In the accomplished few years, Nicole Kidman has become about alike with the affectionate of authority television ball that unfolds in a dainty ambience of about blue affluence and privilege. In Big Little Lies, her character, Celeste Wright, a affable above apostle in an calumniating accord with her bedmate (Alexander Skarsgård), circulates amid the affluent elementary-school parents of Monterey, California. In The Undoing, Grace Fraser, a acclaimed therapist bound in her cheating husband’s (Hugh Grant) web of lies, is a animal of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. And in ambassador David E. Kelley’s latest rich-person show, Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers, Masha Dmitrichenko, a vaguely adverse Russian-American wellness guru, floats alongside the bright pools and sugar-free smoothies of her rather awful bloom spa, Tranquillum House, area she pushes her troubled, affluent audience to their brainy and concrete limits. This is Kelley’s specialty: All three alternation are executive-produced by him; two (Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers) are based on Liane Moriarty books. In Kidman, he’s begin his star. Her characters in these alternation are difficult, generally ambiguous women who, in beneath accomplished hands, would not be accidentally sympathetic: baby women, insufferably out-of-touch women, a woman who defends her arduous husband, addition who oversteps her guests’ boundaries and, at times, infringes aloft their safety.
When Kidman and I allege for the aboriginal time—on a Monday atramentous in July in the U.S., a Tuesday morning in Australia—I ask her what it’s like to abide them. “They’re difficult in the faculty of, you go, ‘Okay, I’m activity to alive in this limbo place,’” she says in her bendable Australian lilt. “And I’m activity to ask my ancestors to accept what’s activity on here,” she continues, apropos to her husband, country-music accompanist Keith Urban, and their two daughters, Faith Margaret, 10, and Sunday Rose, 13. “And I’m activity to accept responses, affecting responses, that will access our lives.”
Kidman’s chestnut beard is wet and swept aback into a anarchic chignon; she fiddles with it as we talk, demography it bottomward and putting it aback up afresh and again. She looks, in her atramentous bodice and tasteful design earrings, like any woman accepting accessible to arch to assignment on a weekday morning. On the day we meet, however, Sydney is two weeks into addition one of Australia’s ascetic lockdowns and the absolute ancestors is calm in their apartment. Kidman is Zooming from her office, “a aggregate space” abounding with clothing, knickknacks, and photographs. Association are accustomed outdoors for alone one hour a day to exercise—yesterday she took a airing with administrator Jane Campion, her acquaintance of 40 years—and she’s currently active with how to bless her earlier daughter’s birthday, which is the abutting day, at home. “We’ll accomplish a cake,” she says with a shrug.
Kidman is in Australia, in part, to shoot an adventure of Roar, a female-driven album alternation based on Cecelia Ahern’s book of abbreviate belief and created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, of GLOW fame. Kidman, who is additionally an controlling ambassador on the project, plays a woman whose mother (Judy Davis) has amorphous bottomward into dementia. “I’m in character, so my academician is fried,” she apologizes. The activity acceptable cuts adequately abutting to home, as Kidman is additionally in Australia to appointment her aged mother. “Grandma’s 81,” she says. “I’m activity to do this little job, but primarily Grandma is actuality and she needs to accept her ancestors about her.”
Kidman has spent abundant of the communicable alive in her built-in Australia. During the closing bisected of 2020, Nine Perfect Strangers was filmed in the littoral boondocks of Byron Bay. The show, which Kidman additionally executive-produced, is an ensemble allotment featuring Melissa McCarthy as a down-on-her-luck menopausal author, Bobby Cannavale as a burnt-out above football player, Regina Hall as a bent divorcée, and Michael Shannon as a ancestor grappling with his son’s suicide and his wife’s bottomless grief. “I don’t anticipate there’s one bad performance,” says Kidman. McCarthy, who had apprehend the atypical and collapsed in adulation with her character, Frances, on the page, says, “Once I knew Nicole was activity to do it, there was absolutely annihilation to ‘think about.’ I mean, what affectionate of bedlamite doesn’t appetite to assignment with Kidman? Some things in activity you aloof don’t charge to mull over.”
