufman she had to play her.

And as in many Kaufman movies there are also some torrid love scenes with Clive Owen who plays Hemingway. “I said to Phil, ‘I am up for it’. That’s me as an actor. I don’t want to not do things because of my own inhibitions or because I am censoring myself, Nicole. I want to be truthful to the story and the character. But I think the point of those scenes is to show what they had and whether there was a war going on or a bomb going off they made love because they were so physically drawn to each other. That gives the fire to their relationship. That’s the kind of people that they were. They lived hard, they drank hard, they partied hard, they wrote incredible prose and they eventually destroyed their relationship and each other. But they went on to do magnificent work out of that,” she said.

It’s obviously a great role for an actress, the kind that doesn’t come around much outside of places like HBO. “God bless HBO because no one would really do this for cinema now. Without HBO this just wouldn’t get done. I am willing to go on stage, TV, big screen – they are all relevant now. It’s a whole different world. They all have enormous relevance  artistically because how do you get the stories told through different mediums? How do you reach people? You reach so many more people and that is great,” she says of the HBO experience.

It was also an “experience” playing Charlotte Bless, the Deep South girl next door  (if you happen to live in a trailer park near a swamp)  in her other Cannes premiere The Paperboy which is in competition and co-stars Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey and John Cusack. She just simply went for it and if the film divided critics, her performance as a bit of a tramp who loves men behind bars was widely praised. “It shocked people. Yes, it’s very polarizing but that’s cool by me. That’s the sort of stuff I do and I am used to that. People love it or hate it (Note: it did receive a 16-minute standing ovation at the premiere – longest of the festival – but there were boos at the morning critics screening). You get the Guardian giving it the most incredible review and then you get other reviews going ‘what is this? I don’t get it’. But that’s me as an actor. I like that high wire stuff because I would rather do that than be bland,” she says.

Bland she definitely isn’t. In Paperboy there’s a steamy, out-in-the-open  sexual encounter between Kidman and the accused killer played by Cusack. Taking place in the prison they are physically several feet apart and never make physical contact, but manage to reach heights of ecstasy anyway in the campy scene that makes Sharon Stone’s antics in Basic Instinct look PG by comparison. But it was the now infamous “peeing” scene that really lit up Twitter after the film was first shown here Thursday. In the movie Efron gets stung by jellyfish in the ocean and a couple of girls nearby suggests that urine is the best thing to provide in order to ease the sting. Kidman who is at the beach with Efron defiantly steps in and screams at the girls, “If anyone is gonna pee on him, it’s gonna be me!” And with that the fun begins (she did it – no stunt pee) in what was perhaps the single most talked about scene in any movie in Cannes this year. Still she seemed surprised when I told her it was all the buzz.

“Yes, I did the scene. That was what Lee wanted. It was in the script. And it’s pretty out there. I mean I love Zac. He’s such a great guy and let me just say I am glad it was him. I feel safe with Zac and hopefully he feels safe with me. Oh my God I can’t believe it’s all over Twitter. Of course it would be all over Twitter,” she laughed.

I’m sure she won’t have to worry about that kind of scene when she stars as Grace Kelly, the elegant star-turned-Princess in a movie bio to be directed by Olivier Dahan who also guided Marion Cotillard to an Oscar for La Vie En Rose, a film Kidman says she loved.  But it will be one big Oscar winning star playing another big Oscar winning star which would seem to present a new set of challenges for Kidman when she begins shooting it in late Fall. It has enjoyed robust pre-sales here at Cannes. “I have been offered things before of playing  famous actresses of past eras but it wasn’t time for me to do that. But this has a great script. I know a little about Grace Kelly. I wasn’t a massive obsessed fan of Grace Kelly but I want to find out who she was and find the truth of that. But now I don’t do anything. I go on a plane and go back to my family and kids and say ‘oh I am a normal person after all’.”

A normal person who just took Cannes by storm.

