Her film roles have been bracingly unpredictable, her personal life even more so. But, happy in marriage, motherhood and a return to critical form, has Nicole Kidman finally found her dead calm?
The most impressive part of Rabbit Hole is the way it shows how grief comes out differently in different people. Did you bring your own experiences to bear on this?
I’ve lost people. My parents are still alive, I haven’t had that yet, but I’ve still had moments of huge loss. I think divorce can give you that sense of losing that person. When it’s done in a very quick way it can leave you raw. I’m reluctant to imprint my own life on this character because I feel like it almost undermines her. But I certainly had ways in – I think once you have a child, that emotional tie is so profound. Particularly when you birth a child. The power of that! The love that flows from you.
Throughout your career you’ve explored some pretty dark emotional areas – in Dead Calm, The Others, Margot at the Wedding. Does it scare you doing these kind of projects?
As actors, that’s what we do – we go into places that we’re really scared of. When you’re at drama school and working on Chekhov or Shakespeare, you’re dealing with very extreme situations, sometimes very dark, and I’m not saying: ‘Oh no, I’m not going to do that.’ In the industry now there just aren’t the roles that are dealing with the big scenes of life. There are a lot of popcorn movies out there.
You’re at a happy stage personally right now. But the description of ‘smug marrieds’ is misleading: marriage is something that changes all the time. Where are you emotionally at the moment?
I think I’m in a place of gratitude. When you’re in your forties you contrast your life against what it was like in your twenties – I was far more turbulent in my twenties. I always wanted to experience things, I was reaching, I was curious. I’m still curious, but I’m also far more at peace with the way my life’s playing out. I feel I’m so much more patient now as a mother, as a wife. But I still have fire in me. That hasn’t burned out yet. [Laughs]
Critic David Thomson, talking about your performance in Australia, wrote: ‘Kidman, I think, sometimes feels more at ease if she looks sensational.’ How do you react to that?
I think I’ve had probably everything [negative] written about me. Basically it’s not about dresses; I want to act. Baz [Luhrmann] and I, we were attempting to do something. If it didn’t come across properly I feel bad for that because I wanted it to be extraordinary. But I loved making the film. It’s a bummer.
Maybe people are more happy with you looking amazing than seeing you look less than physically perfect. Have you found this more of a pressure the more successful you’ve become?
The reason I produced Rabbit Hole was because I wanted to play this role. I think if a director and a producer separate to me had had this film, they wouldn’t have offered it. When I read this I thought: Please
just let me be a real woman. The only way to do that was to produce the material. I’m begging for more roles that are like that. I get offered parts that are more austere and glamorous, which I suppose doesn’t interest me as much any more. I think in my twenties it was fun to get dressed up and I loved all that. I was talking to Amy Adams. She was fantastic because we were doing a round-table interview together and she said: ‘When I signed on [to be an actress] I had no idea that it meant I was going to be a model.
It’s almost a cliché to say that your career got a lot more interesting after your divorce from Tom Cruise. How would you characterise your relationship with him now?
We don’t have that much to do with each other, we’re both happily married. The only thing is our children – we deal with each other when we have to on that, but it’s been quite good that we’re able to be very separate. It’s allowed my marriage now to become what it needs to be. I’m a completely different woman now.
Rabbit Hole is in UAE cinemas now.