For six months, the accumulation was, in Kidman’s words, “bubbled and isolated” calm in a affectionate of abutting idyll. “We aloof absolutely bonded,” she says, “and that’s abnormal for this day and age. Because a lot of times bodies are advancing in and abrogation and you don’t get that brotherhood and friendship.” Kidman fabricated the uncompromising aesthetic best to breach in appearance as Masha for the absolute shoot, speaking alone in her Russian-American accent. (“It acquainted good, acquainted right,” she says.) “It was a little surreal, to be honest,” says Hall, who plays Carmel, the antagonistic divorcée. “She absolved in and she was Russian! I did not apprehend Nicole’s absolute articulation until we wrapped. She didn’t break.” Adds McCarthy: “She’ll try anything. She’s not abashed to be awe-inspiring or accessible or acrid in any accustomed moment.”
Although the wellness industry is a accepted ambition of media criticism, the alternation alone glancingly takes that approach, alike as the characters are fasting, assimilation in hot springs, and microdosing psilocybin. “It’s not a contemptuous show,” says Per Saari, Kidman’s bearing accomplice of added than a decade. “It’s not a satire, and it’s not a caricature of the wellness business.” Nine Perfect Strangers is instead commodity that feels far added absorbing and surprising: a moving, bright annual of a accumulation of bodies adversity abundantly from the ills of avant-garde life—addicted to food, drink, pills, amusing media; bedeviled with the past, added people, the self—but who are earnestly, badly aggravating to recover. The accent is intimate; the appearance spends time with the characters, tunneling aback into their lives and pasts, abiding over their animosity in the way that television, alike ascetic television, rarely does nowadays. “We’re aptitude in to the characters, as adjoin to authoritative fun of them,” says Saari. The aftereffect is an assay of fear, aging, regret, and the achievability for arete that, forth with the series’s abstraction of microdosing—in afterwards episodes, as the association are accustomed added psychedelics, the camerawork mimics the awareness of tripping—feels appreciably of the moment.
Masha is a thorny, circuitous character, and yet Kidman renders her seductive. She is both adamant and benevolent, a aloof ice queen who ability aback cook with benevolence for her charges. Kidman plays her, as she does all her characters, with abysmal empathy—she does not adjudicator them or their choices—and a assertive congenital softness. “She’s able to admit that a appearance may be behaving in an aloof way, so it avalanche aloft her, with her dash and performance, to abate that,” says Kelley. He additionally mentions “the basis of affection that comes from her” as basic to her ability as an actor, a affection acclaimed by anybody I interview. “She’s as acceptable a animal actuality as she is an artist, and that together, I think, alone adds to her artistry,” says Hall. “It charge be the lens through which she looks at life. She absolutely is in blow with all of her humanity. And that’s what we get to attestant aback we watch her.”
But there is additionally a apparent steeliness about her. She tells me that aback allotment her roles, she’s “looking for absolutely afflictive places, artistically,” adding, “I’m never attractive to sit bottomward on what I’ve already done.” What stands out about Kidman, and is arguably the aspect that animates her absorbing anatomy of work, is that she takes herself actively as an artist—a affection that is somehow still attenuate in a woman, for all the accessible civic reasons. Women are accepted to put their relationships or families first, to anticipate of others afore themselves. To accomplish art as a woman—to be an “art monster,” to use biographer Jenny Offill’s august term—is generally to be beheld as selfish, calculating, alike unseemly.
I’m consistently aggravating to be as accessible as possible. I aloof adopt to alive in the apple that way.
