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Getting to Know: Nicole Kidman

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Currently seen in cinemas as Queen Gudrún in The Northman, Nicole Kidman is one of those performers who disappears into a role. Forever seeking new artistic challenges, she prefers to let her work speak for her rather than play the fame game. Cinema Paradiso seeks to get to know her a little better.

Such is Nicole Kidman's status that a fair number of the 90 films and television programmes she has graced in a 39-year career might not have been made without her involvement. Refusing to be pigeonholed, she has the versatility to be at home in biopics, romcoms, offbeat indies, comic-book blockbusters and issue dramas. She accepts stardom, but it's not how she defines herself.

'I was trained as a character actor,' she told one interviewer. 'That's what I want to do. I believe in changing the way you look, the way you move, the way you speak. I'm not great at playing myself, so what really gives me the greatest satisfaction is changing into something else.' Often remaining in character for the duration of a shoot, Kidman dedicates herself to the story she is telling. Consequently, audiences have come to trust in her authenticity and integrity, no matter what role she is playing.

A still from The Northman (2022)
A still from The Northman (2022)

Sunblock and Chekhov

Nicole Mary Kidman was born on 20 June 1967 in Honolulu, Hawaii, while her Australian parents, Antony and Janelle, were in the United States on student visas. She was given the Hawaiian name, 'Hokulani', which means 'heavenly star'. However, the inspiration for the name came from a baby elephant that had recently been born at Honolulu Zoo.

Having graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Antony became a visiting fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health of the United States and the family relocated to Washington, DC. While in the capital, Antony and Janelle joined protests against the Vietnam War. When their daughter was three, however, they returned to Australia, where she was joined by her younger sister, Antonia.

Kidman speaks warmly of her father, who worked as a clinical psychologist and often treated poor patients for free. Janelle was a nursing instructor and Kidman is proud that her parents taught her 'to look at the world through different people's eyes', as this has been a driving concern of her film projects.

On arriving in Sydney, Kidman enrolled in a ballet class and demonstrated a talent for acting at Lane Cove Public School and North Sydney Girls' High School. Her fascination stemmed from watching Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in Victor Fleming's The Wizard of Oz (1939). However, as she once recalled: 'My first love was theatre, and a lot of that was pantomimes. I remember getting up on stage, I remember watching those outrageous, fun pantomimes. That was probably my first desire to be on stage.'

She also used to read and act scenes in her bedroom, as she was frequently kept indoors on hot days because of her red hair and pale complexion. Indeed, she once confided, 'I've played every role in Chekhov - in my bedroom, at all different hours, day or night. Little did I know that that was going to lead me to my vocation.'

Spending so much time alone made Kidman a shy child, who had to overcome a stammer. Yet, even though she still hates going into crowded places or parties alone, she was determined to act. As a teenager, she joined Naomi Watts at the Phillip Street Theatre, where she was encouraged to leave school and take up performing full time.

Supported by her parents, Kidman joined the Australian Theatre for Young People. In 1983, the 16 year-old made her film debut in Henri Safran's Bush Christmas, a remake Ralph Smart's 1947 feature of the same name that had been made by the forerunner of the Children's Film Foundation. Indeed, there was a CFF feel about Kidman's second outing, BMX Bandits (1983), which director Brian Trenchard-Smith based on Ealing comedies like Charles Crichton's Hue and Cry (1947). At one point during the shoot, Kidman hurt her ankle and had to be replaced in one cycling scene by an 18 year-old youth in a wig!

Roles followed in music videos and TV series like Five Mile Creek (1983-85). Around this period, however, Kidman took time out from acting in order to study massage therapy to help Janelle, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully, she survived and remains a big part of Kidman's life.

