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E-Online Q & A with Nicole Kidman, 1997

Mrs. Cruise lightens up--and opens up--about Clooney, Kubrick and, of course, Tom

Nicole Kidman is not the kind of woman who sits quietly at home while her husband goes about saving the world.

Of course, when your husband is Tom Cruise, a guy prone to both movie (Mission: Impossible, Top Gun) and real-life heroics (his rescue of passengers on a burning boat off the Italian isle of Capri was only one of three brave public acts), you could feel a tad intimidated.

Not this orange-haired Aussie, though. At 30, Kidman has carved out a bold career of her own. Though an admired actress Down Under well before she became Mrs. Cruise, Kidman had to prove herself to the rest of the world--and she has done so with the same daring brio she brings to all aspects of her life.

Praised for her funny/scary careerist in Gus Van Sant's To Die For and courageous enough to take on Henry James' most difficult heroine in Jane Campion's eccentric Portrait of a Lady, Kidman is now involved in two very different projects of, to put it mildly, heroic dimensions.

She plays Julia Kelly, a no-nonsense nuclear-arms expert, out to help George Clooney find a missing Russian bomb in The Peacemaker, the highly anticipated first feature from Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen's studio-of-tomorrow, DreamWorks SKG. And for the past year, Kidman and Cruise have been working on legendary perfectionist Stanley Kubrick's first film in a decade, the ultrasecret thriller Eyes Wide Shut.

Jetting in from London, where she and Cruise have lived for the past two years with adopted children Isabella, 4, and Connor, 2, Kidman is all laughs and athletic energy. Good qualities, one reckons, in someone so prone to risking big--and now accustomed to saving the day--on her own terms.

I don't think Flo Jo ever ran as much as you do in The Peacemaker.
I thought it was going to be a lot easier than it turned out. Even though you had the stunt people and all these safety guys there, you're running away from explosions and cars and things. There would be times when they'd say, "On the count of three--make sure you run on three!" I'm thinking, What happens if you don't hear the "three?" You really had to be on your toes.

But you're pretty used to extreme physical situations. You love sports--the more dangerous the better, right?
Well, with two kids now, I tend to be a little more responsible. But I still like to do wild stuff. Tom has a plane, and we do aerobatics in that. I still take risks, but they're a little more calculated now. I love to ski. I have a horse I love to ride. And I do like jumping out of planes. Haven't done it in the last couple of years, but I really got addicted to it for a while.

So, why do people have the impression that you're a cold, joyless kind of person?
I think you're always aligned with your previous role. The last thing I did was Portrait of a Lady, which obviously didn't have a lot of laughs.

But they've been saying it since before To Die For.
That was funny!

It was hilarious, but...
Very black, I know what you mean. What will people say when they see Peacemaker?

That you look very efficient...

...and you can really run, but not that you're a whole lot of fun.
Aaarggh! Well, she's got a job to do, right?

And she does it well. There's currently a groundswell of not just smart women's roles but really smart women's roles: Jodie Foster in Contact, Julianne Moore in Lost World, Glenn Close in Air Force One. Julia Kelly fits right in.
It's good in that it certainly gives us more to do than just scream. I liked that Julia was smart, and she was capable, and she was strong. But she was also sensitive and reacted in a real human way to the things that occurred. I thought that was very important, because, a lot of the time, you have women depicted as supertough heroines. They don't react the way you or I would react. Y'know, if you see somebody's head blown off, you don't just pick yourself up and keep going, it shakes you to the core. I liked that they incorporated that into the film.

So, George Clooney. What's he got?
His appeal? Ha. Oh yeah, he's got it. He has this sort of charming vulnerability, George, yet mixed with this outrageous mischievousness, so you never know what's going to happen next. From all my girlfriends, that seems to be the major question: "What's George Clooney like?" The second major question is, "Is he single?"

