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"I was willing to give it to Lars" Nicole Kidman on Dogville | Interviewed by Interviewed by David Michael for the BBC

After a Best Actress Oscar win for The Hours, Nicole Kidman has had her pick of scripts. While Cold Mountain and The Human Stain haven't earned her any more nominations, she's still top of the heap in Hollywood. Nonetheless Kidman is willing to take risks with her career, as Lars von Trier's experimental drama Dogville clearly demonstrates.

You were going through divorce proceedings while shooting Dogville. Did your emotional state inform your performance?

Yes. I'm in a different space in terms of where I am psychologically. I think before I was able to disassociate more, and now I'm not able to do. I'm willing to be very exposed and open about that. I think it's a journey of an artist - it's what you hope for. This at the time was what I wanted to do. I was raw. I was willing to give it to Lars, to explore this story with him.

But Lars von Trier has a reputation for putting his actresses through the emotional wringer. Were you wary of working with him?

I always believe in judging somebody based on your experience with them. Obviously Lars has a reputation - different people have said different things about him. My relationship with him was very, very good. The first 'rehearsal' week was tricky, and we had a really difficult heart-to-heart for a few hours, but that was two people getting to know each other. Lars had preconceptions of me and I probably did about him.

What about the whips, chains and neck restraints in the film. Did you discuss the extent of your character's humiliation before you turned up on set?

No. That was not discussed beforehand, when I'd spoken to Lars on the phone. I saw that when I arrived, and I had a pretty strong reaction to it. Because I thought that wouldn't be real either - that we would pretend to have that. I didn't know what we were going to have, and what we weren't going to have.

Considering your Hollywood position, Dogville is a brave choice. Do you actively use your power in choosing roles to give films added exposure?

I look for things that challenge me. I like to travel; I like to be exposed to different cultures and ideas. As an actor, you have a certain amount of power - it's not really a lot of power, to be honest - and, you say: "I want to put my weight behind the directors that interest me." That's what I do. It's not so conscious in terms of: Now I'm going to seek out somebody else who's really, really different. It's more, I'm on an exploration, and I know that I probably won't do this for the rest of my life. I went through a period of my life where I wasn't able to move around and explore as much, so now I'm kind of living that out, and that's exciting to me.

[bbc films


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