A still from Emerald City (1988)
A still from Emerald City (1988)

Among the first jobs she landed on her return was the key supporting role of Catherine in Denny Lawrence's Archer's Adventure (1985), a TV-movie about the first horse to win the prestigious Melbourne Gold Cup. She made more of a mark as Megan Goddard in John Duigan's miniseries Vietnam (1987), which earned her an award from the Australian Film Institute. A second came for playing screenwriter John Hargreaves's girlfriend in Michael Jenkins's adaptation of David Williamson's acclaimed stage play, Emerald City (1988).

In between times, Kidman played a high-school student who discovers that a member of her kickboxing group is involved with drugs in Mark Joffe's Nightmaster (1988). She also impressed as the heiress facing the death penalty for drug trafficking in Ken Cameron's powerful miniseries, Bangkok Hilton. However, she found international fame later the same year as Rae Ingram in Philip Noyce's Dead Calm (both 1989).

Orson Welles had spent years trying to adapt Charles Williams's novel as The Deep, while Roman Polanski had made his name with a variation on its theme, Knife in the Water (1962). Sam Neill and Billy Zane co-starred as the husband and castaway who turn a boating trip to the Great Barrier Reef into a nightmare. But it was Kidman who made the headlines and caught the attention of one of Hollywood's hottest stars.

Coming to America

Tom Cruise was tipped off about Kidman by his Top Gun (1986) director, Tony Scott. As the duo were reuniting on the NASCAR drama, Days of Thunder (1990), they agreed that Kidman would be perfect to play Dr Claire Lewicki. Despite producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer nixing her suggestion that she should study neurosurgery for the role, Kidman revelled in the Hollywood atmosphere. Indeed, she quickly fell in love with Cruise and they were married on Christmas Eve in 1990. They would adopt two children, Isabella and Connor, and become America's favourite celebrity couple for the remainder of the decade.

Kidman had some unfinished business Down Under, however, as she joined with Thandiwe Newton, Noah Taylor and Naomi Watts in Flirting (1991), John Duigan's coming-of-age sequel to The Year My Voice Broke (1987). Yet, while this drama set at a girls' boarding school won the AFI Best Film award, the picture has been tainted by Newton's accusations against her director.

Kidman didn't linger, however, and returned to California to co-star in Robert Benton's Billy Bathgate (1991), which was adapted from the E.L. Doctorow novel by Tom Stoppard. As the moll of the title character (Loren Dean), Kidman got to act opposite Dustin Hoffman as 1920 mobster Dutch Schultz, Stanley Tucci as Lucky Luciano and Bruce Willis as Bo Widerberg. The picture proved to be a flop, but Kidman received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

She went three decades further back in time on reuniting with Cruise on Ron Howard's Far and Away (1992), in which Joseph Donnelly and Shannon Christie leave Ireland to participate in the 1893 Oklahoma Land Run. Full of grand set-pieces, as though David Lean was making a John Ford Western, the picture received lukewarm reviews. But it was better received than Harold Becker's Malice (1993), a thriller scripted by Aaron Sorkin and Scott Frank that sees newlyweds Kidman and Bill Pullman come to regret renting a room to surgeon Alec Baldwin.

A still from My Life (1993)
A still from My Life (1993)

Bruce Joel Rubin's My Life (1993) was equally dismissed by the critics, despite the sincere performances of Kidman and Michael Keaton, as a couple expecting their first child who are forced to confront a terminal cancer diagnosis. However, the notices were positively cordial compared to the drubbing meted out to Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever (1995), which saw Kidman enter the comic-book realm for the first time to play criminal psychologist Dr Chase Meridian alongside Val Kilmer (who was replacing Keaton) as the Dark Knight. Not even Jim Carrey's Riddler could save the day, although this became the first film in screen history to gross $20 million on opening day.

Just as though Kidman appeared to be heading the way of so many starlets, Meg Ryan turned down the role of weather girl Suzanne Stone in Gus Van Sant's To Die For (1995) and Kidman seized upon the dark humour in Buck Henry's adaptation of Joyce Maynard's source novel. Joaquin Phoenix also shone as the teenager Suzanne enlists to murder her controlling husband, Larry Martto (Matt Dillon). But it was Kidman who won a Golden Globe for a knowing performance that also earned her a BAFTA nomination.

