The Record
27 May 2001
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Kidman's Just Fine On Her Own

This has been a tough three weeks for Nicole Kidman. Fresh from her split with ex-husband-to-be Tom Cruise, Kidman traveled to the Cannes Film Festival to help promote her new musical, "Moulin Rouge." She then did three days' worth of interviews in London and an "Oprah" taping. Now she's in Los Angeles, spending Mother's Day with three dozen reporters.

But Kidman isn't singing the blues.

"My kids are with me here in the hotel," she says, referring to adopted children Isabella, 8, and Connor, 6. "We all got up this morning and they'd made me presents. I got homemade candles, personally decorated by Isabella and Connor Cruise. So, I've had a bit of a Mother's Day."

Kidman might be Hollywood's most famous single mother. Since February, when Cruise reportedly "shocked" his wife with the announcement that their 10-year marriage was about to come to an end, the 33-year-old actress has been under constant media scrutiny.

Despite suffering a miscarriage in March and being involved in a messy, contentious divorce, Kidman maintains she's holding up just fine. "I'm doing great," she says. "But thanks for asking."

Clad in a red-and-white-striped T-shirt and form-fitting blue jeans, Kidman makes it clear she's not willing to address the rumors surrounding her breakup with Cruise. "I'm going to take the high road," she says quietly during an interview at L'Ermitage Hotel.

But she's more than happy to discuss how the split might affect her career: "A lot of my life is different now. I think I'll be making different choices."

Next month, she'll spend a couple of weeks playing Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry's adaptation of Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Hours."

"That's the next thing I'm doing because it's a supporting role," says Kidman, who will also be seen this August in the Cruise-produced supernatural thriller "The Others." "Finding time to do things will be a little bit tougher now."

According to Kidman's "Moulin Rouge" director and fellow Aussie Baz Luhrmann, the actress is looking forward to making changes in her lifestyle. "It's been push, push, push for the last 10 years," he says. "I think she wants to slow down. She's got the kids. She'll select projects that are good for her and her life now. Nicole wants to define herself as a single person, rather than as half of Hollywood's royal couple."

Kidman is off to a good start with "Moulin Rouge," a visual feast set around the Bohemian nightlife of painter Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) and his wild and crazy, absinthe-sipping pals. Kidman plays a famous showgirl-courtesan named Satine, and Ewan McGregor is the penniless writer who falls under her spell.

Set to the music of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Madonna, Elton John, Nirvana, Paul McCartney, and T. Rex, the movie opens Friday in area theaters.

The riskiness of making a $50 million musical is what instantly appealed to Kidman. "I figured the movie would either work, or I'd fall flat on my face," she says. "I'm sort of drawn to projects like that."

Luhrmann was drawn to Kidman after catching her performance in the Broadway production of "The Blue Room." At the conclusion of the show, he sent her a dozen red roses and a note that said, "I have this great character for you. She sings, she dances, and then she dies."

"That piqued my interest," Kidman says with a laugh.

When she first met with Luhrmann, he didn't have a script or even an outline, just a notebook bursting with drawings and poems. "Baz told me the story wasn't set in stone," Kidman recalls. "He said, 'It's going to evolve and change. I will need a six-month commitment prior to the actual shoot so we can workshop it. That's my process. Take it or leave it.' I said yes, and then he made me audition."

After finally winning the role, Kidman began studying classic American musicals, all the while developing newfound respect for Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse, Marlene Dietrich, and Rita Hayworth.

The actress also joined McGregor for months of singing and dancing lessons. By the end of the process, the duo could tango and cancan to everything from "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" to the Police's "Roxanne."

"Ewan and I sat down the first day of the initial workshop, and 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, and we also have to help each other through this because it's going to be a long road,'" Kidman says.

"And it was."

Like the classic songfests of yore -- think "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "Bandwagon" -- "Moulin Rouge's" plot is propelled forward by its musical numbers. When characters break into song, it's because they're struggling to express something that's beyond words.

"Baz said, 'When the singing starts, I don't want the audience to go, well come on now, let's get back to the story,'" Kidman says. "Baz wanted to keep the plot and the emotions being depicted very alive during the songs so that people wouldn't get bored, and I think he achieved it. That's the one thing that I haven't heard anyone say about this movie -- that it's boring."

Although it's set in Paris, "Moulin Rouge" was filmed over five sound stages at Fox Studios Australia. The shooting schedule was frequently grueling. After a long day filming the "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" number, Kidman fell down a small flight of stairs and tore the cartilage behind her knee. She cracked a rib twice during a dance rehearsal. She was in such pain that she shot her final close-ups on crutches.

Kidman is used to suffering for her art. With the exception of a handful of commercial choices -- "Days of Thunder" with Cruise, "Batman Returns," "The Peacemaker," and "Practical Magic"-- she seems to be drawn to challenging fare.

She played a woman obsessed with becoming a TV personality in Gus Van Sant's "To Die For." She was a Henry James heroine in Jane Campion's "The Portrait of a Lady." And she toiled for nearly three years making "Eyes Wide Shut" for the late filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.

"I consider myself unbelievably fortunate that directors like Kubrick and Baz are asking to work with me. I think part of the reason they cast me is because they know they're going to get someone who will dedicate themselves totally to helping them put across their vision.

"I feel very privileged and still very excited to be able to do that, and I think that I will always be excited to be able to do that.

"The one thing that has changed for me lately is my desire to work frequently. I mean, I don't feel the same as I did when I was younger. Then, I felt as if I had to work, work, work, and meet people and travel. Now I realize there's more to life.

"When I'm 85 and I'm on my deathbed, I want to be able to look back and say, 'I didn't just act, I lived. I traveled the world. I learned to speak Italian fluently. I was a great cook. I was a great mother.'"