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Nicole Kidman Can-Cans On,, May 13th 2001

“I’m in therapy here,” Nicole Kidman jokes.

She’s not just referring to the psychiatrist-friendly chaise longue brought into her interview suite in lieu of the typical armchair. She’s reflecting on the jam-packed day of press interrogations she’s faced after flying halfway around the world from the Cannes Film Festival in France, where she dealt with … well, press interrogations.

And then there are questions: “How have you held up since the separation from Tom Cruise … your miscarriage … his allegation that you know exactly why the marriage is over …” Not exactly questions an actress is eager to embrace, especially when they’ve come in rapid-fire, tabloid-stirring succession.

But Kidman happens to have a film to promote, so she’s left no choice but to sit, somewhat trapped, as reporters stream in and out the door, put on a laughing face and fulfill her media song-and-dance obligations.

It’s a career hardship she shares with her Moulin Rouge character, Satine, a glamorous courtesan and can-can girl in the 1890s who must upkeep an “unattainable” reputation and please key financiers as she pursues her dreams of a bonafide acting career. When idealistic writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) enters her life, Satine doesn’t expect to fall in love. Yet, amid adoring gazes and an eclectic mix of modern and classic songs (from “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”), love ultimately blooms.

Kidman, 33, is already known for chasing down roles she’s passionate about (To Die For and Portrait of a Lady were two critical payoffs). But Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet) had to be convinced of her singing and dancing chops, since she’d never done either on screen before. So Kidman performed “Nobody Does It Better” for the director. He checked out her acclaimed London stage performance in The Blue Room, and the role was hers.

“When I got the role, I went, ‘Oh, great! I get to make a musical, sing, dance, act, work with Ewan McGregor and Baz Luhrmann, and film it in [my homeland of] Australia,” Kidman says.

But during the shooting, which was filmed entirely on soundstages in Sydney, Kidman fractured a rib which halted filming. Adding to the stress, Luhrmann required his actors to sing their numbers live rather than lip-sync to a pre-recorded track.

“He said, emotionally, it’s just more pleasant … mouthing to playback would break the intensity of it,” Kidman reasons. “[But] it’s hard when you’re crying and singing and trying to stay in the right key and the right timing without accompaniment.”

When the day was over, Kidman would head to her trailer, where her two adopted children, 8-year-old Isabella and 6-year-old Connor, did their homework after school. And in a truly hilarious portrait of Hollywood life, Kidman would often be found bustling about, cooking dinner in full Moulin Rouge costume … and the children don’t even bat an eyelash.

“They’re just so used to Crazy Mom that they don’t even notice it anymore,” Kidman laughs. “[They] do their homework, have their dinner, take a bath, while Mom’s going on set and she comes back and she’s dressed up like a clown. She looks completely bizarre in her stilettos and fishnets and corsets and top hat.”

Such is normality in the Kidman household.

“But it’s my life. I don’t know anything different. And they don’t know anything different, either,” Kidman says. “They get embarrassed though … they don’t like to be picked up from school. You don’t want to be different; you want to fit in, you don’t want too much attention.”

She pauses, then offers, “I bet you they’re gonna end up in the industry somehow.”

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