She followed this with a reunion with a director who had first checked her out as a teenager for a part in the short, A Girl's Own Story (1984). Jane Campion now cast her as Isabel Archer in her adaptation of Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady (1996), which sees heiress Isabel Archer being lured into an unhappy marriage with widower Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich) by the scheming Madame Serena Merle (Barbara Hershey). The latter received an Oscar nomination, but Kidman gave notice that she could handle heritage roles.

She also moved seamlessly between the political thrills in Mimi Leder's The Peacemaker (1997) - in which her nuclear arms specialist locks horns with US Army Ranger George Clooney over nine missing warheads - and the offbeat fantasy of Griffin Dunne's adaptation of Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic (1998), in which witchy sisters Kidman and Sandra Bullock fight a family curse on romantic relationships. Moreover, Kidman enjoyed a triumphant return to the stage by receiving an Olivier nomination for her work in David Hare's The Blue Room (1998), which was based on the same Arthur Schnitzler play that had inspired Max Ophüls's La Ronde (1950).

Undoubtedly, however, the most significant enterprise of this period was Kidman's final pairing with Cruise on Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999), a reworking of another Schnitlzer piece, Dream Play, that shifted the action from turn-of-the-century Vienna to modern New York. Rumours swirled as the schedule stretched on and Harvey Keitel and Jennifer Jason Leigh were replaced with Sydney Pollack and Marie Richardson, as the friends of a Manhattan couple whose relationship is strained after she confesses to having been tempted into having an affair.

After breaking the Guinness World record for the longest film shoot (400 days), Kubrick died just six days after showing the finished film to Cruise and Kidman. Despite respectful reviews and a decent box-office showing, this dense, intense treatise on desire and dread attracted more lurid headlines than Oscar nominations. Moreover, it helped drive a wedge between Kidman and Cruise, who filed for divorce two days after the couple's separation was announced on 5 February 2001. Now on her own, Kidman started to show her mettle by mastering her craft and fulfilling her potential.

A Nose For Success

A still from Moulin Rouge (2001) With Nicole Kidman
A still from Moulin Rouge (2001) With Nicole Kidman

Having taken time to re-calibrate and get used to wearing heels again, Kidman returned to the screen under the tutelage of a compatriot. At her audition for Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! (2001), she sang 'Nobody Does It Better', Carly Simon's theme for Lewis Gilbert's James Bond outing, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). And so she proved as Satine, the courtesan-cum-cabaret star who enchants an English poet named Christian (Ewan McGregor) in fin-de-siècle Paris. She suffered for her art, by breaking a rib while being laced into a corset. But Kidman not only won her second Golden Globe and received her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress, but she also acquitted herself so well with the vocal side of this dazzling musical extravaganza that she was asked to duet with Robbie Williams on the chart-topping 'Somethin' Stupid'.

Unfortunately, she wrenched her knee during one of the dance routines and was forced to withdraw from David Fincher's Panic Room (2002), which fell to Jodie Foster. But she was able to appear in a couple of documentaries, Baz Luhrmann's Behind the Red Curtain and Jan Harlan's Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (both 2001), before she jetted off to Cantabira to headline Alejandro Amenábar's The Others (2001). Set on Jersey shortly after its liberation from the Nazis in 1945, the story centres on Grace Stewart, a mother of two who becomes convinced that her house is haunted. Kidman earned BAFTA and Golden Globe recognition for her work in a psychological chiller that became the first English-language picture to take the top prize at Spain's annual Goya awards.

Completing a remarkable comeback year, Kidman further demonstrated her readiness to tackle roles that would stretch her by playing Nadia, the Russian mail-order bride who has a surprise for her future husband, mild-mannered banker John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin), in Jez Butterworth's Birthday Girl (2001). But the polite plaudits for extending her range became enthusiastic encomiums after she gave an Oscar-winning performance as Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry's adaptation of novelist Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize winner, The Hours (2002).

Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep co-starred, as women in 1951 and 2001 drawing inspiration from Woolf's 1925 novel, Mrs Dalloway (which had been filmed in 1997 by Marleen Gorris). But it was Kidman's performance as the Bloomsbury author battling depression while working on the text that rooted the picture, although as much fuss was made over the prosthetic nose that had been designed by make-up artists Conor O'Sullivan and Jo Allen. In addition to becoming the first Australian to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, Kidman also triumphed at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs.

Refusing to rest on her laurels, Kidman signed up for Lars von Trier's Dogville, an avant-garde ensemble drama played out on a minimalist set to chronicle the misfortunes that befall gangster's moll Grace Margaret Milligan after she seeks sanctuary in a small Colorado town. Kidman moved on from this ensemble enigma to the equally intense role of Faunia Farley in Robert Benton's The Human Stain (both 2003), which centres on the affair between a college professor caught in a race row and a menial campus worker who is blamed by her Vietnam veteran ex-husband for the death of their children in an accident.

A still from Cold Mountain (2003) With Nicole Kidman
A still from Cold Mountain (2003) With Nicole Kidman

Yet, the performance that earned Kidman a sixth Golden Globe nomination came in Anthony Minghella's Civil War drama, Cold Mountain (2003). Based on a novel by Charles Frazier, the action turns on the efforts of Ada Monroe to keep her farmstead going while waiting for the return of wounded deserter, William Inman (Jude Law). Renée Zellweger won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her work as Ruby Thewes, who helps Ada resist the threats of the cruel Home Guard leader, Teague (Ray Winstone).

Thanks to Jane Campion, Kidman received her first credit as a producer on In the Cut (2003), after she had passed on the role of Fannie Avery in order to spend more time with her children. Meg Ryan stepped into the breach in this adaptation of Suzanne Moore's bestselling thriller to play the teacher who becomes embroiled with the Manhattan cop investigating a serial murder. Kidman made the most of the spare time to become the face of Chanel No.5 in a three-minute 2004 commercial directed by Baz Luhrmann that remains among the most expensive ever made. According to some reports, Kidman commanded a $12 million fee from the $33 million budget, which gave her the record for any actor for the most money earned per minute.

Moreover, things were looking up in Kidman's private life. Shortly after breaking off her engagement to musician Lenny Kravitz, she met country singer Keith Urban at the 2005 G'Day LA event held in honour of the city's Australians. They married in Sydney on 25 June 2006 and are now the proud parents of Sunday Rose and Faith Margaret, who were born in Nashville in 2008 and 2010.

A Decade of Not Quites

In the period following her Oscar win, Kidman selected a sequence of films that seemed designed to showcase her versatility and win over fans in genres she hadn't previously conquered. At the time, it appeared as though she had made the odd misjudgement. But the beauty of Cinema Paradiso is that users can go back in time and make up their own minds by clicking the titles they might have missed first time round or simply fancy seeing again in order to reassess their initial verdict.

In playing Joanna Eberhart in Frank Oz's The Stepford Wives, Kidman emulated Katharine Ross in Bryan Forbes's 1975 adaptation of Ira Levin's bestseller about a Connecticut community in which the womenfolk are entirely subservient to their husbands. Despite the presence of Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Christopher Walken and Glenn Close, this dark and timely satire failed to win approval. Moreover, Kidman sparked controversy in Jonathan Glazer's Birth (both 2004), when she shared a bath with 10 year-old co-star Cameron Bright in playing a widow who convinces herself that her late husband has been reincarnated in the form of a New York boy who had wandered into her engagement party.

