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KIDMAN, NICOLE Ė THE STEPFORD WIVES

THE MANY WIVES OF NICOLE KIDMAN
Swimming in the ocean, staring into the starry night sky and having family around her make Nicole Kidman the happiest, despite having Oscar at home, she tells Jenny Cooney Carrillo, in between playing a Stepford wife and a bewitched wife, on a career roll that seems unending. But it wonít last for ever, Kidman says.


Oscar-winning Aussie Nicole Kidman says she can see a time when her high-profile career will come to an end Ė but it wonít be this year! The 37-year-old star whose recent films include; Moulin Rouge, The Hours, Cold Mountain and Dogville has another two films ready for release: the reincarnation drama Birth, due out later this year, and her new release, The Stepford Wives. Sheís currently shooting the thriller The Interpreter in New York and will begin shooting the comedy, Bewitched later this year, so there donít seem to be signs of slowing down despite what she surprisingly confesses in this interview.

In The Stepford Wives she plays Joanna Eberhart, a successful TV network president who suffers a nervous breakdown after a series of shocking events and moves with her husband Walter (Matthew Broderick) and two children from their Manhattan apartment to the upper-class planned community of Stepford, Connecticut. She makes friends with another recent New York transplant, outspoken writer Bobbie Markowitz (Bette Midler), and together they try and find out why all the housewives in town are strangely subservient to their husbands before it happens to them. Also starring in the film are Christopher Walken, Jon Lovitz, Glenn Close and country singer Faith Hill making her acting debut.

One of the themes of this film is how men are threatened by successful women. Have you ever had that experience?
If I had, then Iím not aware of it. I actually hope thatís not true and deep down I believe that isnít true. The family I grew up with, we had a strong father but he really encouraged his girls to have opinions and we would sit down at dinner every night and have political discussions and debates. So the men in my life have always been encouraging of women to challenge and question and be analytical.

Could you relate to Joannaís struggle with her career becoming all-consuming?
In terms of my own family life, they are probably the thing I draw my strength from, not my work. Itís the thing I live for in a way because if I didnít have that around me then my life wouldnít have that much meaning. They visit all the time and my sister was just here with me in New York, so in that sense I canít exist without knowing thereís that big protection and love.

Werenít you originally doing this film with John and Joan Cusack in the roles played by Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler?
Yes, but their father passed away so they had to pull out. Luckily Bette and Matthew stepped in so we were OK and I think in the end, the people that are meant to play roles are playing them, much the same way as the way things are meant to play out in life. At the time you think you can change things or question them but once you give over to that, I think your life becomes a lot happier. Itís true I was a bit reluctant when that cast went because I was worried that we wouldnít get anyone who was as talented, but we ended up getting two people who were absolutely just as talented, if not more in their own ways.

How did you get along with the other actresses?
They were all fantastic and I can learn a lot from women like Bette and Glenn, who have survived as women and actresses in Hollywood. Bette was preparing for her show while we were shooting so she would always have her Ipod on and weíd go, Ďwhat are you listening to, Bette?í and then weíd get her to sing because sheís got the most magnificent voice.

Did you sing too?

All the time, but it was more Bette and Faith singing and Glenn and I doing some of the back-ups! (laughs)

How has your life changed personally and professionally since the Oscar?
When it was suddenly happening to me, it was a strange, strange time. It was an extraordinary time but I kept saying to myself, Ďthis is fleetingí and reminded myself that my life wouldnít always be like that. The claustrophobia of it sometimes gets to you but in terms of knowing there are ebbs and flows of the way things are, itís now a little more subdued and other people are taking the limelight which is fine by me!

The Stepford Wives are supposed to be the ideal women. Do you have an ideal picture of yourself or is there something you are missing?
Physically, mentally and emotionally, I tell you everything! (laughs) Physically, Iíve grown used to how I am but would I like to be five inches shorter? Definitely! I always have to look down at my leading men and it would be so nice to look up or wear high heels and not be one of the tallest people in the room! (laughs) Unfortunately, thereís nothing I can do about that.

Do you think you have it all like a Stepford Wife?
I donít have it all. I have children though, and Iím glad that I had children in my twenties because Iím not going through that ĎI need to have a childí thing. So I have my children and parents who are still living and a sister whoís like a twin to me, but I donít have a husband or boyfriend so I donít have it all.

