Kidman, Nicole


Kidman, Nicole
(1968– )
   Actress Nicole Kidman began her film career in Australia, where she grew up; she first gained international attention with the Australian film Dead Calm (1988) a thriller in which she played opposite Sam Neill and Billy Zane. She costarred with TOM CRUISE in Days of Thunder in 1990, her first Hollywood movie; they married later that same year.
   A WARNER BROS. press release dated December 15, 1995, announced that “Stanley Kubrick’s next film will be Eyes Wide Shut, a story of jealousy and sexual obsession, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman,” from the 1926 novella by Austrian writer ARTHUR SCHNITZLER entitled TRAUMNOVELLE (Dream Story). Speculation about the film in the press and on the Internet had proliferated by the time principal photography commenced in November 1996.
   The London Times took note of EYES WIDE SHUT’s teaming of Cruise and Kidman with STANLEY KUBRICK by publishing a piece which quoted unnamed “friends” of Cruise and Kidman, who feared for the sanity of the superstars while they were making “Eyes Wide Open” [sic] for “the most feared director in Britain. ” James Howard observes in his Kubrick book that the article was “shamelessly padded” with gossip about Kubrick that misinformed reporters who had never met the director had been regurgitating for years, particularly in the tabloids. The London Times piece stated that Kubrick had shown Cruise and Kidman the script only once prior to their signing their contracts. Furthermore, it was reported that they both had signed open-ended contracts, by which they agreed to work on the film until Kubrick released them, however long that turned out to be. Nicole Kidman told Cathy Booth in Time magazine that she would have agreed to do the picture even if Kubrick had not shown her the script. “I didn’t need to read the script,” she affirmed; “I wanted to work with Stanley. ” She added that the open-ended contract was not a problem:“You don’t think that way artistically. ” She was fully aware of the level of commitment involved in a Kubrick project. Both she and Cruise were willing to spend extra time on Eyes Wide Shut for a chance to work with a director of Kubrick’s stature.
   Kidman remembers the first time she and Cruise went to Kubrick’s home in rural England to meet him face-to-face; she was “terrified,” as she told Rene Rodriguez in the Chicago Tribune: “I was sure I wasn’t going to live up to his expectations. ” When she walked into Kubrick’s kitchen, however, she was relieved to find him to be, not the eccentric hermit of the press clippings, but a congenial family man. Kidman, her husband, and their two adopted children moved into a house close to Pinewood Studios for the duration of the shoot, which lasted until January 31, 1998—an unprecedented 52 weeks, spread over 15 months (the longest shoot on record for a mainstream Hollywood picture). Nevertheless, Kubrick stayed within his $65 million budget; this is because of Kubrick’s customary practice of utilizing a small technical crew, which evoked from Kidman the remark that it was “almost like making a student film. ” Yet, she says, Warners never tried to hurry Kubrick: “Stanley was given a budget. He brought the picture in on budget, and that was it. ”
   In September 1997, while the film was still in production, Kubrick was awarded a Golden Lion award by the Venice Film Festival for his contribution to the art of the cinema. As usual,Kubrick begged off when it came to accepting the award in person, so Kidman accepted it on his behalf; she took the occasion to speak enthusiastically of working with Kubrick. Because of the prolonged shooting schedule, filming proceeded at a leisurely pace. “Stanley didn’t work under the gun,” says Kidman. Always the perfectionist, Kubrick continued to rewrite the screenplay during the production period, sometimes faxing changes to the actors as late as 4 A. M. Not surprisingly, Kidman at times wondered what she had gotten herself into: “Sometimes it was frustrating because you were thinking, ‘Is this ever going to end?’”
   But Kidman affirms that she found Kubrick much more collaborative than he was rumored to be—not the image of “the most feared director in Britain,” as the London Times had it. She pointed to the film’s opening sequence, in which Dr. Bill Harford (Cruise) and his wife,Alice (Kidman), attend a swanky Christmas party; Alice gets tipsy while fending off the amorous advances of a middle-aged Hungarian lothario named Sandor (Sky Dumont). “As it was originally written,” she recalls, “there was no talk of Alice being drunk. ” But after Kidman rehearsed the scene several times, she started getting bored with it and thought,“Maybe I should have a glass of champagne” in the course of the scene. So she got a glass of champagne from a passing waiter,“and Stanley saw me—he observed everything on the set. ” Suddenly he decided to write into the script “a moment where Alice walks off and has a glass of champagne, and slowly the scene evolved into what you see in the film, where she’s drunk. ”That Alice has had one too many gives some additional interest to the scene, since the viewer wonders if a drunken Alice will be more susceptible to Sandor’s blandishments than she would have been, were she sober. “So much of my character evolved through little things like that, just me doing things and Stanley watching,” Kidman says. “Then he’d go off, write some more and come back. ”
   One of the most complex scenes in the whole movie occurs when Bill and Alice smoke marijuana together. Accompanied by Shostakovich’s romantic waltz from his Second Jazz Suite (which plays during both the opening and closing credits as well), Bill hazards that Alice would never be unfaithful to him. Alice resents his taking her for granted and says so. This scene clearly belongs to Kidman, as Alice responds to Bill’s remark with a rather defiant confession. She recalls the spasm of desire which she experienced for a naval officer one day last summer, while she and Bill were vacationing at Cape Cod. She gazed at the officer erotically for a moment and never laid eyes on him again. “Yet,” she says, in dialogue taken verbatim from Schnitzler’s novella, “I thought of him the rest of the day. If he called me-I thought—I would not have resisted him. If he wanted me for only one night, I was ready to give up everything for him; but when I realized he was gone I was relieved. ”Alice shocks Bill by revealing that her sexual desires could have led her to jeopardize her marriage. As Alice is speaking, she is sitting in front of a window with red curtains; she is framed by the red drapes, which symbolize how her recollection of that erotic experience inflames Bill with both jealousy and a passionate desire to search for some sexual excitement of his own that very night.
