Hollywood Flashback: Nicole Kidman Took to Toronto With 'Stain' in 2003

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Nicole Kidman and director Robert Benton at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 6, 2003

The project was one of just a handful of adaptations to be made from the novels of Philip Roth. In its review, The Hollywood Reporter was taken by "a sexy performance from a red-hot" Kidman.

When the lifetime tributes start to roll in for Nicole Kidman, don’t expect more than a passing reference to 2003’s The Human Stain. The project was one of just a handful of adaptations to be made from the novels of Philip Roth (one of the most recent is 2016’s America Pastoral, directed by Ewan McGregor).

Stain followed Coleman Silk, who lives a quiet life of writing and teaching in New England until he is accused by two black students of racism for his use of the word "spooks." Forced to resign, he enters into an affair with Faunia Farley, a 34-year-old illiterate janitor at the school (that’s the Nicole Kidman part; Anthony Hopkins plays the professor).

As the story unfolds, we learn Silk is in fact an African American who has spent most of his life passing as a Jew. The tricky subject matter, which in many ways predicted the wave of identity politics to come more than a decade later, was helmed by Robert Benton, the Oscar-winning writer-director of 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer and 1984’s Places in the Heart.

In its review, The Hollywood Reporter was taken by "a sexy performance from a red-hot Nicole Kidman" but found "the story never quite jells. It manages to be convoluted and too neat at the same time." Kidman returns to TIFF with The Goldfinch, another literary adaptation, this one based on Donna Tartt’s 2013 best-seller.

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Sept. 8 daily issue at the Toronto Film Festival.