  1. I really do think that Kidman is a very good actress, but when she’s NOT working in major studio features. Looking back, the split from Cruise was the best thing that ever happened to her career because that was when she started to do much more interesting and satisfying films (even some of them becoming commercial like ‘The Other’s’) than she had been in the 1990s, and actually showed some of the talent her 90s films had been masking.

    She got a little sidetracked back into major features in the mid part of the decade and regressed a bit but I’m glad she’s back at a point in her career when trying to be an A list movie star is past her. She’s been doing infinitely more interesting projects over the last few years again.

    I’m looking forward to catching all these upcoming projects.

  2. Her comments are intelligent. She seems focused. She’s a hard worker. Seems like this is a wonderful time for her and has really come into her own. Added bonus…that dress is absolutely gorgeous! She looks lovely with a hint of Grace Kelly’s style. Perfect choice.

  3. Zzzzzzz…. Snoozeroo. There’s a kind of professional desperation about her, and always has been… Always trying so hard to prove herself, makes one’s eyes want to cross. If only she would actually come to the conclusion that she’s leagues above, say, an Eva Longoria, these interviews and performances wouldn’t be so exhausting and uptight.

    1. “Always trying so hard to prove herself.” REALLY? Oh so she should be like Reese Witherspoon and make crap, huh? And your comparison to Eva Longoria is mystifing…HUH?
      Nicole Kidman is a great, ballsy actress who has been anything but predictable. People should stop bagging on her because tough shit — she’s not going anywhere. WHy its a crime to strive for the career of a Judy Dench or Meryl Streep and not be the ‘next Julia” makes no sense…its not ALL about being in $100 million special FX redo of THE THREE FUCKING BEARS, you know.

      1. You’re missing the point of what I said–she is indeed a great actress, there’s no question, the finest in a generation. The comparison to Eva Longoria is facile.

        But it’s as if she’s not convinced–she’s always trying way too hard to prove herself, justifying this shitty film after that one–why does she take some of the crap she does? Sure, there’s more crap out there, but still, she could choose more wisely, play against type a bit more.

        I just feel that she might wilt and die if she weren’t constantly trying to stay in the game, be visible. Hey, she’s earned her chops in a great and important way, AND I don’t mean to say she should retire. But why, then, always have to come on so strong about it all? She should relax.

        Her anti-aging thing seems to fit in with what I’m saying too–like, show some wrinkles, already! Cause without them, it turns her into a desperate actress machine, not a real person.

  4. Zac Efron has got to STOP trying so hard to be a “man” especially when you’re eyelashes are longer than most girls. Does anyone take him seriously, as this “gritty man” he’s trying to be so hard?

    1. They must have cast Efron to help secure financing or something because this just does not seem like a good choice for this film especially opposite Kidman even though she does seem to compliment him a bit.

      1. I don’t think you need Efron to secure financing when you’ve got the other three (and I think Efron replaced someone previously cast in that role). Director Daniels was hesitant about casting Efron, but after making the movie he said, “I was completely wrong from day one. His timing, his humor, his instinct is extraordinary.” I take him seriously, even if he does have long eyelashes, because he takes his work seriously.

  5. Have you seen Rabbit Hole? How about To Die For? No disrespect to Ms. Longoria but Ms. Kidman can be excellent when given the right role. One of the hardest working actors out there.

    1. I couldn´t agree more… the problems is that she made some of the worst films I´ve seen “BEwitched”

      1. The take they went with was horrible. Bewitched without all the fun supporting characters like Serena, Dr. Bombay, etc. Set it around a sitcom? Ugh! Nicole did a great Samantha. It was the take and the script that were way off. Ephron, Red Wagon, and Sony blew that one. Seriously, a Bewitched movie…how can you blow that?

    2. “Kidman can be excellent when given the right role”
      Kidman is always excellent. Even in a bad movie and in a bad written role

      1. NO. She is definitely NOT excellent in Bewitched and Human Stain. Also, she recently got a Razzie nod as worst supporting actress for Just Go With It.
        Given the right role she can be excellent but no way she’s always excellent.

