Planet Hollywood Online
31 May 2001
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PLANET Q&A: Part Nicole Kidman, Part Satine
Interview by Prairie Miller

You might say that Nicole Kidman has her hands full with Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge. Besides having to tackle singing and dancing in this very unusual modern take on turn-of-the-century can-can obsessed Paris, Kidman now has to face down the press, not only about the movie, but about her recent breakup with Tom Cruise. Nicole spoke to about the emotional connection she felt to the alluring, but tragic courtesan Satine that she plays in Moulin Rouge, and the new and adventurous directions she hopes to take her life in the uncertain but challenging future...

NICOLE KIDMAN: Forgive me if I'm a little incoherent, I have jet lag. I just got back from Cannes, and then I have to go on the Oprah show...

PLANET HOLLYWOOD: Moulin Rouge seems like a movie that is either going to work, or fall flat on its face. What made you decide to take that risk?

NK: I think it was just that, you know, the risk of it. I'm sort of drawn to things like that. And I also have a great belief in Baz as a director. I've known him and I've known his work, for many years.

Baz sent me some flowers back stage, when I was doing this play. There was a note saying, I have this great character for you. She sings, she dances, and then...she dies! And that peaked my interest.

Then I met with Baz. He didn't have a script, but he had this book full of ideas, pictures and drawings of what he kind of wanted the feel and the atmosphere of the movie to be. And the story, but he told me that the story is set isn't set in stone, and that it will evolve and change with the work that we'll do prior, so that I would need to give a six month commitment before the actual shoot. And he said, 'That's my process, so take it or leave it.' And then he made me audition!

But when I finished Moulin Rouge, it was like pulling a donkey. I was like digging my heels in so much, because I just didn't want to leave.

PH: Are you serious about doing Oprah?

NK: She loves the movie!

PH: Now what about all those injuries you got on the set of Moulin Rouge?

NK: I'm really embarrassed by my injuries, it makes me out to be such a wimp. I broke my rib in the rehearsal process. And Ewan McGregor is very proud to say that he broke it -- and he said that I'm allowed to say that! We were doing this dance sequence, where I had to jump in his arms. And neither of us -- especially Ewan! -- are trained dancers. It was just the way he caught me. But it wasn't a full break. It was a small crack, as they described it.

Then they put me in a corset a little too soon, and rebroke it -- and that was at the beginning of the film! I got through the next six months fine, but in the last two weeks, I fell down the stairs. I was doing the "Diamonds" number, which is actually at the beginning of the film. I mean, we had three days to shoot it, so we had to work seventeen hours a day. And at about one in the morning, we were really tired, but we had to get the shot and I was like, 'Yeah, yeah, we'll just do one more take.'

Now I replay that moment in my head. I was like in these huge heels, and I just fell down the stairs and tore the cartilege behind my knee cap. But it is getting better! It's a really painful injury. It's actually a football type injury, they said. So is the broken rib.

PH: Ouch! You're a woman who thrives on challenges. What were the major challenges of Moulin Rouge, and how terrified were you?

NK: In terms of getting the role, I was just absolutely floored. I was so excited because it meant to get a role where you actually have the possibility of doing something so unusual, you know, playing this extraordinary character and what Baz was going to try and achieve with her.

So I just went, 'Wow, this is like such a gift.' And then the reality of doing it set in. When we got to Sydney it was like, 'Okay, now we're just going to do a retro.' But with the retro and the musical, you're not just reading lines, you've got to sing. And you've got to sing unaccompanied, and hope you're... in the right key!

It's very confronting, and it leaves you feeling very exposed, but that's what is brilliant about Baz, you know? He actually pushes you early on in the piece, so that by the time you start to film, you're so comfortable with what you're doing, that you're ready to try anything and do anything.

Ewan and I sat down in the first few days of the initial workshop, which was a two week workshop. We just looked at each other and said we have got to be willing to make complete and utter fools of ourselves in front of each other, at any time. And we also have to help each other through this because it's going to be a long road, and Baz is really going to push us at times. We're going to be getting frustrated, and feeling that we're no good, and all that stuff, so let's really be great mates. That's what we sort of promised to each other, and what I think we accomplished.

PH: What did you connect to in your character Satine?

