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Good Housekeeping, January 2004

Nicole Kidman: Bouncing Back and Moving On

Itís a sunny, Indian summer afternoon in the picturesque town of New Canaan, CT, and I am searching for Nicole Kidman. Where, I wonder, is the feisty, Oscar-winning actress, the high heeled paragon of fashion? Not here. Instead, the Nicole Kidman who strides into this bistro is wearing jeans, low healed black boots, and a simple gray top, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail. Now 36, she is as fresh-faced and clean-scrubbed as a starlet whoís just arrived in Hollywood, If Nicole is aware of just how huge a star she is- and with and Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in The Hours, how could she not be?- she does her best not to let it show. Sheís here filming the black comedy The Stepford Wives; soon sheíll be seen in the Civil War epic Cold Mountain. But even with a slew of movies on the way, work does not consume her. Sheís got too many other things to think about. At the moment, her son, Connor, eight, has a nasty cough, and sheís waiting to heat from the doctor. Nicole very much wants to take both Connor and daughter Isabella, 11, to see a new exhibit of paintings at New York Cityís Metropolitan Museum of Art. "I donít know when I can find the time to go," she says, and laughs when I suggest that the museum might let her in after closing time. "I once walked through the Louvre at 11:00 at night," she says wistfully. "Of course this was with Tom, who has the power to get the Louvre to open up." That one memory suggests some of the conflict that still exists within Nicole. She is a megastar who still doesnít believe she can throw her weight around, a former wife who has fond memories of the man she once loved. As we talk, she is by turn at peace, agitated, pensive, and expressive. In one moment, she is a little girl from Australia, desperately homesick. Then, she is a fiercely protective mother, longing to add another child to her brood. Finally, she is a young woman emerging from pain and disillusionment but hoping for a bright romantic tomorrow. Her eyes both dim and sparkle, depending on the subject at hand; at one point they well with tears. A superstar might have balked at many of my questions- but luckily for me, a superstar didnít show up today; Nicole Kidman is here instead.

Liz: It seems like every time I turn around youíre in a new movies! Are you trying to work yourself into the ground?

Nic: Actually, Iím taking the rest of the year off when I finish The Stepford Wives. I always take November, December, January, and February off. Thatís when I go home to Australia and spend time with my family there.

Liz: But it seems like you work so much!

Nic: Itís weird, because some people will say that to me, but then I think, Well, Iíve managed to have three months off here, and then I have another two months here. So, really, itís not too bad!

Liz: Does your career or your life in general, fell any different now that youíve won that Oscar?

Nic: You feel incredibly grateful that youíre acknowledged. And in some ways, I still canít believe it. My mother keeps it on the mantle in her house. And itís a huge thrill for the neighbors and for people who come over. I mean, itís pretty monumental. AS for how I feel when I got it, I was so stunned. Liz, so stunned. The next day, I was in shock. But the thing I'm most proud of if that I can tell my kids I won an Oscar. Thereís something cool about that.

Liz: were they excited about it?

Nic: they donít understand what it is, but they see the gold statue, and they go, "Whoa! Gold! Is it real gold?" But, actually, my daughter sat in the audience that night and usually I never take my children to anything. I took her in the back way, so she wouldnít be photographed. Connor, my son, was too young- he was still seven. But now heís saying, "Well you gotta get nominated again, so I can go." And I say, "Oh, Connor, go easy, Give your mom a break!" Poor little guy- thatís always the worst thing, when you donít get to go somewhere because your still to little, and meanwhile, his sister went. She said, "Mom, I want to be there for you." Which I thought was amazing coming from a ten year old.

Liz: well, I have a feeling Connor will get his wish, and youíll get nominated again. Do you plan to act until youíre an old lady?

Nic:: I donít believe in a plan. But I do suppose, in a weird way, I feel that it will all end, and it will end when itís meant to. I canít see myself acting forever.

Liz: The last time we talked, you were still dealing with the shock of your marriage ending. Looking back on that time, how does it feel to you now?

Nic: it seems surreal. Itís weird the way time plays tricks on you, because there are some days when that whole time seems so distant, and there are days when it seems so present.

Liz: how well do you feel you handled yourself?

Nic: I think tom and I managed to sort of forge ahead and protect our children and keep everything quiet, and that is so important to me. The privacy is so important. I am glad that that theyíve never been photographed, really, except from a distance. And theyíre still kids. Theyíre real kids. [Laughs] their understanding of the world is still very childlike, and Iím glad. And Iím desperately trying to keep them protected in terms of not letting them jump into being teenagers, which they could easily do, given the world they exist in.

Liz: you and tom share custody right?

