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Ghost Canyon

Nicole Kidman   ('The Human Stain') Nicole Kidman ('The Human Stain')
'Not Kiddin' Around Anymore'

Elegant redhead Nicole Kidman, known as one of Hollywood's top Australian imports, was actually born in Honolulu, Hawaii to Anthony (a biochemist and clinical psychologist) and Janelle (a nursing instructor) Kidman. The family moved almost immediately to Washington, D.C., where Nicole's father pursued his research on breast cancer, then, three years later, made the pilgrimage to her parents' native Sydney.

Kidman eventually dropped out of high school to pursue acting full-time. She broke into movies at age 16, landing a role in the Australian holiday favorite 'Bush Christmas' (1983). That appearance touched off a flurry of film and TV offers, including a lead in 'BMX Bandits' (1983) and a turn as a schoolgirl-turned-protester in the miniseries 'Vietnam' (1986) - for which she won her first Australian Film Institute Award. With the help of an American agent, she eventually made her US debut opposite Sam Neill in the at-sea thriller 'Dead Calm' (1989).

Kidman's next casting coup scored her more than exposure. While starring as Tom Cruise's doctor/love interest in the racetrack romance 'Days of Thunder' (1990), she won over the Hollywood hunk hook, line, and sinker. After a whirlwind courtship the couple wed on December 24, 1990. Determined not to let her new marital status overshadow her fledgling career, the actress pressed on. She appeared as a catty high school senior in the Australian film 'Flirting' (1991), then as Dustin Hoffman's moll in the gangster flick 'Billy Bathgate' (1991), before reuniting with Cruise for 'Far and Away' (1992). Films like 'My Life' (1993), 'Batman Forever' (1995), 'To Die For' (1995), 'The Portrait of a Lady' (1996), 'The Peacemaker' (1997), and the notoriously long, secretive shoot for Stanley Kubrick's sexual thriller 'Eyes Wide Shut' (1999) all followed next.

Taking some time out with the beautiful lady herself at this year's Toronto Film Festival, Kidman at all times retains a quiet elegance that has been her trademark for a decade. Delicately putting on her glasses [“I really can’t see without them,” she smiles], Kidman is a tad shy right now, but maybe that's just a sign of grueling media-frenzy exhaustion. Amidst the chaos and non-stop energy of the Toronto Film Festival, Kidman has not one but THREE films screening, including 'The Stepford Wives' and 'Cold Mountain'. So, my first question was just how the Oscar winning Australian continues to juggle all these projects, year after year? "I suppose it doesn’t really feel like work to me,” Kidman says, pausing slightly. “It doesn’t feel like a drive, but more like I’ve had these opportunities. It’s odd, because I made 'Dogville' at the beginning of last year, which was a five-week shoot, and 'The Human Stain' was a short shoot for me before I made 'Cold Mountain.' But everyone seems to talk about film making as work, but I don’t see it as work”, she says with a slight laugh. "It's something that I love to do that’s an artistic expression, that’s more about the joy of being asked to play these roles, with extraordinary directors. Acting, for me, is not a business, but trying to make pieces of art that I believe in, that I feel proud of and the journey. There’s no drive behind it but an acceptance of what my life is.”

With regard 'The Human Stain' and your sometimes nude scenes, eyebrows may be raised at the sight of your 36-year old being lusting after the much older Hopkins! "The reason people are drawn together, the reason people choose each other, we never know," she shrugs. "The different people that enter into your life at different times, they enter into it because you allow them. They enter because of timing, they enter because of a connection between two people, not the way in which their bodies look."

Interesting! Please continue "A 70-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman, a 25-year-old man and a 70-year-old woman, bring it on! It doesn't matter,” she exclaims, laughing loudly in the process.

So, do you believe that people will buy into your role as a janitor and a farmhand in this film!? "I cleaned toilets when I was an usherette in Sydney and my hands got very dirty. Whether you believe me or not, I tried to do the best I could to honour her as a woman."

'Human Stain' is but one of three intense dramas that Kidman has done. Apart from her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in 'The Hours', there is Lars von Triers’ complex and experimental 'Dogville'. Though much has been reported about the so-called rift between Kidman and the strange Danish director, the actress speaks genuinely passionately about the film and its director. “With Lars, you don’t feel like you’re making a movie, but rather entering into a world, particularly because the way in which we did it. We were working in a small town and we all worked together, and in a way, you become part of Lars’ psyche, in a way. You go to sleep, you have dinner and breakfast with him, you go to work you eat lunch together and so you’re almost joined at the hip.”

Sounds like a cosy, comfortable situation to find yourself filming in "Yes, it was a very confronting experience, resulting in the different films that he makes. So when I arrived in Sweden, I knew that I’d be working with somebody who already had a complicated relationship with Bjork, but I arrived there going: I’m here, I’m open and I’m raw, ready to work and ready to be part of your life.”

How are your beautiful children fairing through all the divorce and movie sets?! "Tom and I never discussed the custody in terms of the children. It’s important for me that my kids are a part of my life. That means they come to the film set, they’re aware of what I’m doing and they get to give their opinion in terms of the different characters,” she relates. "But they have a complicated life and it’s something you feel guilty for, and something you apologise for, and it’s something you say: Well, they’re going to get an education out of this that will be slightly different and that’s going to be very artistic. I just think that anything you can do to stimulate a child artistically is important. So who knows how it will all turn out in the end but I’m trying to incorporate them and keep them so their memories will be very vivid in relation to the work.”

So, now comes the infamous remake of 'The Stepford Wives'?! "Yeah, but it's tough being funny," she says with that hearty laugh of hers.

And what of your proposed Elizabeth Montgomery part in a film version of the old TV sitcom 'Bewitched'?! "I haven't commited to that yet, but if I do Samantha's magical nose-twitch would probably be CGI”, she adds, laughingly for the final time.

Interviewed by Casey Shin for Exclusive Magazine

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