Lover . . . writer . . . fighter.. .

Why Ni­cole Kid­man chose to make a tele- movie

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - ME­GAN LEHMANN

WHEN Ni­cole Kid­man set out to re­search the char­ac­ter of trail­blaz­ing war cor­re­spon­dent Martha Gellhorn, she dis­cov­ered a woman who out­Hem­ing­way- ed Hem­ing­way with her pluck, pas­sion and abil­ity to hold her liquor.

‘‘ This woman was re­mark­able,’’ says Kid­man, who has picked up an Emmy Award nom­i­na­tion for her role in the hand­somely shot HBO biopic Hem­ing­way & Gellhorn.

‘‘ She had ex­tra­or­di­nary spirit and tenac­ity and com­pas­sion and she wanted to see the atroc­i­ties of the world and give voice to the voice­less.

‘‘ I wanted her story to be told be­cause, re­ally, she was de­fined as [ Ernest] Hem­ing­way’s third wife and when you know about her you go, ‘ Hold on! No, no, no, this woman was re­mark­able and that mar­riage was a very small part of her life’.’’

The 45- year- old Os­car- win­ner plays Gellhorn from age 28 up to her late 70s ( scenes for which she spent four hours in make- up) in a per­for­mance that is never less than riv­et­ing.

Hem­ing­way & Gellhorn traces the com­bustible, erot­i­cally charged re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two 20th cen­tury writ­ers, whose love af­fair and five- year mar­riage played out against some of his­tory’s most tur­bu­lent times.

From the mo­ment they meet, in 1936 in Hem­ing­way’s Key West hang­out Sloppy Joe’s, they seem set upon a pre- des­tined path.

The uber- mas­cu­line Hem­ing­way ( played by Clive Owen) is mar­ried but, when he and Gellhorn later find them­selves thrown to­gether in a Madrid ho­tel dur­ing the Span­ish Civil War, their sim­mer­ing pas­sion is awak­ened lead­ing to a sur­pris­ingly graphic sex scene.

‘‘ I couldn’t tell you for sure how far they were go­ing to go in those scenes and they went . . . far,’’ says di­rec­tor

Philip Kauf­man ( The Right Stuff, The Un­bear­able Light­ness of Be­ing.)

Kid­man and Owen are com­pletely naked in the scene and, for Kid­man at least, the mo­ment re­quired brav­ery wor­thy of the in­trepid Gellhorn.

When it’s sug­gested that this scene – along with her ex­plicit scenes in The

Pa­per­boy, which pre­miered along­side H& G at Cannes Film Fes­ti­val ear­lier this year – shows her in com­pletely fear­less mode, the mother- of- four dis­agrees.

‘‘ Oh no, I have a tremen­dous amount of fear,’’ she says.

‘‘ But I just push through it. I don’t even know how to de­scribe it, like I’ll feel ter­ri­fied but then I’ll just go, ‘ So what’s the worst that can hap­pen?’’

Gellhorn is con­sid­ered one of the great­est war correspondents of the 20th cen­tury, hav­ing re­ported on nearly ev­ery ma­jor world con­flict dur­ing her 60- year ca­reer but, like many out­side the world of jour­nal­ism, Kid­man had not heard of her.

‘‘ I read the script and that’s when I dis­cov­ered Martha,’’ she says.

‘‘ I called Phil [ Kauf­man] and said, ‘ I don’t care when you shoot it, how you shoot it, you just tell me when and where and I’ll be there’.’’

A crash course on the hard- boiled jour­nal­ist saw Kid­man watch­ing film of her, study­ing pho­tos and read­ing her let­ters. She was so im­pressed with the type of work Gellhorn un­der­took that she ded­i­cated the Cannes screening of

Hem­ing­way & Gellhorn to an­other famed war cor­re­spon­dent, Marie Colvin, who was killed while cov­er­ing the up­ris­ing in Syria ear­lier this year.

‘‘ I re­ally try to en­ter into the psy­chol­ogy of the per­son, the wiring of the per­son,’’ Kid­man says. ‘‘ I’ve al­ways had the abil­ity since I was a child to be able to imag­ine. I have an in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful imag­i­na­tion and I can emo­tion­ally at­tach, which is also

dan­ger­ous. But I think it’s the thing that helps me with act­ing.’’

Per­haps more sur­pris­ingly, Kid­man had never read Hem­ing­way, fa­mous for lit­er­ary

clas­sics such as The Sun Also

Rises, A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea.

‘‘ Be­ing Aus­tralian, Hem­ing­way was not a big part of our school cur­ricu­lum,’’ she says. ‘‘ I was a Jane Austen fan, I was a Bronte sis­ters fan – Hem­ing­way was off in the dis­tance.

‘‘ But when I heard Martha had in­spired For Whom the Bell Tolls, I went off and I then read that and he’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary writer and now, God yes, [ I’m a fan].’’

Kid­man, who has two young girls with her hus­band Keith Ur­ban and a son and a daugh­ter with ex- hus­band Tom Cruise, says that her own life goals dif­fer greatly to the child­less, fiercely in­de­pen­dent Gellhorn.

‘‘ I want to raise chil­dren, I love rais­ing chil­dren,’’ she says. ‘‘ But she is a great role model and whether you be­lieve in ‘ OK, you’re go­ing to choose to be alone and only have a ca­reer’, whether that’s right or wrong, who cares, there’s an in­cred­i­bly vi­tal story there.

‘‘ I think Martha and Hem­ing­way to­gether were fan­tas­tic and dev­as­tat­ing. They in­spired each other, they ig­nited each other, they both taught each other.

‘‘ Heming way says, ‘ Come on, Gellhorn! Get in the ring and start throw­ing some punches for what you be­lieve in.’ I love that line.’’

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