NK: I think that classic woman, who doesn't want to fall in love. She allows herself to fall in love, is overcome by love and then loses her life, that's the classic, tragic love story and I think that sustains emotionally for years. I mean, people will still see it in fifty years' time because it just rings true as a tragedy.

Baz describes it far more eloquently, because he's thought it out, but I think he just wanted to make a tragic love story, and now you watch it sort of come to life. As an actress, that's one of the great arcs to play. And Satine's one line in the film, "I make men believe what they want to believe," that's her job, that's what she's been used to doing, it's what she knows how to do, and that's why she can't act on her own emotions.

And the thing that really appealed to me about her as a character, is that she's a woman who is trapped. She's trapped in a world that she can't control and she's allowed almost everything, but the one thing she is not allowed is to fall in love.

Satine knows that, which is why she says, 'I'll never, ever allow that.' Then suddenly this young man is there saying, 'I love you, I adore you,' and you can believe in it. You can throw yourself into it, and trust him. I mean, I loved the conflict of that, and the romance of that.

PH: Is there any of Nicole Kidman in Satine?

NK: Yeah, at times. For me as an actor, you have to find truth, and you have to find what is in yourself that you can bring to the character because otherwise, it doesn't resonate. So ultimately, is it you? No. Are there elements of you? Yes.

And I think that's what great directors do. They pull out, or they see parts of you that they can focus on, augment, and use and manipulate. And you, as an actor, allow that to happen.

PH: What is your take on the significance of the Moulin Rouge in the movie?

NK: What Baz wanted the Moulin Rouge to represent in the movie, is this kind of decadent and wild place, you know, where you can lose your identity and live out your fantasies. I think a lot of people feel, 'Gosh, I wish there were something a little more like that now!'

PH: Do you have any musicals that are your own personal favorites?

NK: Rita Hayworth is it! I just watch her and think, 'Wow!' She's so beautiful, so charismatic, and an extraordinary dancer. I mean, she just takes your breath away as a performer.

With all those women -- before -- I used to be like, 'Yeah, okay.' I hadn't really paid much attention, I have to say. But now I look at Marlene, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, I mean they're all extraordinary. And Ginger Rogers I think is so undervalued, in terms of what she did for Fred Astaire. So, I have enormous respect for all those women now. Just their talent... they're incredible!

Because Moulin Rouge is also a post modern musical, as Baz describes it, Madonna is there too. There are like all these references through the movie. Half the time I wasn't even aware of all of them because I was focusing on my character, and just finding the truth of her.

PH: What exactly was Baz like as this highly unusual and eccentric director?

NK: Well, there were times when it was like a nightmare, and then I would just throw myself into it and go, 'Okay Baz, you think it's going to work, so here goes.' And sometimes I still think, 'I can't believe we really tried all that stuff we did.' But that was what was fun about it because in terms of Baz as a director, he's really enthusiastic.

He's very naive though, in his approach to things because he just thinks that... anything is possible! Though that's a beautiful kind of director to work with. You know, somebody who has not been jaded yet, who isn't cynical, and who still has this great belief in trying things. And even if it's on film and it's going to be there forever, 'Hey, what have you got to lose?' And that's refreshing.

PH: Have you always chosen your movies for their artistic value?

NK: I've never chosen a role for the money. Wait, that's not true. I did choose something once for money. See, I've got to be honest! But ultimately at the time, it just wasn't satisfying for me, and it just wasn't worth it.

But I will only choose roles if I feel it's something different and good. Sometimes it's going to work and sometimes it won't, but I like the idea of trying.

PH: Are you as girlishly enthusiastic about making movies now as when you started out?

NK: Womanly enthusiastic now! ...No, I'm joking. Enthusiastic, yeah. No, passionate, I would say. I just love to act. I'm committed to it. I think it's a great art form and I believe that even in this day and age, that you can still be passionate about it.

I feel very privileged and still very excited to be able to do that. I think I'll always be excited about doing that, but one thing that has changed for me is my desire not to work frequently. When I was younger, it was like there's this huge world out there, and I get to work and work. But as you get older, you start to choose. And you get tired more easily. And also, I think you just say, 'You know something? There's just so much more to life, there are so many more things that I want to do.' When I'm on my death bed, I want to be able to look back and say I didn't just act, I lived! I traveled the world. I'm a great cook, and I was a great mother.

And I also just want to say thank you for not asking me, you know, too much. So, just thank you.