The following year, Kidman made history by headlining the first film shot inside the headquarters of the United Nations in New York. However, there was something post-colonially patronising about Sydney Pollack's The Interpreter, in which a translator (Kidman) tries to persuade a secret service agent (Sean Penn) that she has overheard a conspiracy to assassinate the detested president of the African state of Matobo. More good intentions fell flat when Kidman teamed with Will Ferrell (another recipient of a Cinema Paradiso Getting to Know article) in Nora Ephron's Bewitched (both 2005), a meta comedy that centres around an actor's discovery that his co-star in a remake of the classic fantasy sitcom, Bewitched (1964-72), is genuinely a witch.

Any annoyance that Kidman might have felt at being nominated for the Worst Screen Couple Award at the Razzies was surely offset by the news that she was Hollywood's second highest-paid actress after Julia Roberts. She could also celebrate her participation in the highest-grossing film of her career to date, when she provided the voice for Norma Jean, the mother of Mumble (Elijah Wood), the Emperor penguin with a flair for tap dancing in George Miller's animated delight, Happy Feet (2006).

A still from The Invasion (2007)
A still from The Invasion (2007)

The same year saw her back in biopic mode, as she played photographer Diane Arbus in Steven Shainberg's Fur (2006). However, the central relationship with wigmaker Lionel Sweeney (Robert Downey, Jr.), who persuades her to follow her vocation rather than remain in a restrictive marriage, is entirely fictional. Kidman followed this hybrid history with a return to science-fiction for Oliver Hirschbiegel's The Invasion (2007). This reworking of a story that had already informed Don Siegel's 1956 and Invasion of the Body Snatchers - as well s Abel Ferrara's Body Snatchers (1993) - cast Kidman as Washington psychiatrist Carol Bennell, who turns to colleague Dr Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig) when she comes to suspect that people are being replaced by docile replicas following a Space Shuttle crash.

After this stint in the mainstream (which saw her break two more ribs while shooting a stunt sequence), Kidman took an indie turn to work with Noah Baumbach on Margot At the Wedding, a dramedy that charts the repercussions when a self-obsessed, but emotionally fragile writer named Margot (Kidman), returns to Long Island to pay a call on her sister, Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a week before she gets married to Malcolm (Jack Black). However, Kidman plunged back into blockbuster territory when she played the first villain of her career, Marisa Coulter, in The Golden Compass (2007), Chris Weitz's big-budget adaptation of Philip Pullman's novel, Northern Lights (both 2007), which reunited her with Daniel Craig, who played Lord Asriel.

Replacing Russell Crowe, compatriot Hugh Jackman was Kidman's co-star in Baz Luhrmann's Australia (2008), as a drover who escorts Lady Sarah Ashley to the Faraway Downs ranch in the Northern Territories, shortly before Japanese forces launch an attack on Darwin during the Second World War. Once again, critics commented on Kidman's radiance in keeping audiences engaged in imperfect material. But she proved she could be a team player when she joined forces with Sophia Loren, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard and Kate Hudson in Nine (2009), Rob Marshall's musical take on Federico Fellini's (1963), which saw Daniel Day-Lewis take over from Marcello Mastroianni as the film-maker with creative block.

Kidman's rendition of 'Unusual Way' proved one of the highlights of a picture that underwhelmed critics and audiences, while still amassing four Oscar and five Golden Globe nominations. But Kidman was back in the frame for the big prizes following her performance as a mother grieving for her four year-old son with husband Aaron Eckhart in Rabbit Hole (2010), John Cameron Mitchell's adaptation of a play by David Lindsay-Abaire that launched Kidman's production company, Blossom Films. In addition to another Golden Globe citation, Kidman was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, only to lose out to Natalie Portman for Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan.

She was never likely to have been in consideration for her collaboration with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in Denis Dugan's Just Go With It, a remake of the vastly superior Gene Saks comedy, Cactus Flower (1969) that had earned Goldie Hawn the Best Supporting Oscar, alongside Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman. Another left-field choice paired Kidman with Nicolas Cage in Joel Schumacher's Trespass (both 2011), a thriller in which domestic skeletons come tumbling out after a diamond dealer and his wife are held hostage at their Lousiana home.