Nic: yes. Six weeks with me, six weeks with him. But thatís the hardest thing, having your kids not with you. I donít wish it upon anyone. When they leave, itís like having your heart ripped out, every single time, and it does not lessen. But the kids are good. Theyíre stoic. Theyíre strong.

Liz: when you look at your life today, what worried do you have? Or are you pretty carefree?

Nic: oh, no. I worry about the children; I worry about their future. I worry about my future. Iím quite a worrier. I can lie awake at night and worry. I can wake up at 3:00 AM and not be able to get back to sleep, that sort of thing.

Liz: What sort of things do you think about, lying there at night?

Nic: One thing I think is that I would love to have another child.

Liz: You certainly can if you want to

Nic: yeah. I hope so. And thereís something quite sweet about Belle and Connor also wanting me to have another baby. Theyíre always like: have a baby in your tummy, Mommy. And, really, I would love to.

Liz: well, all you have to do is find the right guy.

Nic: Oh you find him for me, Liz

Liz: Dare I ask you about Lenny Kravitz?

Nic: well, Iím so reluctant to talk about anything, because I was in such public relationship before and it was devastating in terms of everybody being aware or everything. So now, the next thing I enter into, Iím just trying to keep quite. So... Iím not talking about Len. What ill say is there is somebody in my life, but Iím going to fiercely protect him, and protect it, you know?

Liz: Absolutely. Good for you. Have you found it hard to reenter the dating scene?

Nic: Iíll tell you the hardest thing. Itís finding out if youíre going to be loved for who you really are or just for your stardom or fame. Someone who loves you for who you really are, thatís the hardest thing to find.

Liz: Do you have fears about you kids becoming teenagers? Do you have worries about that?

Nic: Iím sort of old-fashioned. I want them to have a very structured life, and I want them to have a sense of morals. I give them a strict moral code, which I think is important.

Liz: Do you feel that tom does that too?

Nic: yes. Weíre different in terms of our religion, but I give them what I give them, and he gives them what he gives them.

Liz: Were you rebellious as a child?

Nic: lets say willful [laugh] and desperate for experience. I wanted to exist in the world, and at the same time, I was painfully shy. So I was always struggling with, I suppose, my inner thoughts. Which I think so many teenagers go through, which can be so depleting. The power of those thoughts, sometimes, can just leave you where you have no confidence and you really donít feel worthy.

Liz: How have your children dealt with the divorce? Are the holding up aright?

Nic: I think theyíre always going to be dealing with it. I think that when children go through a divorce, it leaves a mark, and we're never quite sure of the effects until we see it play out in their lives. What you try to do is give them an enormous amount of love and also understanding.

Liz: does seeing them deal with this make you feel guilty? Thereís nothing you could have done

Nic: no, I suppose not. But at the same time, you think, Iím a mother and I want to protect my babies. Thatís why I've said, never again. I will never ever go through another separation. I wonít. If Iím going to have a child with somebody, weíre going to stay together until the bitter end! [Laughs]

Liz: now that youíve beaten up on yourself, what makes you proud about the way you are as a mom?

Nic: I hope Iím patient. I feel that I am. And I suppose your capacity, your depth of love, is something you discover when you have children, and thatís something that Iím proud of, how almost unfathomable it is. Your feelings for you kids are so unusual and so profound that they just seep into every part of your life. They make you a better person.

Liz: even though theyíre in Australia, you get to spend quite a bit of time with your family, donít you?

Nic: yeah, my dad has just been here, actually. He came over for three weeks. We have a tree- bedroom apartment, so the kidís share a room, and itís just so wonderful. I said to my dad, "Come and live with me," and he said, "I cant, I have to live with your mother!" and my sister, Antonia, who is like my twin, is coming soon with her newborn.

Liz: Do you have many close friends? Girlfriends?

Nic: well, there Naomi Watts, whoís an actress and weíre very close. But I have lots of girlfriends who arenít in the business. One is an acupuncturist, another is a physical therapist, and another is an accountant. I have incredibly strong friendships around me.

Liz: Do you think youíll ever get used to being a huge movie star?

Nic: no, because I donít think itíll last. So I donít think ill get used to it. I just think itíll go away. This wonít go on like this.

Liz: honey, I think it might go on for quite a while longer.

Nic: oh, God, I always feel like its going to be over in a year. I suppose I picture myself on a farm or somewhere, in the future, when I was making Cold Mountain, at the end of the movie I stand in this beautiful countryside with this whole farm around me, and this gorgeous old house with those wraparound verandas. And I remember standing there thinking, this is what I would love to grow old with.

