Nicole Kidman has taken a break from serious roles and relishes her return to comedy, reports JAMES WIGNEY
NICOLE Kidman believes she might be getting a reputation as the star who enjoys weird movies -- but she is in good company.
``I got a message from Johnny Depp which said we should definitely do a movie together because our tastes are so weird,'' the Aussie actor said in LA recently. ``I would like to work with him.''
And what a duo they would make -- both actors having displayed a penchant for the unpredictable, veering between big-budget blockbusters and smaller, art-house fare, always searching for rewarding roles among the Hollywood dross.
As if to illustrate the point, she is promoting her next release, a ``light and fluffy'' big-screen version of Bewitched, on a break from her newest project, Fur, a ``small and dark'' movie being filmed in New York.
Of Fur, in which she plays the suicidal photographer Diane Arbus, Kidman said with a laugh: ``My agent said, `this is the weirdest script I have ever seen -- of course Nicole is going to want to do it'.
``I hadn't read it -- but I said, `great, just sign me on'.''
With few exceptions, Kidman's movies in the past few years have been serious affairs, from her Oscar-winning turn as doomed writer Virginia Woolf in The Hours, through her hunted portrayal of Grace in Lars Von Trier's bizarre Dogville and her riveting Anna in the controversial Birth.
It's no coincidence that these roles coincided with a turbulent period in Kidman's life, following the split from her megastar husband of 10 years, Tom Cruise, and dealing with a miscarriage, stalkers and injuries.
``There is absolutely a thread between the work you choose to do and what's happening in your life,'' she said.
``I don't even think in terms of happy and unhappy -- I suppose it's more in terms of examining yourself and examining humanity and ideas.''
True to form of expecting the unexpected, Bewitched is a complete change of pace for Kidman -- a feel-good romantic comedy in which she showcases her considerable comedic talents. Why the switch?
``Because I wanted to experience the sensations of making something about love,'' she said. ``And also the idea of just going to work and having fun.''
Directed by the queen of the romantic comedy, Norah Ephron, who also wrote When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, Bewitched is not a slavish remake of the beloved '60s TV show. Rather, it is a film about making a remake, full of sly digs at Hollywood stereotypes.
Kidman, a long-time fan of the show whose resemblance to the original star Elizabeth Montgomery had often been pointed out, was instrumental in getting the project off the ground.
But all her acting prowess and accolades would have come to nothing had she not been able to master the famous Samantha nose twitch.
``I actually learned the twitch in Australia when I came back on holiday in between making The Interpreter and Bewitched,'' she said. ``I watched all the re-runs and put it in slow motion. She does it with her lip a little bit -- that's the key.''
The other bonus of making a family film is that her children Isabella, 13, and Conor, 8, will be able to see it.
Kidman, who turns 38 tomorrow but looks a decade younger, said: ``I can't believe I have a 13-year-old. It's really satisfying to make films for younger people -- their enthusiasm for what you do is so unbridled.''
For one of the biggest stars of the movie world, Kidman is remarkably down to earth. The same weekend, while spruiking Mr and Mrs Smith (in which Kidman was originally cast), Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie required reporters to sign documents saying they would not ask any personal questions.
Given the bizarrely besotted behaviour of Cruise recently, Kidman might be forgiven for making a similar request, yet for this interview even the usually ever-present publicist is sent away.
Questions about her ex's lovestruck behaviour are batted away politely, but firmly, for the sake of her children ``whose lives are affected greatly by anything that is done or said''.
Having entered the maelstrom of the public eye at 22, when she met Cruise, and gone on to enjoy success and fortune in her own right, Kidman understands the insatiable curiosity about her life is the flipside to fame.
``It's not unwelcome in the sense that you know what you are a part of,'' she said.
``It's surprising at times, it's overwhelming. The scrutiny can be painful, as it would be for anyone. It can be humiliating, particularly if you are not someone who would offer that up early on in the conversation or meeting someone.
``It takes a little while to get to know me, which I try to retain.''
In Bewitched, Kidman plays a witch, Isabel, who yearns to put her powers behind her and live a normal life. In reality, Kidman's life is a mixture of the mundane and the extraordinary.
She spoke of going to the MTV Movie Awards to present a gong and then having to take her son to tennis the next morning (``he's so competitive he can pretty much beat me at anything'').
For all her wealth (she was second only to the Wiggles on this year's BRW rich list with estimated earnings of $40 million in 2004) and profile, she said she was determined to live her own life.
``I think my emotional life is normal,'' she said. ``Obviously some of the things around me are very abnormal, but I think that my own sense of simplicity is intact.
``The things that make me happy are so simple really -- it could be a great cappuccino or your child giving you a kiss and saying `I love you' or your mother taking the time to pick you up from the airport. That sort of stuff you just go `this is it -- there actually doesn't have to be anything more'.''
Kidman is expanding her horizons again, providing the voice of a singing penguin in Happy Feet. She teams up again with George Miller, with whom she worked on the mini-series Vietnam and Bangkok Hilton, for the animated film.
``Hugh (Jackman) and I have done our part,'' she said.
``I sing again -- but only a small little bit. It's wonderful -- I think it's just extraordinary. I saw some of the stuff and the penguins are just so delightful so the fingers are crossed for it.'' Bewitched opens on July 7.
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