Restricted to a limited release Stateside, this was a sad way for Schumacher to end an often intriguing career. Fortunately, Kidman was able to brush it off and take another producer's credit on Thomas Bezucha's Monte Carlo (2011), an adaptation of a Jules Bass novel that starred Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy as friends posing as wealthy socialites on the Riviera. While this is available from Cinema Paradiso, it's not currently possible to share Kidman's Emmy-winning pairing with Clive Owen as Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway in her first teleplay in a quarter of a century, Philip Kaufman's Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012). It is possible, however, to see Kidman in a clutch of documentaries from this period, namely The Work of Jonathan Glazer (2005), Lagerfeld Confidential (2007) and Room 237 (2012).

Of All She Surveys

A still from The Paperboy (2012)
A still from The Paperboy (2012)

Forever seeking projects to push her, Kidman joined the cast of Lee Daniels's adaptation of Pete Dexter's fact-based crime novel, The Paperboy (2012). She earned another Golden Globe nomination for her supporting display as Charlotte Bless, who had been corresponding with small-time crook Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) prior to his execution for murder in 1965. She fell under the spell of another ne'er-do-well in Park Chan-wook's Stoker (2013), when a small-town widow refuses to heed the warnings of daughter Mia Waskikowska about brother-in-law Matthew Goode, who insists that he has just returned Stateside after travelling the world.

Although she joined the Palme d'or jury at Cannes in 2013, Kidman remained reluctant to seek the limelight. 'I have my work,' she stated in one interview. 'I have my family, I have my own inner landscape that I explore. I choose that more than I choose partying.' She returned to the Croisette in 2014, however, for the premiere of Olivier Dahan's Grace of Monaco, which was set in 1962 against the stand-off between French president, Charles De Gaulle (André Penvern) and Prince Rainier (Tim Roth) that coincided with the efforts of Alfred Hitchcock (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) to persuade the onetime Grace Kelly to return to Hollywood in the psychological drama, Marnie (1964).

Despite capturing Kelly's cool demeanour, Kidman was unable to salvage the film's reputation. However, she was better received in two collaborations with Colin Firth. In Jonathan Teplitzky's The Railway Man (2013), she played the wife accompanying former POW Eric Loxax on a trip to Thailand to confront his Japanese wartime tormentor, while in Rowan Joffé's Before I Go to Sleep (2014), she finds herself having to trust husband Firth after waking up beside him with no memory of her life after suffering brain damage in a car crash decades earlier.

She slipped back on to the dark side as taxidermist Millicent Clyde in Paul King's family favourite, Paddington (2014), which was adapted from the same Michael Bond books that have inspired the many other Paddington animations that can be rented from Cinema Paradiso by typing the name of the marmalade-loving bear into the searchline.

By contrast, the domestic situation is anything but blissful in Kim Farrant's directorial bow, Strangerland, which took Kidman back to Australia for a small-town story in which parents Catherine (Kidman) and Matthew Parker (Joseph Fiennes) discover that their missing underage daughter, Lily (Maddison Brown), has been leading a dangerous secret life. The bond between parents and children is more quirkily explored, however, in Jason Bateman's The Family Fang (both 2015), an adaptation of a Kevin Wilson novel that sees Bateman and Kidman (who also produces) play the novelist and actress children of eccentric performance artist, Christopher Walken.

A still from Queen of the Desert (2015)
A still from Queen of the Desert (2015)

Once again, Kidman moved on to a markedly different assignment (and added another world-class director to her collection), as she played travel writer Gertrude Bell for Werner Herzog in Queen of the Desert (2015). This would make for a splendid Cinema Paradiso double bill with Sabine Krayenbühl's documentary, Letters From Bagdad (2016), which recalls Bell's excursions and relationships, as well as the role she played in helping to shape the modern Middle East.