Much of The Peacemaker was shot in Slovakia and Macedonia. Was Eastern Europe as dangerous and depressing as it's depicted in the film?
No, it was fun. Tom shot Mission: Impossible in Prague, so I knew what to expect going back. We were in Bratislava this time, but I loved it. The people were really welcoming. They really wanted the film there.

We weren't recognized as much as we are in other countries, so we were a little freer, which was quite nice. And you don't have paparazzi in Slovakia--that's why we're moving there! No, but we could go out walking in the streets, and Tom could go running without being bothered.

I guess this is as good a time as any for your serious assessment of life as a stalkerazzi target.
It's not something I sit and complain about, because that's indulgent. You get paid a lot of money as an actor; you have a very, very privileged, lucky life. But certainly, it's a fishbowl. You're being watched all the time, but you have to be aware of it, so you don't let it alter your life experiences.

That's so important, especially when you have children. You must do everything you used to do, so that their lives, as much as you can make them, are like the life you had as a child. I had a great childhood, so now, it's so much about trying to give our children that.

With famous parents, I think it's going to be a hideous burden for them, but it's something we're aware of and are helping them to deal with.

How are they coping so far? You've had them in Britain for some time years now.
They're very adaptable. Isabella's now in school, and they both have English accents my mother laughs at.

Will you ever finish shooting Eyes Wide Shut and be able to come home?
Hopefully, it will be over next month. Actually, shooting hasn't been as long as everybody thinks. We started last November, but then we had a six-week break over Christmas. We had another week after the Academy Awards, a week after Easter--about two and a half months off, total. So, we've been at it about eight months.

Which is still long enough to make two movies. You aren't also secretly filming Kubrick's Artificial Intelligence, are you?
Do people think that's what we're doing?

More like wishful thinking among Kubrick's conspiracy-addled fans. But yeah, check the Internet. Some think he has been secretly filming it for years.
Wow. I surf the Net, but I've never pulled up anything to do with me or Tom or Eyes Wide Shut. What else is on it? That he's shooting A.I.? Well, he's not.

I think rumors like this start because Kubrick, besides being a genius who doesn't work nearly enough these days, manages to keep so much about his life and his productions out of the public eye.
People are completely obsessed with him, aren't they? I've never been asked so many questions about one person--and I'm married to Tom Cruise! Well, people think he's crazy, but he's not. He's very together. He just has a particular way of making films and doesn't budge on it, which is admirable.

Okay, now tell us everything about Eyes Wide Shut.
No one knows anything about Eyes Wide Shut. Not even us!

Ha, ha.
All right, here's the scoop. It's all about sexual obsession and jealousy. Not gonna change the minds of those people who think I'm no fun, right? But there is no one like Kubrick in the world. It's been an honor, really. Just to talk to him about Peter Sellers, all the different stories he has, is remarkable.

As long as it takes, he'll never go over budget. In a lot of ways, we feel like we're making a student film, because he does most of the lighting and a lot of the operating of the camera. You have one makeup person handling the whole film, whereas on most shoots there are four. There's, like, eight people on the set, which is refreshing. When you have a new idea, you can move on it quickly instead of spending lots of time and money setting it up.

How do you guys unwind after a hard day of working with the genius?
We play that CD-ROM game You Don't Know Jack. Oh, it's excellent. It's very funny. And I don't have any shares in the company or anything like that.

Who usually wins?

Miss anything about the United States?
We're both addicted to American sports. We get tapes of basketball games sent over, but it's not the same. Tom's been going, "Oh no! We've got to get back in time for football season!" Your life revolves around sports when you have a husband who's a jock.

At least your professional life has taken off on its own trajectory in the last few years. Would you say you're looked at more as an actress in your own right now than as the big movie star's wife?
Yeah, I've had it pretty good in the last few years. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunities I've had to work with great filmmakers like Gus Van Sant, Jane Campion and (The Peacemaker's) Mimi Leder. It's been quite different. But I still proudly say I'm married to Mr. Cruise.

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