  6. Great actress. She has given so many fantastic performances over the years : in Dead Calm, Portrait of a Lady, To Die For, Eyes Wide Shut, Moulin Rouge, The Others, The Hours, Dogville, Cold Mountain, Birth, Margot at the Wedding, Rabbit Hole and now, The Paperboy. I love how she always takes risks and I can’t wait to see her work with Park Chan-Wook.

    1. Im going to add “Fur” to this list – a sexy and evocative performance as Diane Arbus

  7. Yeah I love Kidman’s eclecticism. No other actress working today has done such a bold range of movies, and even many of the failures are ones that you know she picked to work with an interesting director.

    I mean, anyone who jumps from The Others to Moulin Rouge to Dogville to Birth to Fur to Margot at the Wedding, to Rabbit Hole (and the list goes on) gets major respect for not playing it safe. Some of these (like Birth and Fur especially) may be polarizing but the best art generally is.

    She’s kind of like the female Brad Pitt (or vice versa) – granted, she goes further into the strange and bold than Pitt, but they both consistently pick interesting, smart projects with strong directors over simply the commercially viable.

      1. Uhh no. Just because I respect her for taking chances, you call me a PR plant? I have issues with Kidman too, namely her Botoxed, immoveable forehead in Australia (would a PR plant say THAT?), and I’m disappointed she took a role in The Paperboy considering how awful Lee Daniels is as a director. But by and large, she’s a talented actress who takes risks.

        Name me five other actresses working today who have consistently worked with as many provocative and eclectic directors from all the world (Lars von Trier, Alejandro Amenabar, Gus van Sant, Stanley Kubrick, Philip Kaufman, Noah Baumbach, Baz Luhrmann, Park Chan-Wook, John Cameron Mitchell, even for the craptacular Invasion movie, she clearly did it because Oliver Hirschbiegel was directing).

  8. The truth is, she stands alone completely. No other actress outside of ones in Europe like Denueve or Huppert have worked with as many lauded auteurs as Kidman. Not even Meryl Streep has taken the risks she has and for that, she should be applauded.

  9. Nicole is great in every movie but while she is great in picking indie type movies she isn’t so lucky when it comes to mainstream flicks. It’s not that she isn’t good in them, she just seems to pick the most terrible scripts.

  10. I think Nicole is one of greatest actress alive. She isn’t afraid to take risk. It’s an important thing for an actress in Hollywood.

  11. Nicole has always been a great talent. Anyone see FLIRTING? She wasn’t the lead (though the biggest star in the cast) and had an AMAZING monologue that I remember to this day. It was in all those underwhelming big studio movies that she couldn’t shine.

  12. But why the Botox? Her face is part of her instrument. Why immobilize it? The real risk comes from showing wrinkles, not showering urine.

    1. Enough with this story please. She stopped years ago. Get over it. It doesn’t make aniyone anymore.

      1. You KNOW this?! Then you ARE a pr plant, too. Check her face out now, as per these pics–not a single wrinkle on her all-too-smoth 45-year-old forehead. You must be kidding.

        1. What the hell are you talking about?

          Shut up!

          Plant? What plant? Is it impossible that MAYBE some people like Nicole Kidman? Like her PR people don’t have anything better to do than come here and write good things about her. Do you really think that? Seriously? Jesus, you’re such an idiot.

          I didn’t know plastic surgery clearly influenced her ACADEMY AWARDS NOMINATED performance in Rabbit Hole. Am I right?

          1. Do you really think this is the picture of someone who hasn’t had work done? That’s laughable.

            And the work she had done *did* influence her performance, it made her look really frozen. She’s a great actress–no need to look or seem so frozen.

            I thought the Ashley Judd debate was great, she really added something of value to the discussion. But to say that Botox doesn’t influence one person’s performance, but not another’s is just not that informed, nor discriminating, as below.

      2. Since Ashley Judd there has been good debate recently about the worth of critics discussing actors’ plastic surgery. The consensus is actually Nicole Kidman – where plastic surgery clearly influences performance (and sometimes lack thereof), so this absolutely merits discussion here and everywhere.