Unafraid of taking risks, Kidman returned to the stage for the first time in 15 years to play DNA scientist Rosalind Franklin in Photograph 51, which earned her a second Olivier nomination and an Evening Standard Theatre Award. This came after she had teamed with Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Secret in Their Eyes (2015), which transferred the action of Juan José Campanella's Oscar-winning 2009 Argentinian thriller of the same name to Los Angeles and cast Kidman as an assistant district attorney investigating the discovery of a woman's body in a dumpster near a mosque.

Despite the solid performances, critics preferred the original. So, Kidman reunited with her West End stage director, Michael Grandage, on Genius, in order to play Aline Bernstein, the costume-designing muse of Jazz Age novelist Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law), whose relationship with the editor who had discovered him, Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth), becomes strained after a sojourn in Paris. Just as this was based on a biography by A. Scott Berg, so Garth Davis's Lion (both 2016) was inspired by Saroo Brierley's autobiography, A Long Way Home. The focus falls on Dev Patel, as the twentysomething Indian who leaves his adopted home in Tasmania and returns to Khandwa in the hope of finding his birth mother and siblings. But both Patel and Kidman (who played Saroo's Australian mother, Sue) received Best Supporting nods at the Academy Awards, while Kidman chalked up her eleventh Golden Globe nomination.

In 2014, she cameo'd as herself in Stephen Marchant's Hello Ladies: The Movie, which is available to rent from Cinema Paradiso on the same disc as the eight-part 2013 sitcom. She remained on the small screen for 'China Girl', the second series of Jane Campion's Top of the Lake (2013-17), to play Julia Edwards, the bisexual adoptive mother of Mary (Alice Englert, who is Campion's daughter in real life), the 17 year-old who was given up for adoption as a baby by Sydney detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss).

If this racy role caught the attention of the critics, Kidman caught them on the hop when she joined narrator Meryl Streep to voice Luli in the English version of Gary Wang's animation, The Guardian Brothers (2015). She was soon back on television, however, to double as executive producer with co-star Reese Witherspoon on Big Little Lies (2017), an adaptation of a Liane Moriarty bestseller that was directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and Andrea Arnold under the supervision of the doyen of multi-episode TV, David E. Kelley. Kidman so excelled as Celeste Wright, a lawyer-turned-housewife who conceals an abusive relationship with her husband, Perry (Alexander Skarsgård), that she completed the Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy double of Best Actress and producer of the Outstanding Limited Series.

A still from The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
A still from The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

Kidman was the talk of the Cannes Film Festival in 2017, as she had three features on view. In John Cameron Mitchell's take on Neil Gaiman's short story, How to Talk to Girls At Parties she played Queen Boadicea, a veteran punk who manages the hangout where comic-book artist Enn (Alex Sharp) falls for rebellious visiting alien Zan (Elle Fanning). She encountered another strange child in Yorgos Lanthimos's The Killing of a Sacred Deer, a reworking of Euripides's Greek tragedy, Iphigenia At Aulis, that sees a mother battle for the safety of her children after her Cincinnati surgeon husband (Colin Farrell) becomes involved with a young man with baneful powers (Barry Keoghan).

Demonstrating yet again what a versatile actress she is, Kidman's third picture at the festival was Sofia Coppola's The Beguiled, a remake of a 1971 Don Siegel Western of the same name that was based on a novel by Thomas P. Cullinan. Geraldine Page had played school ma'am Martha Farnsworth in the original, while Clint Eastwood had starred as John McBurney, the wounded Union soldier she nurses at the height of the Civil War. Kidman and Colin Farrell assumed the roles here, alongside Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, as the teacher and student who are seduced by the mysterious stranger.

Coppola followed Yulya Solntseva (Chronicle of Flaming Years, 1960) in becoming only the second woman to win the Best Director prize at Cannes, although she was accused by some of 'whitewashing' the material by removing a Black slave and changing the ethnicity of a key biracial character. There was also a degree of misgiving over Neil Burger's The Upside (2017), a remake of Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano's hit French comedy, Intouchables (2011), which centres on the relationship between a quadriplegic billionaire (Bryan Cranston) and the African American ex-con (Kevin Hart) who is hired as his caregiver, in spite of the objections of a sniffy personal assistant (Kidman).

