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Nicole Kidman Interprets Her Career

Nicole Kidman in “The Interpreter.”

Nicole Kidman Interprets Her Career

by Brad Balfour

With her previous film released being the odd and controversial Birth, Oscar winner Nicole Kidman has proven to be unpredictable, very much her own person, not unlike the character she plays in her most recent film, The Interpreter, directed by Sydney Pollack-which premiered at the 4th annual Tribeca Film Festival. Even in interviews, she proclaims her independence from the Hollywood mentality and lifestyle and in this film her character displays a conviction and determination that seems very Nicole Kidman-like.

You’re very high on The Interpreter; what was it like working on this film?

I got to work with Mr. (Sean) Penn, who was great. It’s a thriller set at the U.N., so we got to shoot there for a month. We were sitting in the General Assembly and after a few weeks we were a little blasé about it. Can you believe that? I was like lying down, falling asleep on one of the chairs, and I went, “Whoa, I’m in the General Assembly.” When we did The Peacemaker, we weren’t even allowed inside. For this, we were inside.

Since your divorce [from Tom Cruise] you’ve taken on far more risky films and roles than you had before.

I wasn’t interested, really, beforehand in exposing myself. I was in an intense relationship. I didn’t need to have any other way of expressing myself. It didn’t interest me. Now, [acting] is something that I give to in a very full way. I think working with [noted director Stanley] Kubrick, he really took me and shook me up. He would say to me, “Nicole, you have to honor this and honor your art and not squander it,” which I’m so grateful for. [Director] Jane Campion said it to me; Stanley said it to me. When someone you admire to that degree-that you believe in-wants that from you, then you listen. Stanley really encouraged me to be bold. So I hope that I still get to do that.

Nicole Kidman in “The Interpreter.”

Your choices seem very smart. Is that simply instinctual?

It’s just completely instinctual. I mean, I do have people around me who say, “Don’t do that” or “Do do this.” But ultimately, it’s my [decision]. I make huge mistakes. I think I’m sort of weaving my way through, navigating my way through.

Can you just snap out of a role, or out of a scene immediately? Or does the character stay with you when you get home?

I think you exist in a limbo. Afterwards…? It depends. It’s different every time. There are times when I get physically ill. There are other times when I just have to run away and be completely by myself or with my kids and just put everything perspective. There are other times when… I wish there was a rhyme or reason to it. That’s why when I make the choices, I make I never have any idea what I want to do next.

You seem so much stronger and happier now than at the time of say Portrait of a Lady. Are you stronger and happier?

I’m happy at the moment. I’m very happy at the moment. I don’t know how strong. I can feel terribly weak, but I would hope that there’s an inner strength. I have two kids. You have to be [strong] when you’re responsible for two other lives.

You seem to be working non-stop now…

Yeah, but last year, I had two months in Australia, where I went and just swam and did some fun things. I disappeared. I left a message on my cell phone saying, “I am absolutely un-contactable. Don’t even try.” And I put on my email, “Will not be available until…” That’s a great thing to do and I really advise it. We’re all so available now.

There seems to be such a hubbub about you, you’ve become so huge. Do you feel like your life is yours or does it get too overwhelming?

There are times when I get amazed at it. I went to Paris and stayed in the Coco Chanel Suite by myself, in the bed, and I went, “Oh, my gosh.” I called my sister and said, “I wish you were here. We could really enjoy this.” But at the same time I have a little cottage just outside of Sydney where I go, and I spend the happiest times of my life there. I can walk on the beach and be with my kids. If I didn’t have that, then I would feel quite different. There’s something about when you’re alone and you’re not sharing it with somebody else, when you don’t have a partner, so that then you’re kind of struggling at times to go, “Whew, I’ve just got to keep it up.” I’ve got very, very close friends and I’ve got a great, very together family who are willing to get on a plane and be with me. That’s rare. When you just say, “Hey, I need someone to hold my hand” [someone will be there]. It sounds really, really simplistic, but sometimes the power of that is extraordinary.