        1. Well, based on the great reviews Nicole Kidman got for her most recent performances (‘Rabbit Hole’, ‘The Paperboy’ and ‘Hemingway and Gellhorn’), I’d say the critics agree that her supposed plastic surgery/botox use/whatever has absolutely no influence on her work on screen. It also has no influence whatsoever on her career. She’s a 45 year-old woman in Hollywood and she’s still in demand (maybe more than ever). She still works with some of the best and most interesting actors and directors in the world. Next, she has a film directed by the great Park Chan-Wook (director of Thirst and Oldboy) and another one co-starring Colin Firth. She still gets awards recognition (an Oscar nom, a Golden Globe nom and countless other awards noms for her performance in ‘Rabbit Hole’) and she is still one of the most respected actors in the world (just look at the reactions at the Cannes Film Festival, standing ovation and everything).
          You want to talk about actors who ruined their careers because of plastic surgery? Talk about Mickey Rourke or Meg Ryan. You want to talk about plastic surgery influencing performances, talk about Michael Douglas or Angelina Jolie.
          Not about Nicole Kidman.

          1. Yes, she’s clearly a heavyweight. Yet some viewers find her cold. Kidman demonstrably doesn’t command empathy the way, say, Jodie Foster has. This might be the roles or films, or it could be so much plastic surgery? That’s for individual viewers to decide.

          2. Jodie Foster commands empathy? That’s news to me.
            An actor who wants empathy doesn’t do things like Dogville, Birth, Margot at the Wedding or The Paperboy. Nicole Kidman isn’t Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock or Reese Witherspoon. She’s a great actress.

  13. JESUS I AM SO EXCITED TO SEE THIS FILM. First of all, Zac is gorgeous so stop man hating on his delicious eyelashes. He can bat all he wants. Secondly, I love Nicole. I know a lot of people don’t but I truly admire her as an actress and respect her courage in taking roles others would have nothing to do with. I think it keeps her relevant especially when women have a hard time aging in Hollywood. Most of all I just like that she doesn’t bat an eye at the challenges taking a risk brings, she doesn’t care that it may polarize critics and audiences and welcomes that fact, knowing that at least you will have an opinion on it. Good, get passionate, make her the talk of the town. Smart and classy lady, looking forward to seeing her trashed out in this role.

  14. Unfortunately for Nicole she has two big blots on her resume that no amount of ‘gritty indie against-type’ work can make up for. They are The Stepford Wives and Australia. Both post-Cruise efforts too, for the record.

  15. She is so inconsistent. I agree that her career turned around after Rabbit Hole with the interesting offers Paperboy, Stoker, Hemingway and now Grace Kelly.
    But it’s weird that the article doesn’t mention her last 2 movies (both of which, to be fair, she accepted before Rabbit Hole was released) — “Trespass” with Nic Cage, an almost-straight-to-DVD flop, savages by critics, and “Just Go With It” with Adam Sandler, savaged by critics and earning her a Razzie nomination as worst supporting actress.
    Her Oscar-nominated performance in Rabbit Hole, however, was great — nuanced, believable, moving.

    1. “She is so inconsistent”
      Dead Calm, Portrait of a Lady, To Due For, Eyes Wide Shut, The Others, Moulin Rouge, The Hours, Dogville, Cold Mountain, Birth, The Interpreter, Margot At The Wedding, Rabbit Hole.

      Inconsistent? I see to many people here talking about an actress they DON’T KNOW.

  16. Great eye for independent roles, material, filmmakers. As for old movie star glamour – I thought “Australia” was bad – but she was absolutely the best thing about it. The problem isn’t that she had some cosmetic stuff done – the problem is that people are talking about it – which takes away from the performer and the performance. She should acknowledge the matter. Get into it just a little bit. Which she could do on the cover of any great women’s fashion magazine and the discussion would be relevant and topical TO those magazines. If she feels it was a mistake it would be interesting to hear about it. Since the Cruise marriage, she’s obviously not being indirectly or directly controlled and she’s enjoying the freedom. She’s approachable, she’s likeable, she’s great. Plus she does theatre. That’s an actress…who’s a movie star.

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