But Kidman seemed to be drawn to contentious material in this period, as it seemed to bring out the best in her. She certainly dug deep to play LAPD officer Erin Bell in Karyn Kusama's Destroyer, as she uses fair means and foul to track down the gang leader who had been responsible for the death of her FBI agent partner 16 years earlier. The reward for deglamourising to the point of unrecognisability was another Golden Globe nomination. But it was co-star Lucas Hedges who received the nod for Joel Edgerton's Boy Erased (both 2018), in which he plays a gay teenager who is sent for conversion therapy by his strict Baptist parents (Kidman and Russell Crowe).

The lack of nuance in this adaptation of Garrard Conley's narrative was less an issue in James Wan's Aquaman (2018), a plunge into the DC Extended Universe that saw Kidman play Jason Mamoa's mother, Queen Atlanna. With a global gross of $1.1 billion, it wasn't surprising that she was invited to reprise the role in the same director's sequel, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, which is set for release in 2023. Doubtless, the pay cheque helped Forbes determine in 2019 that Kidman was the fourth highest-paid actress in the world, with an annual income of $34 million. Ahead of her were Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson, who has also been profiled in Cinema Paradiso's popular Getting to Know series.

Content to take character roles in significant features, Kidman essayed Mrs Barbour in John Crowley's adaptation of Donna Tartt's bestseller, The Goldfinch (2019). She provides a home for teenager Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley) after his mother is killed in a bomb attack on the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Kidman was also in crucial support as TV anchor Gretchen Carlson in Jay Roach's Bombshell (2019), an account of the efforts of reporter Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and staffer Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) to expose the sexual harassment perpetrated by Fox News CEO, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). Indeed, she was unfortunate to be overlooked, as Theron and Robbie received Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations.

A still from The Undoing (2020)
A still from The Undoing (2020)

Undaunted, Kidman drew another Golden Globe nomination on returning to television to team with Hugh Grant in The Undoing (2020). Adapted by David E. Kelley from Jean Hanff's novel, You Should Have Known, this acclaimed miniseries directed by Dane Susanne Bier had audiences on the edge of their seats, as Manhattan psychologist Grace Fraser (Kidman) tries to discover whether her fugitive husband, Jonathan (Grant), was involved in the murder of a female artist.

This twisting thriller proved to be one of the most watched shows during the Covid 19 pandemic and Kidman sought similar audiences by collaborating with Kelley again on Nine Perfect Strangers, a miniseries inspired by a Liane Moriarty novel about Masha Dmitrichenko, a wellness guru who drives her wealthy clients hard at the Tranquillum House health spa. Sadly, this isn't currently available on disc and neither is Ryan Murphy's film of the Broadway musical, The Prom (2020), which sees narcissistic stage stars Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep), Barry Glickman (James Corden) and Angie Dickinson (Kidman) strive to help a lesbian student take her girlfriend to the James Madison High School prom.

Fingers crossed that it becomes possible for Cinema Paradiso to bring users Aaron Sorkin's Being the Ricardos (2021), as Kidman and Javier Bardem excel as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the celebrity couple who had changed the face of the sitcom with I Love Lucy (1951-57). Each received Oscar nominations for their work, with Kidman confirming her status as the queen of the biopic by also landing the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama.

With several cinematic and small-screen projects in the pipeline, Kidman is certain to keep surprising us with the likes of The Northman, a reworking of the legend of Amleth that inspired William Shakespeare's Hamlet (at least 15 variations of which are available through the Cinema Paradiso searchline). The Bard's plays have yet to entice Kidman. Maybe, one day, we shall see her delivering blank verse and rhyming couplets with her customary poise and precision?

A still from The Northman (2022)
A still from The Northman (2022)
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