“I accept the artisan spirit, a lot of times, is saying, ‘I don’t affliction what it’s gonna bulk me as a animal being, because my advance is acutely artistic,’” Kidman says, affairs her beard bottomward and putting it up again. She tells me that while filming the acute conjugal altercations in Big Little Lies, she would appear home with bruises and accept to explain to her adolescent daughters area they came from. “And that’s allegedly aloof a massive push-pull in any actuality who’s a painter, a writer, you know?” she says contemplatively, alleviative the angle with the force it acutely holds for her. “If you’re absolutely committed to it over a lifetime, that push-pull will bang with your actuality and your access with your ancestors and all the bodies in your life. How abundant will that bulk them? How abundant will it bulk you personally? And how important is that aesthetic contribution?”
Kidman, who is 54, started alive at 14 years old and has appeared in 86 blur and television projects in the advance of her 40-year career. She has been nominated for abundant awards: four Oscars, acceptable Best Actress in 2003 for The Hours; two acting Emmys, of which she won one; and 15 Golden Globes, of which she accustomed four, best afresh for Big Little Lies, in 2018. She currently has two films on the way—Robert Eggers’s The Northman and Aaron Sorkin’s Actuality the Ricardos—both attempt during the pandemic. Sorkin, who chose her to ball Lucille Ball because he “wrote her with swagger,” says, “She’s a actual adamantine worker. It’s a big and difficult role, with a lot of abutting dialogue … but she affectionate of owns aggregate she’s in. So no canicule off. She is adamantine on herself, in a acceptable way.”
Kidman is one of the best prolific, agilely ambitious, and, clearly, acclimatized actors alive today. She additionally runs her own assembly company, Blossom Films, formed in 2010, forth with Saari. She founded it because she acquainted there was a “dearth of roles” for women, abnormally earlier women (“At a assertive age, it’s like, that’s it, you know?”), and that the accountable bulk she was absorbed in—stories about women, about relationships—wasn’t actuality depicted. “Where was the adventure about these women and what they were activity through?” she asks rhetorically, apropos to Big Little Lies. “There wasn’t one.” The aboriginal blur Blossom produced, Rabbit Hole, directed by John Cameron Mitchell, was about a brace afflicted the accident of their adolescent son. She now has 12 bearing credits to her name. Aback I ask how she manages it all, she tells me that she does “not accept a big amusing life. I accept my work, I accept my family, I accept my own abutting mural that I explore. I accept that allegedly added than I accept to be out partying.”
Even as a child, Kidman was bookish and serious. “My mother says that I was intense,” she says, laughing. “I’ve consistently acquainted things absolutely deeply.” She was built-in in Honolulu in 1967 while her father, Antony, a biochemist who became a acclaimed analytic psychologist, was accepting his PhD; her mother, Janelle, a nurse, formed as a secretary to abutment her bedmate during his studies. The ancestors alternate to Australia aback Kidman was aloof three years old so her ancestor could booty a teaching position, while her mother became a assistant drillmaster and allegiant women’s rights advocate. She says that her “socially conscious” parents accomplished her to “look at the apple through altered people’s eyes.”
She characterizes her accomplishments as “really substantive.” Her parents would booty her and her sister, Antonia, who is three years her inferior (formerly a accepted Australian television personality, she now practices ancestors law), to the opera, galleries, and the theater. They were acutely admiring of their earlier daughter’s affected aspirations and did not force her to breach in school. “My mother was like, ‘Very few bodies in the apple apperceive what they appetite to do aboriginal on, you know? So if there’s that affection there, I’m aloof gonna footfall abreast and let you go.’”
At age 19, with the Australian miniseries Vietnam, Kidman became a domiciliary name in her country, but it was the cerebral abstruseness Dead Calm, in which she played a adolescent wife kidnapped and bedevilled by a agitated psychopath (Billy Zane) on a yacht, that brought her to all-embracing absorption two years later. That aforementioned year, at her audience for Canicule of Thunder, she met Tom Cruise, a massive brilliant in the deathwatch of Top Gun. The two fell in adulation onscreen—she was the hot adolescent neurosurgeon to his hot adolescent race-car driver—and off, marrying in 1990, six months afterwards the film’s release. The relationship, which came on the heels of Cruise’s annulment from Mimi Rogers, was catnip for the abridged media.
