Whoever it was who said “age is nothing but a number” had it right where Nicole Kidman is concerned. The Australian actress, 52, has bucked the trend of female stars finding roles increasingly difficult to come by as their years advance. In fact, the Hawaii-born former wife of Tom Cruise has never been busier, with a succession of critically acclaimed projects coming to fruition over the past couple of years.
Her almost constant presence on both the big and the small screen is testament to a supremely talented, irrepressibly spirited actress whose willingness to change, adapt and evolve is unparalleled; and whose energy to work—as well as look after her four children—is a marker to all those with one eye on the clock.
“For me it’s just about keeping things exciting,” she begins. “Isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what we all want?
“There is no secret formula—just keep going!” she laughs.
Even so, such a rich seam of work – as actor primarily but also producer [in the Golden Globe-winning portrayal as Celeste Wright in Big Little Lies]—deserves closer attention. From The Killing of a Sacred Deer to The Beguiled, and through into The Upside, it appears 2017—her 50th year— laid the foundation for a shift in creative vision that quickly saw Kidman embracing the revolution that is TV drama, in the form of the Sundance/BBC composition Top of the Lake and HBO’s Big Little Lies.
Last year brought about the Joel Edgerton-directed Boy Erased with fellow Australian actor Russell Crowe, before Kidman embraced the Marvel superhero genre, with Aquaman, alongside Jason Momoa and Amber Heard.
But even cop drama Destroyer—in which Kidman embraced the method acting magnificence that contributed to her picking up the Best Actress Oscar as Virginia Woolf in 2002 film The Hours— and upcoming drama The Goldfinch— John Crowley’s adaptation of the Donna Tartt novel—have been asked to play second fiddle to the return of Big Little Lies. Kidman’s shift to subscription channel been seamless, and follows the changing trends of our viewing habits.
“It has been a real explosion of energy and popularity where TV drama is concerned,” she says. “I think people still admire the film format, but these drama series offer so much more longevity, both in terms of the total length of the project, plus how we can consume them for.
When you think about it, a film has an incredibly short window. It’s something we may look forward to for an entire year, but it’s over within a couple of hours.
For TV there is a product that evolves and bubbles up every week, and we go on an entire journey with it, sometimes across a time period of months. I find that so exciting,” Kidman says.
Certainly, as far as Big Little Lies goes, all the boxes are being ticked. “For me, this has just been something I’ve been dreaming of doing, so to have it all happen like this, I’m just so proud. It’s very topical and it’s very funny—but it’s also hopefully very moving and disturbing.”
Kidman also believes that even though women occupy the central roles, the story should appeal to both sexes: “When the first series came out I said I wanted men to watch it with their girlfriends or partners.
“I also wanted women to get together—people get together—and watch it as a group, because it’s that sort of show where you want to have dinner, drink some wine, and talk at the TV. It’s sociable viewing – that was always the intention, and I am so thrilled it has come about like that.”
Film and TV combined all represents a brilliant run of success for the actress, to the extent that you feel turning 50 has proved a shot in the arm for someone who had become so tired of interviewers in press junkets suggesting she should politely retire to the background to let a younger breed step in.
“Age will never be a barrier for me; I just won’t let it,” she says. “As soon as you start thinking like that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Think old, act old.”
When asked about what is clearly an unrelenting passage of work, the life of which would seriously challenge even someone half her age, Kidman is typically blasé. “Of course, it’s a conscious choice to always be looking at the next project, and you could say I am really behind that at the moment… but then, isn’t that my job?” she questions. “I still need to work, I still want to work… I can’t imagine taking two years o to survey my options—what’s the point? I need to be looking at the next thing!”
More likely to slow Kidman’s progress —although there is little evidence of it based on recent work—might be the continuing needs to mix up professional and personal ambitions, and the challenges that come with managing two very different worlds.
