Nicole Kidman makes a man out of Zac Efron in gothic thriller The Paperboy
Nicole Kidman has an impressive effect on men’s testosterone levels. Husband Keith Urban began sprouting a beard after starting his relationship with the Academy Award-winning actress.
And Zac Efron said he grew up during the four weeks he worked with Nicole on the wonderfully lurid Southern gothic thriller The Paperboy, in which they have some racy scenes.
Nicole laughed when I mentioned what Efron had told me about working with her.
‘The rite of passage with me. I made him a man. Oh, no!’ she cried, in mock horror.
‘My husband said he started growing a beard since going out with me. He didn’t have much facial hair before, so I hope I bring out the testosterone in them.’
In director Lee Daniel’s The Paperboy, which opens on March 15, Nicole gives a corker of a performance — an awards contender in my book — as Charlotte Bless, a trailer-trash Southern blonde who befriends a death-row inmate played by John Cusack.
Along the way she meets a lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) and his brother (Efron).
In one scene that was much talked about in Cannes and at the Toronto International Film Festival, Nicole’s character visits Cusack in jail and they tease each other to the point of sexual satisfaction.
Later Nicole, wearing a bikini, squats over Efron’s jellyfish-stung body and urinates on him, to ease the pain.
‘It’s the rawest thing I’ve done,’ she said, though she hates the film being defined by what she terms ‘the peeing scene’.
It could also bring a comment or two from her mother, who she said has sometimes rebuked her for her screen choices, though her husband never has.
‘There’s not really a judgment from my husband. But my mum goes “Oh Nicky!” after she’s seen something pretty full on, but she’s done that ever since I was a child. My parents are supportive. They have a sense of humour, and you’ve got to have that. Life’s life, right?’
And Nicole agreed that director Daniel’s work can sometimes be ‘erratic and unpredictable’ and added: ‘I like that! I don’t want homogenised.
‘For me, it said so much about Charlotte. If that’s what Lee wants, and that’s what’s in the script, and that’s what’s required, then I’m not going to step in and censor it as Nicole.
‘I just want to help achieve a vision for a director, and sometimes that’s going to create controversy,’ she told me yesterday, speaking on the phone from the set of the film Princess Grace Of Monaco, where she was shooting scenes with Tim Roth and Frank Langella in Brussels.
She added that it’s important to ‘stay bold and not get scared’, even though she admitted that ‘deep down sometimes I go “Whoa! Where’s this going to take me?!” ’
Behind Charlotte’s tough, obsessive facade Nicole said she found something poignant in The Paperboy.
She also tried to stay in character and keep her Southern accent for the month she filmed in New Orleans.
‘However, on weekends, when I got on a plane home to my children in Nashville, I went home as Mum.’
"I’d like to be wise. You have to go through a lot to get there, but I’m willing to go through a lot." - Nicole Kidman