When I had a last minute opportunity to interview Nicole Kidman a few days ago to promote her new film, Paddington, I was thrilled. A long time fan, I have been following her career of superb performances in some of my favorite films such as To Die For, The Hours, Rabbit Hole, Far and Away, The Portrait of a Lady, Moulin Rouge, The Birthday Girl, Dogville and so many others. She’s been in the public spotlight for years, and we all feel like we know her. We’ve seen her go through a very public break-up, move on to marry a very famous country singer and have her every step documented by the paparazzi along the way. But based on her selective film roles (and brave ones at that), it is clear to all of us that there is more than meets the eye.
Nicole was as down-to-earth and lovely as you’d expect, answering questions with honesty and full candor, in between questions about the film pointing out the times her own children had interrupted her during interviews, laughing about becoming a viral sensation through her appearance on Jimmy Fallon and expressing her genuine excitement on making a film about a characters as beloved as Paddington. She is definitely a fearless actress who takes chances in brave roles and is devoted to her craft, as well as a very devoted mother. She had a lot to say about making a film for kids (and one her own young children are equally excited about), being a working mom, the state of women in Hollywood in light of the recent Oscar snub of Ava Duvernay and more.
She was just about to leave for Sundance before the world premiere of her provocative Australian thriller Strangerland and was really looking forward to it. Here’s what she had to say about all this and a bit more.
On How She Ended Up Playing a Villain and What it Was Like Working with First Time Director Paul King
I know that he wrote it for me because they sent me the script and just said, “Listen, there’s this new director. His name’s Paul King and he’s directing this film, Paddington.” As soon as they said the word Paddington, I was like, “I want to do it!” And what part it was to play. I just wanted to be in a film about Paddington, ’cause I grew up with Paddington Bear. My kids wanted me to play the bear’s mommy. So, that was tricky, but because it’s got humor and the film’s very sweet as well, it kind of made it digestible for them.
On What it Was Like Making a Film for Children (As a Mum Herself)
It’s just beautiful to make a movie for children. I haven’t done that for so long. I did The Golden Compass but that wasn’t funny. And this film’s funny, and it’s sweet too. And that’s probably the greatest thing and it’s probably why I want people to see it, is because it’s got a beautiful message.
When I was a kid, I always wanted my own animal. I actually wanted a monkey, because I think that was already my maternal instincts coming out. But, I wanted an animal that I could sort of take care of, that would be either like a younger sibling or my child. And I think Paddington has those kind of qualities for a child. It’s like oh, my gosh, there’s somebody smaller than me but he talks and he wears clothes, and I can tell him what to do. And there’s something really darling about that. And that’s probably what was so appealing to me as a child. And I would think that’s the same thing that appeals to my girls. Every time they see the commercials now on TV, because they’ve seen the movie. And they scream, “There he is!” I mean, they’re only four and six, so to them he really exists. He’s alive.
On Shooting a Film with a Character Based on Someone’s Imagination
Initially, being an actor, that’s what we’re taught. We go to drama school and we do mime classes, and we’re taught to pretend that there’s a bear there or pretend that we’re drinking a cup of tea and you pretend there’s a saucer and a teacup and all of those things. And it’s mime work. When you’re doing it as an actor and you’re 19 years old, you’re like, “Oh, this is ridiculous. I’m never going to use this because they’ll have real props.” Little did I know 20 years later when I’d be in the industry really, really working, green screen and special effects would have become so much a part of the industry, that those classes were some of the most important classes that I took. You literally learn to make things believable that are not there, I mean. You’ll pretend that you’re feeling his fur and that he’s got a warm, wet, fuzzy nose and all of those things, which you have to make that totally believable to yourself. Sally Hawkins [as Mary Brown], who’s in the movie, and Hugh Bonneville [as Henry Brown], we were all talking about it. And we were like, strangely enough, this is what we’re trained for as actors, and this is what we now use.
The other thing that I really use was accent classes, which I did at drama school as well, which I was always rolling my eyes about, but now has been one of the other most useful tools. So, to any actors out there, I’m always like, “Pay attention in mime and pay attention in dialect.”
On the Evolution of Female Roles
I think it’s changed a lot in the sense of when you look back at the ’40s and the ’50s, it was obviously a completely different industry. And female driven movies were usually the biggest box office movies at that time. And then it went through a lull in the ’80s, say, and the ’70s really. And now I think there’s a resurgence for females in films. And I think that, as a woman who’s now in my 40s, working and raising children and having a marriage, that is an absolute priority to me. It’s always about pulling on my own experiences to try and find the things that I’m experiencing now that I want to put out in the world.
And luckily I’m in a position where I can produce movies. And I get to discover young directors and I get to support young directors. And I don’t know if years ago that was as available to women. So, that’s a great thing, to be able to have access and to different financing and be able to finance my own movies and support new directors.
I’m about to go to Sundance tomorrow and promote a movie (Strangerland) that’s a very difficult movie. It’s about a woman who loses her teenage daughter. And that’s a pretty heavy subject and it’s very subject matter in the way in which it plays out in this movie. But, it’s a first time female director, and it was interesting to me. And it was a very low budget, and I was lucky to have that opportunity. And I want to keep pushing into places I haven’t been before.
On Selma Director Ava Duvernay’s Exclusion From Oscar Director Nominations and if Women are Struggling to Find Opportunities in Hollywood
I think in terms of her not being nominated, I wish she had been nominated, because I thought she should have been nominated. So, I’m in the Academy and I get to vote. The only way we can move forward, I believe, is women supporting women. And I literally am going tomorrow to go and support a movie that was directed by a woman who’s never directed a film before. And people were saying to me, “My Gosh, why are you going to go and take such a risk and do a movie with someone that’s never directed before?” And I was like, “Because I believe in her and I want to give her a shot.”
And if ever there’s a chance to support people, I’m in the stage of my career where I can take risks. I can play. I can get behind people and support them who maybe other people won’t support. And that’s incredibly satisfying to be able to do it. But at the same time, you’ve got to have talent. I always say to girls who want to be actresses and want to be directors, “Work hard. You’re going to have to work hard. It’s a really tough world and it’s a tough industry, and nobody’s going to give you anything.”
And I think that’s really important that we keep that as part of the conversation, is the need to really apply yourself and be willing to put in the extra time and the extra effort and all of those things if you really want to have a great career.
Disclosure: I interviewed Nicole Kidman on behalf of The Weinstein Company.