“I’ve had projects that have meant I haven’t been there for my kids’ bedtimes, and that hurts,” she admits. “Those are the films that, when you reflect on them, can end up feeling slightly tainted. I may look back on them as brilliant movies, but they are tinged with sadness, I guess, because of the circumstances around them… me not being there for dinner, or having to film somewhere that meant I was away for weeks. Pretty early on I realized the only choice should be my children, and they are the first thought on any project now. The project has to work around them, not the other way round.” These days, two of Kidman’s children —Sunday, 10, and Faith, eight, with musician husband Keith Urban—are of an age where they can join in with much of the excitement of the movie set. The older two—Isabella, 26, and Connor, 24, from her marriage to Tom Cruise—have flown the nest. “We can bring Sunday and Faith along with us or make going away to film something much more of a family thing,” she says. “For example, Lion, back in 2016, this was a brilliant thing for me. Not only was it an Australian film… Australian actors, Australian crews, Australian locations; but because we shot it in Hobart, it offered an amazing way to introduce my daughters to the area and hear them say, ‘this is our favorite place in the world’… well that’s just gorgeous to hear. Their wants are the priority. I can’t pick up and take jobs just because they appeal to me, because it’s what I want to do… but do I feel more ambitious now than ever before? Certainly.”
That ambition has even taken the star back to the theatre stage—in 2015 she had a superb stint in the DNA discovery play Photograph 51 in London’s West End. It was another move that embodied the sort of bulldozing spirit that has driven Kidman forward every day since. After all, it was her rst time onstage in 17 years. “I loved that instantaneous reaction which you never have with film, and I wanted to do Photograph 51 on Broadway. That was the plan,” she says. “But then I put the plan to my girls and they said ‘nope’!” she laughs. “They know what they want, so we focus on the films.”
The mother-of-four is clearly at peace with herself, given the way she is now expressing creative freedom in her selection of roles. Much of that surely comes from a settled home life, notably a happy marriage to country singer Keith Urban, and her two biological daughters (Sunday and Faith) at home with her. She and Urban couple met in January 2005 at G’Day LA, an event honoring Australians, and the pair were married in Sydney within 18 months. The family divide their time between their homes in Nashville, Sydney and Los Angeles. “Feeling loved is so important because it gives you the drive give it back in exactly the same way. For me, our relationship, making it through, being a family, is more important than anything.” While Kidman embodies a person who is driven, passionate and ambitious at every turn, it is perhaps her self-confessed easy-going nature that has helped her and Urban navigate a route through stormier waters—her partner, who has a history of cocaine addiction, checked into rehab just weeks after they tied the knot. “I do tend to be a bit daydreamy,” she says. “I go with the flow and I am not a huge analyzer. For instance, I don’t sit down and strategize things, mostly because I just can’t be bothered, which has its pluses and its minuses,” she laughs.
It follows then that Kidman admits to being quite fond of the “gypsy life”, as she puts it. “I like the idea of not knowing what’s around the corner. With the children, I think it’s good to expose them to different environments, different people and different countries,” she says, referencing time they have spent living in France, Morocco and Australia. “We move a lot—it’s just part of our family.”
“I love seeing the world through my children’s eyes—the whole balance they provide and joy they bring. They’re very pure, very emotional and very immediate, and they won’t allow anything other than the moment to exist. I do believe we should think more that way as adults.” All of that means, professionally, Kidman finds herself at a time in life where she can approach roles with a much greater sense of abandon. ““I have achieved a lot and afforded myself the opportunity to pursue fascinating characters, strong women, compelling role models. I’ve always wanted to be like that but I think you have to get to a certain point where you realize there is nothing to lose, and what you have can’t be taken away from you anyway.”
Kidman continues: “Life is about achieving things, not counting down the days to the end… so as long as I am moving forward and, in my mind, achieving a lot of what I set out to do, then great.
I sometimes have to remind myself that if you’ve achieved something you should just stand there and congratulate yourself, and to hell with what’s still to come. In my case… amazing—I am a character actor, that was my goal… I did it.”