Liz: I think youíre too talented to head off to the farm just yet

Nic: Itís so funny, because I donít feel talented, I always say to my mom, "I canít believe this has happened." I supposed you still struggle with yourself just the same. You never feel any different then when you were 14 and being teased in high school. I feel like Iím always saying to myself, All of this-the fame, the stardom- will go, so donít get attached to any of it, because thatís how you go crazy. And itís so important to me to keep my sanity. So I stay attached to the people who are important to me.

Liz: Do you pay attention to the stuff thatís written about you in the tabloids?

Nic: occasionally ill say, Hold on, I have to stand up here, because this will in some way affect my family. Other times, I realize you canít be driven mad by all of this. You have to have a sense of humor about it.

Liz: Yet you sued one tabloid- after it claimed that you and Jude Law were having an affair.

Nic: Yes I did. I said, "Listen, we did not have an affair." That jut morally goes against what I believe in, in terms of adultery.

Liz: So youíre not this wild sex kitten like the tabloids say.

Nic: No. I mean, I hope Iím a little wild. I donít know about sex kitten. I donít think that enters into the equation, but I like to be a little wild. Still, adultery? No. I'd never do that.

Liz: Your ex-husband has always been vigorous in defending himself against the tabloids

Nic: But see, Iím not going to go and do lawsuit after lawsuit, because I find it exhausting, and I find it mentally a bit destructive. But when a lit is repeated over and over again, and it seems slowly to be accepted as fact thatís when you have to stand up and say, "No, this isnít true."

Liz: Well one of the things the tabloids have been saying lately is that youíre too thin now. Do you think youíre too thin?

Nic: No, Iím exactly the same. But I would say Iíve always been to thin. I would love to have a nice, girly body. Bigger boobs? Yes, please. But Iím not going to go buy them. Still you know, the grass is always greener.

Liz: Other then youíre figure, is there anything you wish you could change? If you had it to do over again, would you have married so young?

Nic: I loved him. I wanted to marry him. So, yea, I'd do it all over again. Ultimately, thereís no regret. I loved him. I still love him. And I will always be there for him.

Liz: Would you consider you and Tom to be friends these days?

Nic: well, we donít talk everyday or anything. But in terms of a deep seated feeling, when you spend 1 and a half years with someone you hold on to that. You hold the good parts of it rather then the bad.

Liz: Do you have any personal demons, things that trouble you?

Nic: I suppose I have this incredibly romantic vision of what life should be, and I can get lost in that. And in some ways, I should be a little more grounded in what I hope for, and how I hope things are going to be. As my dad says, "Itís not what it should be, and not what could be: it is what it is."

Liz: What are you dreaming about that hasnít come true?

Nic: well, you know, I get lonely. Very. Iíd live to be able to live in a country where my family is. And I would love to have more children around me, because I love the sound of children. But I also have this terrible thing where I just want to be able to take care of everyone. My mother always says, "You canít take care of everybody Nicole." But I have this nurturing feeling as a woman, where I just want to be able to take care of people. But that sometimes means that you donít end up taking very good care of yourself.

Liz: If you found a great, wonderful love, but it meant having to give up your life as an actress what would you choose.

Nic: oh, no question. Give me the love. A great, enduring love thatís complete? Please. Iím there. And I think, in some ways, at the moment, my work is my love, because I havenít found the man to love yet. Which I know is a terribly un-feminist thing to say. But itís true. Still, Iím going to search and Iím also going to be incredibly picky, because in terms of my children, I canít make a mistake. So I'd rather not have anyone then settle for the wrong person.

Liz: Honestly, I canít think of anyone who deserved great love more than you. You are one of the sweetest people I've ever met.

Nic: oh... thank you. See, now your making me cry. Gosh, thatís nice of you to say. Thank you. I needed to hear that. I had an emotional day today, so that was nice to hear.

Liz: well, you certainly have been working hard lately. Right now, youíre filming The Stepford Wives, but you also spent months making Cold Mountain, your new film, in freezing Romania.

Nic: yes, but you know, that was a wonderful experience.

Liz: Your costar in Cold Mountain, Renee Zellweger, said she loved making the film with you.

Nic: oh, we would laugh; we were building fences together. Iím really proud of Cold Mountain because of the relationship between the women. These two women, who are so different, give so much to each other, and in the end, they can survive alone, with just each other, if they want. They have a great amount of respect and love for each other. I really think itís important that young girls see female friendships on-screen, friendships that are really about being loyal and true to each other.

Liz: Having made Cold Mountain, were you relieved to finally tackle some black comedy by doing The Stepford Wives?

Nic: yes. You know, after I made The Hours, and I was thinking about my next choice a friend said to me, "Come on, you need to lighten up." And I thought, yep youíre right.

Liz: Did it work? Do you feel like youíve lightened up?

Nic: I hope so. I think I have, Iím giggling right? After all, Iím sitting here and laughing!
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