Film & TV

Nicole Kidman on The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Her Biggest Year Yet

More audacious than ever, the Australian actress has found herself in one of the richest and most productive periods of her career at 50 years-old.
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Nicole Kidman had so much going on this year that we saw her in the press several times. First, in Los Angeles, in February, for the launch of the great series Big Little Lies, which she co-produced with Reese Witherspoon and for which she won the Emmy Award for best actress. Then again in Cannes, in May, where she had come—so glamorously—to present Yórgos Lánthimos's The Killing of the Sacred Deer, and where she received the 70th Anniversary Award, a sign of the highest accolades. It wasn't until September at the Toronto International Film Festival that Kidman—in a bewildering and magical kindness in a glittering Prada dress—took the time to take stock with us on her career and her upcoming films. 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

JULIETTE MICHAUD: For two years now, you have been filming, each time with intense and very different roles. How do you do it?

NICOLE KIDMAN: It amuses me to think that when I was pregnant with my daughter Sunday, nine years ago, I wanted to retire. I have been working since the age of 14, I stopped school at 16 to become an actress with the blessing of great parents. I thought it was time to ask myself. I finally had a happy private life, maybe it was time to live peacefully in Nashville, where Keith [country singer Keith Urban, her second husband] and I have a farm. My mother had advised me to keep "a toe in the water," in case the desire to work arose in me again... [Laughs]

JM: Do you escape unscathed from your movies? 

NK: I often go out on a shoot. That's why I just did Aquaman in Australia: besides the happiness of working in my homeland, I had to have a little fun! I had followed up Big Little Lies, where I play an abused wife, with the very confusing Killing of a Sacred Deer. I shot Sofia Coppola's Prey and Top of the Lake detective series, China Girl by Jane Campion. I needed to be a mermaid in a superhero movie!

JM: Do you play a siren in Aquaman? It suits you so well! 

NK: I find myself at one point on a rock with my hair scattered on my shoulders, but I am not in the true sense of the term a siren that moves his tail from right to left [laughs]. I am rather a queen, with a beautiful crown, who is the mother of Aquaman. The film is comic and my daughters have been so mesmerized by filming that one of them wants to become a filmmaker. I owed them that: by making films too adult where my children could not visit me on the set, I began to have scruples.

"I vowed to work with at least one woman director per year." -Nicole Kidman

JM: You also played in Neil Burger's comedy The Upside, the American remake of the French film Intouchables. 

NK: I really liked the original that producer Harvey Weinstein had shown me, so when he bought the rights and offered me the remake, I signed. It was a breath of fresh air. Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart take on the roles of François Cluzet and Omar Sy.

JM: You've worked with so many legendary filmmakers: how do you define your relationship with them? 

NK: I am, first of all, a movie buff. When I did Eyes Wide Shut with Stanley Kubrick, I had the feeling that it was my destiny, I felt invested, I had been marked at age 15 by A Clockwork Orange. I am not someone who has self-confidence. But, at the same time, I like venturing onto the screen where I dare not go in life, that's how I feel safe in the world, and I never judge my characters. Only human nature fascinates me, which can bring you far. So I defer to the directors, and I am so grateful to them for helping me to find the truth, that I will do everything for them. Even when they ask me for disconcerting things, like Yórgos Lánthimos.

JM: Your accomplice Colin Farrell warned you that working with the director of Lobster would be disturbing. 

NK: Yes, I was warned! [Laughs] With The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Yórgos has writted a frightening, modern Greek tragedy. Once you have assimilated the phrasing of his universe, which resonates very peculiarly in the viewer's psyche, it is fascinating to play. This filmmaker reminds me a lot Stanley Kubrick. For an actress of my age, having the opportunity to move from such an offbeat universe to more realistic films, like Boy Erased that I shoot under the direction of Australian actor Joel Edgerton, with Russell Crowe, a film about reconversion Forced homosexuals by the Church, it is rather unheard of.

JM: What were the major turning points in your career? 

NK: Ready for everything (1995) from Gus Van Sant, who gave me credibility. Portrait of a Woman (1996) by Jane Campion, Moulin Rouge (2001) by Baz Luhrmann, Dogville (2003) by Lars Von Trier... Lion, last year, a poignant film by Garth Davis about roots and adoption. I did not expect a fourth Oscar nomination for this role of adoptive mother. Becoming friends with director John Cameron Mitchell, who gave me a small role in How to Talk to Girls at Parties, which we presented in Cannes, with Elle Fanning.

JM: Do you also consider television to be an important step? 

NK: Yes, even if nothing replaces the cinema. Reese and I produced Big Little Lies, which portrays middle-class women full of cracks and secrets in Monterey, because we do not find enough complex female roles. It's a project born of our frustrations of actresses in a Hollywood. But it's also the first season of Top of the Lake that made me want to watch television.

JM: What was your reaction to your role of a lesbian mother in season two of Top of the Lake?

NK: This is one of the roles that gave me the most trouble! I have four children, and now I'm given a lot of mother's roles, but this one is different. I play the adoptive mother of a girl who was abandoned by the detective played by Elisabeth Moss. I have long gray hair, my character, Julia, who lives in a relationship with a woman, is fierce, full of contradictions and just hilarious. But go internalize all that!

JM: After Sofia Coppola, you will meet another director with a very personal style, Rebecca Miller. 

NK: I swore to work with at least one female director per year. I was very touched by Sofia's talent for creating an atmosphere, and by her combination of determination and gentleness. Rebecca, I had met her already since I shot Nine with her husband Daniel Day-Lewis. She is a beautiful woman and artist. We're shooting She Came to Me, with Steve Carell and Amy Schumer, a comedy in the world of contemporary opera.

JM: It's impossible not to mention your name without thinking of glamour. What is your relationship with fashion today? 

NK: Amazed. All this has a very Cinderella side. The dresses I wear for galas, I have to give them back. But I do not just call my stylist who lives in New York. I am very interested in fashion. Having participated in the great campaign of Chanel N ° 5 with Baz Luhrmann remains a very strong memory. I recently went to a Dior exhibition in Melbourne, I was seized by the beauty of the dresses, exhibited as works of art, especially when I realized having worn two of his wonders. It is a privilege to wear one's "works" on red carpets, to show them to the world.


The Killing of a Sacred Deer by Yórgos Lánthimos is in theatres now.

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