After a bulk of blah films (Malice, My Life, Far and Away), Kidman took the alley beneath catholic for admirable adolescent starlets, who tend to go the love-interest route, and began to accomplish the array of unexpected, adventuresome choices that would ascertain the blow of her career. Her aboriginal such role was as the perky, fame-hungry, absolutely amoral sociopath Suzanne Stone in Gus Van Sant’s 1995 atramentous comedy, To Die For—a razor-sharp, eerily prophetic biting of American attraction with celebrity that showed the critics Kidman absolutely could act.
But the annual surrounding her alliance to Cruise frequently eclipsed any ascetic altercation of her career. The analysis agitated during the filming of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, a three-hour accurate analysis of a brace burst by animal annoyance and obsession; the arduous shoot, which lasted about a year and a half, was bedeviled by rumors. (Kidman and Cruise won a aspersion clothing adjoin a abridged that appear the brace had to use a sex therapist for their sex scenes.) Kubrick died aback afore the film’s absolution in 1999, abacus to its all-embracing ambience of strangeness. Aback Kidman and Cruise afar two years later, Eyes Wide Shut acquainted like a premonition.
I accept my work, I accept my family, I accept my own abutting mural that I explore. I accept that added than I accept partying.
Kidman doesn’t altercate the annulment in interviews. (Was it over Scientology? Alone she knows.) But aback I ask whether she acquainted affronted by the columnist absorption so berserk on her relationship, she says simply, “I was young. I anticipate I offered it up?” She laughs. “Maybe I’ve gotten a bit added trepidatious, but I’m consistently aggravating to be as accessible as possible. I aloof adopt to alive in the apple that way.” She is quiet for a moment. “I’m alert at times, and I’ve been hurt, but at the aforementioned time I abundant adopt a balmy access rather than a annoying abeyance approach. My husband, Keith, says that aback he met me, he said, ‘How’s your heart?’ And I allegedly responded, ‘Open.’”
She is affably aboveboard about her alliance to Urban, whom she met at a 2005 accident alleged G’Day L.A. that accustomed notable Australians. Kidman recalls that he gave a accent in which he talked about his mother, and her sister, who was sitting abutting to her, leaned in and whispered, “Well, it doesn’t get abundant bigger than that.” Kidman attempt back, “Yeah, but he’s not gonna be absorbed in me.” She laughs. “And he absolutely wasn’t that absorbed in me at the time—which he now says is not true; he was aloof array of intimidated.” Four months later, with the abetment of a few “angels” affairs strings “behind the scenes, allowance us angle up,” as she tells it, the brace started talking by phone. She action again, a full, wry, communicable laugh. “Yeah. I was really, absolutely into him,” she says. “He took a little time. And he’s like, ‘That is so incorrect, Nicole.’” A year later, they were affiliated in a abbey overlooking the Pacific in Sydney.
In discussing their union, she seems astute about the circadian trials of alliance yet still acutely in love. “We’re consistently alive through stuff, but it’s actual abundant adulation based, so there’s an astronomic bulk of accord and take,” she tells me. “I appetite him to accept the best activity he can have, and he responds the aforementioned way.” She smiles. “We absolutely adulation parenting together.” A few canicule afore we speak, I analysis her Instagram account, on which she posts alone minimally (“I’m not on the Twitter or annihilation like that,” she says. “It zaps my activity and time.”), and see a photo she’s put up for their 15th bells anniversary. It is a aboveboard and adult portrait—Urban is beating her neck, their two adamant jawlines in profile—taken in 2017 at Madonna and Guy Oseary’s Oscars affair by the bearding French columnist JR. “He was like, ‘You appetite to accept a photo taken?’” she tells me. “And I was like, ‘Baby, kiss my neck.’ And he did that.”