   This scene is central to the plot, writes Larry Gross, since Alice’s confession is “the crucial event that will generate the rest of the narrative. ” For Bill then leaves Alice behind in the apartment, as he wanders the streets for the rest of the night, with a view to indulging in a sexual escapade. Kubrick obviously awarded this scene to Kidman, as she passionately delivers this intense monologue as if Alice were a patient addressing a psychiatrist, with Bill as the silent analyst taking it all in. Kidman recalls having to do several takes of this scene, so many that she lost count. “The shot where I had to drag on the spliff—how many different ways can you drag on a spliff, right? But Kubrick wanted the camera to move in a particular way, and for me to drag on it in a particular way and at a particular time. ”
   Kidman thus testifies, as have countless actors before her, that Kubrick insisted on doing as many takes of a scene as were necessary to get everything just right. Still, she says in retrospect, working for “Forty-Take Kubrick,” as he has sometimes been called, was a useful experience for her. “He taught me you can do the same thing over and over again, many different ways, and discover something different every single take. It’s a lot like working on the stage, actually. ”
   As a matter of fact, after principal photography was completed on Eyes Wide Shut, Kidman and Cruise remained in London while she made her stage debut in the West End in David Hare’s play The Blue Room, an updated version of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, just as Eyes Wide Shut is an updated version of Schnitzler’s Dream Story. She later appeared in the Broadway production of The Blue Room as well. As filming on Eyes Wide Shut progressed, the director and his two stars became virtually inseparable. Kidman had long discussions with Kubrick about politics and other topics. The bond between the three became so strong that, when they learned of his death in March 1999, just days after they had viewed Kubrick’s final cut of Eyes Wide Shut, Kidman was devastated. “He had become a big part of my life,” she said to Cathy Booth. “It just didn’t seem possible. ” She remembered his coming to see her in The Blue Room during the play’s London run;“I was so nervous the night he came. ” He came back to her dressing room afterward “and I was thinking,‘Wow, Stanley Kubrick is standing in my dressing room in London. ’To think that he’s gone . . . ”
   In 2001, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise divorced. They cited the demands of their divergent film careers, which kept them apart for long periods, as a reason for their separation. They had too seldom been able to work together on the same film, as in the case of Eyes Wide Shut.
   Kidman’s next film was Moulin Rouge (2001), which meshes popular songs with the Paris of legendary artist Toulouse-Lautrec. In it she plays Satin, a courtesan who bewitches a naive poet (Ewan McGregor). She was working in 2000 with another world-class director, Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom, 1992). The hero’s descent into the netherworld of a large city, looking for adventure, of course, recalls Bill Harford’s trek through Greenwich Village in Eyes Wide Shut.
   References
   ■ Booth, Cathy, “Three of a Kind,” Time, July 5, 1999, pp. 72–74;
   ■ Ebert, Roger, “Doctor’s Strange Love,” Chicago Sun-Times, July 16, 1999, sec. NC, pp. 28, 33;
   ■ Gross, Larry,“Too Late the Hero: Eyes Wide Shut,Sight and Sound, Special Kubrick Issue, 9 (n. s. ), no. 9 (September, 1999): 20–23;
   ■ Howard, James, Stanley Kubrick Companion (London: Batsford, 1999), pp. 175–180;
   ■ Jameson, Richard,“Ghost Sonata,” Film Comment 35, no. 5 (September– October 1999): pp. 27–28;
   ■ Kroll, Jack,“Dreaming with ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’” Newsweek, July 19, 1998, pp. 62–63;
   ■ Rodriguez, Rene, “Behind the Scenes,” Chicago Tribune, July 22, 1999, sec. 5, p. 7;
   ■ Seiler,Andy,“Disputing Kubrick’s Eccentric Reputation,” USA Today, July 16, 1999, sec. E, p. 2;
   ■ Tresniowski,Alex,“Hearts Wide Shut:Tom and Nicole Split,” People, February 19, 2001, pp. 48–55.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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