Nicole Kidman started with small roles in her native Australia, garnering considerable attention after playing the lead in the Aussie thriller Dead Calm. Hollywood soon beckoned, though she spent several years on middling, unremarkable projects like Billy Bathgate and Days of Thunder. She shattered that perception with 1995’s To Die For, playing a murderous weather girl who convinces a dippy teenager to kill her husband. A rich variety of roles in all conceivable genres soon followed, along with an Oscar for 2002’s The Hours. Still going strong, she shifts gears again this March, playing a widow with serious family issues in Park Chan-wook’s Gothic drama Stoker. She spoke to the press during a recent junket for the film, expounding upon her new role and working under a Korean director.
Question: What was it about your character that drew you to her?
Nicole Kidman: Primarily it was the combination of the cast and director. [Park Chan-wook ] I really knew his films and wanted to work with him, and I thought this script was perfect for his direction. I saw the finished film at Sundance and just thought “wow.” A good wow. [Laughs.]
I loved the dinner scenes in particular, the scenes at the table. There’s humor in them, and I think they reveal a lot about my character. I don’t think Evie’s evil. She’s just starved for love. She has a child who doesn’t connect with her. It started when India was a baby, and Evie trying to hold a baby that doesn’t want to be held. That’s horrifying as a mother. Then you just build that up for eighteen years and you arrive at Evie’s position in the movie. And you add a little jealousy because India has a much deeper connection to her father. They go hunting together and Evie doesn’t like hunting. That’s the thrust of her, that desperate need for a connection. Can you imagine asking your own child, “who are you?” To be that disconnected from your own daughter? It’s horrifying to think about.
I also loved the scene where Evie confronts India, where I say “I can’t wait for life to tear you apart.” As an actor, you just don’t want that scene to end, it’s so marvelous. To make it, because of the really intense way director Park shoots. The camera was very close, and we shot it in one shot, which is great as an actor because you get to play out the emotions. I was just very grateful that he had the confidence in me to be able to do it.
Q: When you have a cast that speaks a different language than the director, does it aid or hinder projects like this?
NK: You very quickly stop thinking about it. The language of film is universal, and director Park speaks it so beautifully. There were times when you had to clarify things, because obviously different particular words have subtle meanings. Sometimes it would just be me going “is this exactly what you want?” because something was getting lost in the translation. But that didn’t come about very often. Director Park’s strength lies in atmosphere, which the script had in huge amounts. The language of the images came through with him, as much or more than the dialogue. When I met with him, I was impressed by the extraordinary detail he brought to each image, the density of the images. And that came through regardless of the language you were speaking.
Q: Do you get struck by seeing your own movies like that?
NK: Oh yes, all the time. I sometimes have a hard time watching my own work because all you see are the flaws, you know? Call it an actor’s insecurities. But this one… I was amazed at the filmmaking. You don’t see filmmaking that often. And scenes I wasn’t in. You’re struck by little details and the layers. You know, on set they say “we’re just going to shoot you brushing your hair,” and you don’t think much of it. Then you see how it’s integrated in the film and you can see the richness and the depth of the director’s vision for the first time. That kind of richness is 1) hard to do without becoming pretentious and 2) sort of the purest form of cinema because it’s almost entirely visual and yet it has the same richness and depth of language. You really should be able to make a movie with no dialogue and still tell the story. I think that’s what Park should do next!