Star is busier and more celebrated than ever but finds time to push for change in Hollywood — and make a suggestion for Martin Scorsese.
Nicole Kidman is the picture of serenity.
The Hawaii-born Aussie actress seems completely at ease, as she arrives in a bright dress for an interview during TIFF 2017, despite the madness of the festival all around her and a year of multiple movies, TV shows and awards ceremonies, including the Oscars (she was nominated for Lion) and the Emmys (she won for Big Little Lies).
The Toronto International Film Festival is a relative breeze for her — she has just one movie to promote. Compare this to the nuthouse that was Cannes back in May, where Kidman, who turned 50 a month later, was the festival’s most visible star, strolling the red carpet outside the Palais des Festivals no fewer than four times.
Her Cannes work included two dramatic Palme d’Or competitors (Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled), an out-of-competition rom-com (John Cameron Mitchell’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties) and a TV detective series (Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake: China Girl).
“I know!” she says with a smile, when I remind her of Cannes.
“I was there for five days, which is very unusual. I went in with trepidation, because I was like, ‘I’m either going to the chopping block right now, or it’s going to be fun.’ And it turned out to be fun.
“I’ve worked now for so many years, and if I can’t have fun and laugh a bit and enjoy it, then why do it? I know where my heart is in terms of filmmaking and what I love doing. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Funny she should mention hearts. The film that brings the Oscar-winner actress to TIFF, the horror drama The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which opened in regular theatres Friday, has one of these essential organs on display in its opening moments, as a surgeon performs coronary surgery.
The doctor is played by Colin Farrell, who also co-starred with Kidman in the Civil War drama The Beguiled. In Lanthimos’ tale the two play a married couple whose family is visited with a curse straight out of Greek tragedy.
It’s a disturbing movie, but also a very good one, exactly the kind of off-kilter story that the Greek writer/director likes to do, and the kind of thing that really appeals to Kidman these days, as she remains fully engaged in an acting career that’s nearing the 35-year mark.
“I would love for The Killing of a Sacred Deer to reach the audiences it needs to find,” she says. “I’m a supporter of filmmakers that have a particular vision and a voice, international filmmakers. Because otherwise we end up diluted and homogenized and I don’t like that.”
She’s also a staunch advocate of getting more women to direct movies, something she made plain from the Cannes stage, as she expressed impatience with male-dominated Hollywood’s slow pace of change.
“We as women have to support female directors,” Kidman said in Cannes.
“That’s just a given now. Hopefully, that will change over time. Everyone keeps saying, ‘Oh, it’s so different now.’ It isn’t. Listen to that.”
Kidman had a lot of fun just before travelling to TIFF from Australia, where she’s been co-starring in the superhero blockbuster Aquaman for director James Wan, who is best known for horror films like The Conjuring.
“I had the coolest costumes. I love horror films. I love to feel. I like to be disturbed, I like to scream, I love to cry, I love to laugh, I love to feel love, I love to be. I’m a feeler. I feel my way through life.”
She has more to say about her work and the movie business, and more awards to collect: not long after this TIFF interview, Kidman was picking up a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for Big Little Lies, the hit TV murder-mystery series by Canada’s Jean-Marc Vallée that is yet another of her recent projects.
You’ve now worked with dozens of well-known directors in just about every kind of movie imaginable, big and small. Is there any director you haven’t made a film with yet whom you would like to?
I will always say that Martin Scorsese needs to make a movie about a woman. I wouldn’t mind being Scorsese’s woman. He did one, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, so you never know. There are so many directors whom I still aspire to work with, and I also love supporting new directors, the ones who are just coming out of nowhere. Giving them a chance to start is exciting as well. I’m also dedicated to working with women, which I have set up to do for next year, so that’s taken care of.
Do you find there’s a difference between how male and female directors make movies?
No, there isn’t, really. They’re either talented or they’re not. I would love to say that it’s gender based, but I just feel like women should be given the opportunity. They can still completely lead. They have incredibly strong visions. They’re capable of handling everything that gets thrown at them, and I still don’t understand why they don’t have the opportunities. I have a 9-year-old daughter who wants to be a director.
I’m really passionate about opening the doors for women now, because they need to be. When you look at statistics showing that just four per cent of the Top 100 grossing movies of the last year were directed by women, that’s ridiculous. But there’s really no difference between male and female directors, other than a woman is probably interested in different aspects of who I am, and a man is interested in different aspects of who I am.
Do you think there’s a “male gaze” and a “female gaze” in how people make and view movies?
Yes, probably. With someone like Jane Campion, absolutely. Jane Campion is incredibly female in the sense of the way in which she enters into female conversations, or even the way men converse, because she’s writing the screenplay. So it’s from her point of view, specifically. But a lot of times the screenplay’s written by a man, and then it’s interpreted by a woman. Those collisions are important and interesting and that’s why we’re fighting for them — and when it’s a female writer and a female director at the same time, that’s a whole different viewpoint.
The actual leading and the conducting of themselves on the set, nothing’s different. But the way in which they view the world is obviously different.
You’ve become an evangelist of sorts for film.
I wish I had more time. I have two little girls (Sunny and Faith), and I have a husband (country star Keith Urban) whom I’m deeply in love with, a cool guy and a good man, and we have a very strong family unit that requires an enormous amount. So I don’t have the time to go and support all of the artistic endeavours I would love to do. I want my family and I want the balance. I’m glad that when I got pregnant with Sunny I didn’t give everything up. Because I was like, “That’s it, I’m done now!” I was in that sort of pregnancy euphoria going, “Yes, this is it! I’m retiring.” And my mom actually said, “Don’t do that. Just keep a little toe in the water.”