You’ve said before that every time you’re seen with a guy you feel sorry for him because suddenly, he is thought of as your boyfriend… [and under the media microscope as a result.]

I don’t know if I feel sorry for them! I feel like, gosh, it’s like he’s got to feel his way through. I’m very exposed in the movies I do yet I’m incredibly private in my own life. And so that is a very strange dichotomy to exist within. But at the same time I love to act. It’s something that’s in my blood that I need to do. For this period of time I really need it. It’s almost saved my life at times. I understand it for what it is and I’m willing to give an enormous amount to it, and I hope I find someone who is strong enough to understand that.

Do you see your career enduring like Catherine Deneuve’s, who, like you, is considered a great beauty and a great actress?

If I’m lucky enough. So much of it is if you protect yourself enough that you’re still able to give a part of yourself. That sounds like a very strange statement. If I’m able to do that [I will probably last a long time], otherwise I think it just might get to be too much and I’d not be able to do my best.

You seem as comfortable in jeans and you do in glamorous gowns. How important are clothes to you? You’ve worn beautiful clothes in [your recent film] Birth. Do you ever go to the couture shows in Paris?

No, I don’t. I love the beauty of clothes. In terms of a character, I just do whatever is necessary for the character. Basically, I put my trust in the costume designer, because I want to work with the director and the costume designer and create a character. But in my own life, I like getting dressed up sometimes. I don’t mind putting on something lovely. I went to Paris for the Chanel No. 5 campaign. It got a little crazy. I remember looking over and there were people looking at me, going, ‘Is this your life?’ It got a little out of control. Karl Lagerfeld was saying, ‘Will everyone sit down!’

Are you working for Chanel now?

No. I did the campaign. Everyone keeps saying, “Oh, you’re the face of Chanel.” No. I just did the No. 5 thing, which I did for Baz [Luhrmann, the Australian director who made Moulin Rouge with Kidman].

People seem incredibly excited about your starring in the film version of Bewitched.

Everybody is obsessed with Bewitched. I get asked so many questions about it. I’m glad. It’s a lot of fun. [My co-star] Will Ferrell is just a sweetheart.

Do you feel like you’re stepping into a bit of [American] cultural history?

In a weird way, yeah. It’s got a life that’s far more than I knew about. They have little Bewitched dolls. Really, it’s huge. I loved the TV show. I grew up watching it; that’s why I wanted to do it. [It was on at] six o’clock every weeknight for many, many years. I’ve seen almost every episode.

Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman in “The Interpreter.”

At last year’s Venice Film Festival, Lauren Bacall [who starred with Kidman in both Dogville and Birth] stirred up a controversy by saying something like, you can’t be called a legend. You have to be older. It sounded as if she was just making a comment about the reality of things.

I didn’t even know what the controversy was. She said she never made the comments. Whatever. It doesn’t even matter. Lauren and I are very close. And, in fact, they can write anything, but I said, ‘It doesn’t alter our relationship whatsoever.” I’ve had the worst things written about me, great things written about me, and everything else in between. She said, “But, no, it really upsets me that I would be misrepresented.” I think all she said was, “She’s not a legend.” I totally agree with that. I’ll never be a legend. It’s embarrassing.

Another rumor that has surfaced at times was that you have an eating disorder. Where does that come from?

I don’t know. I’m the same weight I was when I was 21. I haven’t changed at all.

Do you remember your first stage role as the bleating sheep [in an elementary school Christmas pageant]?

[Laughs]… I thought you said, “The Bleeding Sheep.” I was never in that film! Weird title. But I remember being a kid and being in a Christmas pageant. Life was easy then.

Did you have a favorite book as a kid?

The Narnia tales [by the late C.S. Lewis]. I loved them.

Copyright ©2005 All rights reserved. Posted: April 17, 2005.

Photo Credits:

#1 © 2005 Courtesy of Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.

#2 © 2005 Courtesy of Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.

#3 © 2005 Courtesy of Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.

#4 © 2005 Courtesy of Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.

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