In her new film, Nicole Kidman plays a tormented, wholly unglamorous cop. In an interview, the Hollywood actor talks about mothering, her aversion to texting, and altering her appearance.
Mrs. Kidman, The #MeToo movement was started over a year ago to take a stand against the sexual harassment of women. Has it made any progress in the meantime?
I’ve been advocating for stronger laws to prevent violence against women for over 20 years, and it’s quite obvious that many things have recently changed. Men are treating women very differently, and I have so much influence now that I think I can help and really make a difference. This includes supporting female directors’ projects, like Karyn Kusama’s film Destroyer.
In that movie, you play a troubled cop, Erin Bell, who is haunted by something that happened in her past. Have you ever been in trouble with the law?
No, luckily for me! But it meant I had to do a lot of preparation, like overcome my fear of guns and learn how to handle them. I was trained by army instructors and spent weeks doing target practice.
Were you a rebel when you were young?
Sure, I was pretty headstrong as a teenager. I’m naturally curious, so I always wanted to know what was taking place behind closed doors. That actually helped me follow my dream. I was determined to become an actor, so I had to learn to combine my stubbornness with a tactical approach in order to get what I wanted. It helped that I had a good sense for when it was time to strike a compromise with my parents.
Do you understand your mother better in retrospect, now that you have children of your own?
I understand life much better! I know what it means to raise children, to be patient and to love them unconditionally. To want to protect your family and be afraid of losing someone. I know how difficult it is to let your child make mistakes in order to learn from them. You cannot always save or protect your child from doing the wrong thing.
Raising children is hard work …
Yes, it sometimes takes a huge amount of effort! But you learn that you would do anything for your children, give everything up and change everything for them. What’s most difficult of all is always wanting the best for your children. But protecting them from pain and suffering is not always in their best interest. Finding the middle road is incredibly hard for a mother.
First you made Aquaman, then Boy Erased, now Destroyer: How does a mother of four find the time to make so many movies in such quick succession?
My family comes with me. We don’t like being separated for very long. So we became modern nomads, always on the road and with a private tutor in tow. When we’re at home, though, the kids go to a regular school.
Is having such a supportive family what allows you to take on difficult, sometimes traumatic parts, in the first place?
Absolutely! I have a fantastic husband who is the mainstay of my career. What I mean is that Keith is a real man, not just a grown-up-looking boy. He’s pragmatic and makes smart decisions. I wouldn’t be able to manage any of it without him.
Is it true that the two of you never text?
Yes, that way we have to talk. If we have something to say to each other, we call each other on the phone. I want to hear his voice when we’re discussing things. It’s easier to understand someone’s tone of voice than to interpret a text message. When they’re in a passionate relationship, people often fight over misunderstandings that wouldn’t have taken place if they had talked.
For the movie Destroyer, you changed your appearance to the point of unrecognizability. Aren’t you even a little vain?
I like to dress up and wear pretty clothes, which is what I would call a healthy form of vanity. Bu I will do anything for a role! It actually felt fantastic to look so worn out and broken. I walked differently, talked differently, and nobody recognized me on the street. It was very interesting to observe people’s reactions when they didn’t immediately recognize me as Nicole Kidman. I was practically invisible.
My husband is fantastic, he’s a real man, not just a grown-up-looking boy
Was it, shall we say, difficult for you to turn 50?
It isn’t easy because my children are still small. I’m the oldest mom in my seven-year-old daughter’s class. My hope, of course, is that I will be able to be there for my kids for a long time. I want to see them get married and meet my grandchildren. But most importantly of all, I want to maintain my enthusiastic approach to life.
What was the best decision you ever made?
No question about it: to get married and start a family. Being an actor is not as glamorous as it appears. Even the night after I won an Oscar, I went back to my hotel room and found myself alone, like Cinderella after the ball. That was extreme.
You and your husband, Keith Urban, have lived near Nashville, Tennessee, since 2007. How do people there react to you and your family?
Most of them couldn’t care less. They might glance at us briefly, but nobody makes a fuss.
Did you move to the area because your husband is a musician and Nashville is a country music mecca?
When I got married, it didn’t matter where we lived as far as my job was concerned, but for Keith and his work, Nashville was naturally important, and he’s been there for 20 years. But the area suits me, too: I like to ride and work in the garden, where I grow roses and vegetables. I like country life, honestly.