‘A love letter to my adopted children’
Nicole Kidman explains why her new film, has stirred up her emotions about the children she adopted with Tom Cruise
During the past year Nicole Kidman has had what she describes as “a massive amount of work”, both as an actress and a producer. But the one thing she wanted more than anything was to accept the offer to star in the Broadway production of the award-winning play Photograph 51 which was such a success for her in the West End.
She played Rosalind Franklin, the X-ray crystallographer whose work at King’s College London in the Fifties led to the discovery of the DNA double helix. Her colleagues James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins were awarded a Nobel Prize; Franklin was not — and her significant contribution has only been acknowledged posthumously.
“It’s a great play and a great role, and I would have had an amazing time,” she says ruefully. “But we had a family meeting and my kids said ‘No’. They didn’t want to go to New York for four months — and I get it. I’m not a single girl and not a childless woman, and I need to bow down to that.”
Kidman, who has two daughters, Sunday Rose, eight, and Faith, five, with the musician Keith Urban, now lives in Nashville, but we meet to discuss her latest film, Lion, at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills. She is in the middle of a particularly hectic schedule and has taken a brief break from filming Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, a remake of the 1970 film that starred Clint Eastwood.
“I was shooting in Louisiana, got on a plane and went straight home to Nashville, so I was able to take my kids to school, spend the morning with Keith and then got on another plane to come here to Los Angeles to fulfil my obligation to Lion and then I go straight back to Louisiana again,” she says, showing no sign of fatigue or jet lag.
In Lion she plays a real-life Australian, Susan Brierley, who, with her husband, adopted two Indian boys and raised them in Hobart, Tasmania. The film is based on the book, A Long Way Home, by one of the boys, Saroo Brierley (played by Dev Patel), who was adopted after being found on the streets of Calcutta when he was five years old. Twenty-five years later, with the help of Google Earth, he set out to find his real mother in an Indian village, the name of which he could not recall.
The story has particular emotional significance for Kidman, who has a grown-up son and daughter, Connor, 21, and Isabella, 23, whom she adopted when she was married to Tom Cruise. After she and Cruise split up in 2001 Kidman shared custody of the children, but they chose to go to live with their adoptive father, were brought up as Scientologists, and over the years it has been reported that their relationship with Kidman has been vexed. Earlier this year there were stories of an emotional reunion with Isabella following her daughter’s marriage to Max Parker, an IT specialist. Asked at the time about her relationship with her parents, Isabella said, “Of course [we talk], they’re my parents. Anyone who says otherwise is full of s**t.”
“When I read the script I didn’t know it was a true story and I was still so moved,” the 49-year-old actress tells me. “I just wanted to be in it. I hadn’t played an Australian woman like this, so it was my way of connecting back to my country. And I loved the message of unconditional love.
“The movie is a love letter to my children who are adopted and it’s not about anything other than ‘ I wanted you and whatever your journey is, I’m here to love and support you’. That’s what I connected to. I wanted to make the film for them.
“When you are an adoptive mother, of course you think about the birth mother and the birth parents and what it all means and how our lives are intertwined in some way, whether the child chooses to find the birth parents or not.”
I sense a desire for reconciliation in Kidman and indeed a few weeks after we speak she gives an interview to an American magazine where she talks in glowing terms about the first time she met Tom Cruise in an audition for Days of Thunder (“He got out of the car and walked through and I was like, ‘Ah’. My jaw dropped”); and about their subsequent marriage and adoption of Connor and Isabella (“It was a beautiful marriage and all of those things that came out of it. Two beautiful children. The rest is history.”)
For the last 10 years Kidman has Lion
been settled in Nashville with Urban. “I love it there, I really do,” she says. “I am lucky because I travel, but in terms of a home base, it’s so good for us. It’s very quiet and easy, and it’s just a really lovely way of life. Keith has lived there for 25 years. So when I met him he said, ‘How do you feel about Nashville?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely, I will move’. And I did, but I think I could move pretty much anywhere if I loved somebody. I’m not attached to an environment — I am probably far more attached to a person. So having to move somewhere would never be a dealbreaker for me.
“It’s an easy, simple life there. On weekends we’ll go to people’s houses and everybody is around the piano and playing the guitar and singing. For me, the highlight is being around a whole different type of people. I’ve been around actors and filmmakers my whole life, so now I love being around musicians and seeing what gets put into their music. I get to sit in the background and listen and watch and hum along and it’s beautiful.”
She and Urban met at an Australian promotional party in Los Angeles in January 2005 and quietly dated for several months before becoming engaged. They married in June the following year in Sydney, but four months later her new husband checked into the Betty Ford clinic in California for 90 days of rehab for alcohol abuse.
She stuck by him, encouraging him in his recovery. “I learnt an enormous amount having a relationship with someone in recovery,” she says. “We were in a bad, painful place and managed to step through it. I love him for his honesty and bravery. Simply put, he’s a wonderful, wonderful man and I’m very lucky to have him” — though as this article goes to press there are reports that she and Urban have enrolled in a $10,000 couple’s retreat.
Kidman has come through bad times — the failed marriage to Cruise, separation from her adopted children and the recent death of her father — and is now, she tells me, “down on my knees grateful for my life and truly I mean that. I don’t think I would ever have imagined this. But also, if I really think about it, what I do is make movies. I was lucky enough to get a job when I was 14 and I’m still doing pretty much exactly the same thing that I was doing then — and with the same amount of passion.”
“Lion” is out on January 20.
Of course you think about the birth mother and the birth parents and what it all means and how our lives are intertwined in some way.” Nicole Kidman, actress
Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban at the premiere of held at the MOMA in NYC.
Nicole Kidman takes an afternoon stroll with her adopted son and daughter, Connor and Isabella March.,