I meet Kidman in London a week before the play is due to open and she’s terrified about her coming role. She has gone back to her roots, exercising a whole set of skills and muscles she’d forgotten she had. “When I said I’d do it, I actually didn’t realise how much fear I would have,” she says. “But I’m so glad I did, because it pushed me so far out of my comfort zone and made me find that place where there’s no way to go but forward. I have to go forward.”
Based on her impressive track record, she has absolutely no reason to second-guess herself. After all, she’s certainly no stranger to the stage—the Australian actress has been performing all her life. Kidman started taking ballet lessons at the age of three, acted in plays at school and enrolled in the Australian Theatre for Young People when she was a teenager. At 16, she landed her first lead roles in film, in 1983’s Bush Christmas and BMX Bandits. Five years later, she was in Hollywood, captivating audiences around the world with one blockbuster after another. Among her numerous accolades, she has won three Golden Globe Awards, a British Academy Film Award and an Academy Award.
After a tumultuous marriage to Tom Cruise played out under the full glare of the Hollywood lights, Kidman’s life became infinitely happier and calmer when she married country singer Keith Urban. “Time is precious,” she says. “I’m incredibly fortunate to have found a partner who I have enormous synergy and love with, and we’re raising our girls together with the same ideas and morals.”
Nowadays, her life revolves around her family. “I don’t ever make a decision by myself or just for myself,” she explains. “To do something like the play—it’s a family decision. Even the four-year- old gets a say in that. Time with them is the most important thing. I know it’s a cliché, but it does go by so quickly, which is devastating. That’s why I don’t want to miss any of it.” Because Kidman has two young children (she also has two older children she adopted during her first marriage to Cruise), being based in London for the play was a sacrifice, as her family is based in Nashville, where Urban’s career is flourishing.
“It’s hard being away, but we make it work. And I love making the world feel small,” she says. “Travelling frequently, and making films in different countries and playing different nationalities—i’m not sure what defines Hollywood now. I mean, I live in Nashville and I work globally. It’s not really set up like it used to be when I was in my 30s.” It was her mother who pushed her to accept the role of Rosalind Franklin in Photograph 51. “I thought, ‘Oh, I can just stay home in Nashville.’ And she was like, ‘Do the play, Nicole,’” Kidman recalls. “At one point, I called her and said, ‘Are you crazy? This is so hard. I’m terrified. I so wish I hadn’t done this.’” But, true to form, Kidman powered through. The critical reception to her West End turn has been overwhelmingly positive. The Observer’s Susannah Clapp called it “dramatic amphetamine,” while Ben Brantley of The New York Times felt that Kidman had seldom been better cast. “Among movie stars of her generation, she stands out for the relentless determination she projects; she seduces audiences not by charm but by concentration,” he wrote. Proving that her early panic really was unfounded, Kidman was named Best Actress at the 2015 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards.
“SUPERB.” “DECISIVE.” “COMMANDING.” THOSE ARE THE WORDS BRITISH THEATRE CRITICS ARE USING TO DESCRIBE NICOLE KIDMAN’S AWARD-WINNING WEST END PERFORMANCE IN THE RECENT RUN OF ANNA ZIEGLER’S
REMOVE THE CONTEXT AND THEY COULD EASILY BE TALKING ABOUT THE ACTRESS HERSELF.