Your character in The Stepford Wives reacts badly to losing her job. Are you a sore loser?
In terms of games, I canít be bothered. Like with chess, I donít play to win at all. With tennis, Iím terrible because I actually used to think I needed to see a sports psychologist because I had no ability to actually play the match out. I could be ahead and then I would psych myself out. With acting itís not about winning or losing but about someone offering me a role and me knowing instinctually whether Iíll be able to do it or not.

How did you like playing a short-haired brunette?
I liked it, but you donít get as many looks! (laughs) The brunette thing was very different because you get a whole different reaction but I loved having straight dark hair and a lot of people mistook me for my sister Antonia, so that was weird.

Do you feel the pressure to look like a Stepford Wife all the time?
Iíll tell you the funniest story about that. I went to the theatre in London and sat down in my seat and this woman next to me said, Ďyou look like Nicole Kidmaní and I said, Ďoh rightí, and then she said, Ďbut sheís very, very plain in real life Ė you should see her without her make-upí and I said, Ďyes she is, I knowí and the person I was sitting with started laughing but that woman sat next to me all night and never knew it was me! Iím pretty plain in real life but at the same time, people see you on a magazine and then they see you in real life and they donít actually even put the two together, so thatís strange.

Were you hurt when she said that?

No, because I feel plain. You donít want to ever have to be living up to some sort of ideal and itís why I actually choose characters where I can do all sorts of stuff. I was never the pretty girl at school and itís nice to feel good at times but at the same time you donít want that pressure all the time. You want to be appreciated for your heart and spirit, not the way you look. And I certainly didnít feel that comfortable when I was playing the Stepford wife; it was hours of make-up and hair and it was just too much. You can only do it for a few hours and then you go, ĎI just want to get out of this and put my jeans on!í

Do you believe that successful women have a harder time finding personal happiness?
Itís a good question and I think that is the thing that you struggle with; thatís why I say I wonít do this for the rest of my life. I think that you give up an enormous amount for your art. Katharine Hepburn used to say it; she said itís a very hard thing to balance and I donít know if itís so much the success or the ability to get lost in a role or an experience and still have everything else balanced in your life. Thatís why I say this sort of life is a limited life and itís a very extraordinary moment and time for me but at the same time, itís not something that I would want to exist in for the rest of my life. Iím not unappreciative but itís more just saying I know thereís a different life out there for me.

Are you serious about suggesting you may not be acting for the rest of your life?
I suppose why I say that is because the things that make me the happiest are the simplest things. My happiest times are, for example, swimming in the ocean. If I can do that for ten minutes in the morning, that gives me enormous pleasure, and to lie on my back and look at the stars and feel a warm breeze. Those little tiny things make me happier than anything else, and Iíve won an Oscar.†

But do you see your career as being finite?†
Yes, definitely.

So how long will it go on and what is that other life?

I donít know yet but I kind of have a fantasy of what it is, which I wouldnít say now but itís just a different existence. This can be a very lonely existence and Iím sure Iíll look back on this period in my life and go, Ďoh itís unbelievableí but it almost seems like something that has to end, otherwise I would go crazy if it wasnít finite!

There is a scene in the film where you ask the men if they really want a woman so subservient and even the men in the audience were agreeing! What do you think?
Itís a big question because a lot of men, when you ask them would they like to back a hundred years with women and if they answer honestly, itís mostly yes. So itís a dilemma in terms of them knowing they couldnít live without us but knowing we want to be loving partners but equal. I find the whole question fascinating. I think it is something that we are all trying to understand and grapple with, because itís a lot of demands on both sexes.

What can you tell us about The Interpreter, which youíre currently shooting at the United Nations headquarters in New York?
I think the United Nations is very important and Iím proud to be making this film. Itís a thriller and not something that is going to deal with the problems of the UN, but we deal with some pretty important political themes in it. Itís wonderful to play a woman who is very smart with a complicated past and she speaks different languages and plays the flute. When you deal with something that has a lot of weight to it, itís a blessing.

Is Bewitched your next film?
Yes, after I head back to Australia for a break in between. Iím excited to do Bewitched because it will be something lighter and fun and we also have a different take on the TV show. Iím also excited to be working with Will Ferrell, whoíll play Darren, because heís such a talent.

How do you keep your feet on the ground in these extraordinary times?

I basically push myself to exist in the world. I go to the theatre, I go to the movies, I took my kids to the Natural History Museum and people thought I should have taken security and I was like, Ďno, Iíll just deal with peopleí. I think that is what balances you so youíre not living a hermit existence.

Published July 15, 2004

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