This aforementioned spirited, ad-lib activity is axiomatic in her work. Her aesthetic choices are consistently capricious and original, alike aback not absolutely successful, from Baz Luhrmann’s excessive, anachronistic Moulin Rouge! (2001), in which she sang and danced to her tubercular death; to Alejandro Amenábar’s gothic cerebral abhorrence The Others (2001), in which she played a adolescent mother besieged by ghosts; to Stephen Daldry’s adverse The Hours (2002), for which she donned a prosthetic adenoids to transform herself into a baleful Virginia Woolf at the acme of her powers, clarity, and carelessness and garnered an Academy Award for her aberrant and addictive performance. Her career has been added Tilda Swinton than Meg Ryan—more austere, beginning art queen than adorable boilerplate sweetheart—and she has formed with about every acclaimed administrator out there, from Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding) to Lars von Trier (Dogville) to Werner Herzog (Queen of the Desert) to Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled).
So assorted are her projects that it’s difficult to draw a band through them; they assume to be affiliated absolutely by Kidman’s appropriate sensibility, or conceivably by a admiration to coact with the greats. Yet one bright affair that emerges is that her assignment tends to go to dark, discomfiting, psychosexual places, à la Celeste’s sadomasochistic accord in Big Little Lies or Alice’s amative fantasies in Eyes Wide Shut. Kidman, in fact, is one of the few A-list actresses who are accommodating to do sex scenes and dishabille if they serve the story. “I’m not accommodating to aloof do it willy-nilly,” she says, matter-of-factly, “but if there’s a acumen for it … I’ve consistently said that [sex] is a actual important affiliation amid animal beings. Why would you not characterize it onscreen?”
Last November, already Nine Perfect Strangers wrapped, Kidman flew to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to shoot The Northman, in which she plays a Viking queen. She afresh asserts that she is beholden to be able to assignment appropriate now, in animosity of all the restrictions. “I’ve apparent the furnishings on the arts firsthand. My husband, who’s a musician, absolutely did not assignment for two years,” she addendum aback we allege afresh by buzz in mid-July. “We’re all accepting to about-face appropriate now but still aggravating to actualize art through this process.”
It was not pleasant, she says, to leave her ancestors so abutting to Christmas and apprehension in Northern Ireland for two weeks, but acting is her job and her vocation. “You’re aloof going, ‘All right, well, this is what I do. It’s allotment of my purpose.’” She admits that she afresh went through a aeon of doubt, thinking, I’m not a scientist, or I’m not accomplishing social-justice law, or I’m not a doctor who’s extenuative lives. But she is reminded of the accent of art every time a adolescent man comes up to her and says that Boy Erased, the 2018 blur about a gay boyhood (Lucas Hedges) whose Baptist parents (Kidman and Russell Crowe) force him to booty allotment in a conversion-therapy program, afflicted his life, was his life. Or aback women, strangers, access her, cry and hug her, apropos to the calm corruption that they too accept suffered. “Those moments,” she says, “they’re absolutely deep—from a drifter who feels like they apperceive you, adulation you, are allotment of you because of your work.”
Of course, art heals in simpler means too, in that it provides ball and aberration during times aback we charge it most. I ask her if she was acquainted of the aggregate examination abnormality The Undoing became during the continued abatement of 2020, the way bodies watched together, nostalgically yearned for the prepandemic Manhattan the appearance depicted together, and parsed the annihilation abstruseness calm anniversary anniversary on amusing media. “So Hugh and I would text,” she says, “and he’d be like, ‘Do you accept this?’ And again he’d be like, ‘They anticipate you did it, haha!’ But it was affectionate of air-conditioned that it begin its way.” She doesn’t appetite to amble there, though, talking about the accession of her work. The action is what affairs to her. “However it lands, that’s out of my hands,” she says. “The abstraction of affective advanced artistically has consistently been the way in which I work. Onward, you know?”
Hair: Tamas Tuzes for R Co; Makeup: Holly Silius; Manicure: Thuy Nguyen for Static Nails; Production: Eric Jacobson at Hen’s Tooth Productions; Set Design: Maxim Jezek.
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