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Kidman's role play, Evening Gazette (UK), April 8th 2005

When it comes to preparing for a role, you've got to go some to beat Nicole Kidman.

The Australian actress virtually defied nature, while she was preparing to play Victoria Woolf in multi-award winning movie The Hours, by teaching herself to write right-handed.

Naturally left-handed, Nicole is reckoned to have spent three hours a day, every day, for six months, working at the task, in order to look naturally right-handed, in the way that her character was in real life.

When asked if it wasn't a bit obsessive to spend so much time over such a relatively minor character trait, she said: "I don't see it that way at all. I would never want to be accused of fraudulence and if my hand-writing, right-handed, had looked awkward I would have felt a fraud."

Spool forward a couple of years and there's a different type of obsessive behaviour/dedication to duty (delete where you think applicable) on show.

For THE INTERPRETER, a movie in which Nicole stars with American actor Sean Penn (once most famous as Mr Madonna but now firmly established as a movie star in his own right), Nicole insisted on high degrees of authenticity.

So, as her character originates from a troubled part of southern Africa, she visited both Zimbabwe and Mozambique to get a feel for the kind of environment in which her character, the eponymous Silvia Broome, would have grown up.

Nicole, 37, also spent weeks shadowing real-life interpreters and, while not having time to actually work as one (that obviously takes years of dedicated studying), spent hours monitoring their lifestyles and work routines.

The real breakthrough as far as Nicole was concerned, though, occurred during preparation for the $100m movie.

It was announced, after months of location-scouting and budgetary discussions, that agreement had been reached to shoot a considerable number of scenes from the movie at The UN's magnificent buildings in Manhattan, New York.

How much of a coup was this? Think Her Majesty The Queen giving permission for a huge camera crew to descend on Buckingham Palace and spend about a dozen weekends filming in the royal household's most intimate inner sanctums.

It was that much of a coup.

"For security reasons, primarily, the UN has been off-limits to movie-makers, so to get them to open their doors to us was a fantastic breakthrough," says Nicole, who is rumoured to have pushed hard for permission to film at the UN, in order to bring some of that legendary authenticity to proceedings, that she so craves.

And there is no doubt it does the trick. The movie-makers made full use of the UN's vast interiors, filming over a dozen weekends at the heavily-fortified facility, during the middle of last year.

Ironically - and you might have thought this would have made the UN think twice about granting permission to Kidman and Co - they were filming a movie about a security breach in the building.

Nicole's character believes she hears news of an attempted assassination plot against the brutal president of her home African state.

The attempt, she believes, is going to take place when he visits the UN. Enter, stage left, US secret agent Tobin Keller (Penn) who becomes interested in both finding out how genuine the threat of assassination is and how likely it is he'll be able to spend any quality time with Nicole's character Ms Broome.

Says Nicole, single since her split from Tom Cruise and mother of adopted children ten-year-old Isabella and Connor, eight: "The Interpreter is a clever title for the movie, because the film is all about interpretation.

"My character thinks she hears news of an assassination attempt, whispered over the UN's sound system in a language unique to her mother country, Matobo.

"But how genuine is the message? Did she hear it correctly and, if she did, how real is the threat? And what is her part in the story?

"There are secrets about her past in Matobo which only come to light as the movie goes on. Is she a victim or a suspect?"

There are secrets, too, about Nicole. A definitive answer to why she and Tom Cruise split up has never been forthcoming. What really caused a supposedly rock-solid, lovey-dovey relationship to founder so dramatically and so quickly?

And what of her own career? Just how good an actress is she? One American critic calls her performance in The Interpreter "mediocre" and there was that momentary flash of rarely-seen showbiz reality at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

Asked by a GMTV reporter what it was like to work with "that legend" Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall snapped back: "She's no legend."

Whether The Interpreter helps her on the road to being one, only time will tell...

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