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In the past year, Nicole Kidman could be seen everywhere — from the big to the small screen. Nominated for an Emmy for best actress in a limited series or a television movie for her work in HBO’s Big Little Lies, Kidman also starred in three films that played at the Cannes Film Festival (The Killing of a Sacred Deer, How to Talk to Girls at Parties and Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled) and, along with Big Little Lies, appears on the second season of Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake.
Just before she took off for Australia to begin shooting Aquaman in late July, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Kidman about her busy year and what she’d hope for Celeste (who fought to regain her freedom from an abusive husband in the first season) if Big Little Lies does return for another season.
What surprised you the most about the way your character was received?
I was just amazed at how people emotionally responded to her, really felt protective and attached to her. The thing with Celeste and the way in which her story unfolds — it takes time in a series. So initially I think people were like “Hmm, OK” — it’s not until the end of episode two where you start to delve and dig deep into her psyche. A lot of it was more just taking the time, waiting.
What was the biggest challenge for you when it comes to how Celeste changed over the season?
Probably the hardest part of doing a limited series is shooting out of sequence. You have to track the emotional arc of the character over seven hours, whereas in a film you have a much shorter amount of time to do that. So that’s probably the most difficult thing is knowing where you’re at for each scene so that you’re really building—and particularly a character like Celeste where you’re only peeling back layers at different times and you’re only getting glimpses of who she really is—that was a high-wire act.
If there is a season two, what do you hope for Celeste?
I would like to see her heal, of course. But there’s the idealized version and then there’s the truthful version. Her life had an enormous amount of truth in it even though it was wrapped in a very sort of, I suppose, sugary, frosty kind of presentation. When you dig underneath that, the truth is what’s compelling and scary at times — sort of rigorously honest. I would hope that that’s the way we would continue to take it.
You spoke in Cannes about your intention to work with a female director every 18 months. You have Rebecca Miller’s film coming up, but who else would you like to work with?
I’m already circling some things. But until they’re really happening I try not to say, but I’ve got my eye on a few — or they’ve sought me out. So it’ll be very easy to keep that. I know so many women who are directing now. And there will not be a problem. And I’m very happy to do it because I want to. I keep saying as much as we all talk about it, we have to do it. We have to instigate the change ourselves. And I always say statistically it’s still really bad. I’d love to go “oh it’s all so different suddenly in the 18 months or two years that we’ve been having these discussions, it’s all flipped and you know Wonder Woman with Patty Jenkins did it and it’s all roses now.” It’s not. And that needs to be emphasized, not because it’s negative but because we have to keep working toward it. No one can rest on their laurels, and everyone has to keep working together to instigate the change.
This past year seems to have been one of the busiest of your career.
I did four projects last year. Insane. But actually, it was extraordinary. It will probably never happen again in my life. They were so different when you look at Big Little Lies and then Top of the Lake and then The Beguiled and Killing of a Sacred Deer. And just prior to that I did Photograph 51 onstage. So it was five things in a row that are just diametrically opposed. And that is for me as an actor is what I’ve always looked for, sought and desired, because I’ve always said I’m a character actor. I want to create characters. I also want to work with auteurs, and I got to do that. I mean, the strength alone of those directors and of what they represent, is — that was just an amazing year. This year I’ve really slowed down. I’ve been on holiday for four months. So much of being an actor is only what you’re given the opportunity. Big Little Lies was something we were able to create an opportunity for ourselves, but with the other things you’re waiting. You’re waiting for someone to say “hey, are you interested?” We’re very much on the receiving end as actors.
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