Larry King Live, 24th January 2004

NICOLE KIDMAN, ACTRESS: I can name the principle rivers in Europe, just don't ask me to name one stream in this county. LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Nicole Kidman. How did this Australian beauty come to play a southern bell on location in Romania? And could her role in "Cold Mountain" win her a second Oscar. Plus, Kim Cattrall of "Sex In The City." Now that she's bared all as the bed hopping Samantha Jones, what's next? And Bill Medley, the surviving member of "The Righteous Brothers," with very candid comments about the cocaine related death about his singing partner, Bobby Hatfield. All that and a lot more next on LARRY KING LIVE. We have a great show for you tonight. And we begin with Nicole Kidman, who plays Ada Monroe in "Cold Mountain." She's nominated for a Golden Globe, and the Golden Globes will be tomorrow night, for best performance by an actress in a drama motion picture. She won last year's best actress Oscar for a brilliant performance in "The Hours." And Anthony Minghella, the director and screenwriter for "Cold Mountain," nominated for a Golden Globe as well for best motion picture director and best motion picture screenplay. He won an Oscar, best director, for the brilliant film, "The English Patient." We've got an Australian and a Britisher. Another Britisher is the co-star, right? Jude Law. And it's filmed in Romania. And it's about the American Civil War. Explain this.


KING: Now did you choose this?

ANTHONY MINGHELLA, DIRECTOR: Well, I mean, I chose the actors, obviously. And I chose to do this movie. I think that one of the great things about being in the film business is something Hollywood's done since it began. It's invited people in from all over the world.

You don't need your passport when you arrive here. You don't need your passport when you cast an actor. You don't cast an actor because of their nationality.

And you know Nicole has demonstrated for her whole career how she can play any kind of role at all and be completely convincing. And sometimes going in to an accent, going into another country, gives you an objectivity and a perspective on a film you might otherwise not have.

KING: Why did you take this role?

KIDMAN: Because it was -- I mean, the script was basically -- the screenplay was a perfect screenplay. And when you read it, you just say this is something that...

KING: In other words, it was automatic.


KING: You saw this and said yes?

KIDMAN: Oh, I met with Anthony and hoped that he would say yes to me.

KING: Really?

KIDMAN: That was...

KING: All right. What was it about? What about it said yes?

KIDMAN: To me, I think it's the -- I mean, it's so many layers to the story, obviously. It was a novel to start with, and then...

KING: Great novel.

KIDMAN: Yes -- that I had read. But I wanted to make a film about a belief in a great love. And that's -- simply put, that was sort of surprising for...

KING: So this was first to you a love story?


KING: You bought the rights to the book, Anthony?

MINGHELLA: My company did, with Sydney Pollack, my partner.

KING: So you liked it right as soon as you read it?

MINGHELLA: I loved it.

KING: Did you see it in a movie right away?

MINGHELLA: Even before I finished it I knew I would do it. And that doesn't happen often to me.

KING: Because? MINGHELLA: Because it has everything. You know? It's got -- it's a war film, it's a love story, it's an odyssey. It's based on a fable. It's based on a real story. There was a real man who did walk back to a real place called Cold Mountain. Cold Mountain is also a spiritual destination in Buddhist poetry. It's got everything that a filmmaker wants. It's got the intimate and it's got the epic.

KING: Was Nicole your first choice?

MINGHELLA: As soon as I met her I knew I was desperate for her to be in the film. I had been looking...

KING: Now you tell her.

MINGHELLA: I had been looking at some of her work, because I wrote an article in "The New York Times" about her performance in "The Others." And I watched this film again and again and I realized that I was looking at probably the greatest actress working right now. And then it was easy for me to try and...


KIDMAN: Oh, I've got goose bumps. But I remember Anthony writing this piece in "The New York Times," and actually Harvey Weinstein saying, "Have you seen the piece that Anthony Minghella wrote?" And I said, "No." And they sent it through to me.

And I couldn't believe that somebody had sat down and dissected the film, and to the point -- and such an understanding of a female character in "The Others" which I -- which some people didn't get, but which he just intuitively...

KING: It was a great film. Great.

Do you like writing, too, as much as directing? You're a writer that directs.

MINGHELLA: First and foremost, I'm a writer. I always feel I'm a writer who is allowed to go make his own films.

KING: Is adapting hard?

MINGHELLA: Yes. I mean, when you've got a book like "Cold Mountain," which is the most brilliant piece of prose and literature...

KING: How do you film it?

MINGHELLA: How do you deal with it? How do you retell it in the course of one evening and -- you can read a film -- read a book at your leisure. You can sink yourself into it. It was perfect when you read it. Perfectly cast, perfectly presented. KING: Why Jude Law?

MINGHELLA: Well, I worked with him on "The Talented Mr. Ripley." I had an enormously good experience with him.

KING: Real good movie.

MINGHELLA: He's a tremendous actor. He can do anything. And I believed for a long time that he was a secret waiting to happen as a leading man. And I think this role, which required him to be both an action star, but also a romantic lead in the film -- and I think he demonstrated completely that he can do it.

KING: How well did you like him, Nicole? Come on, there were stories that you really liked him.

KIDMAN: I mean -- oh. No. Yes, there were many stories. But I think when you're doing a love story, there's always going to be stories.

I mean, that's -- and it's also part of the whole process in terms of the way in which people -- they love to watch a love story and believe that the two people are in love. So -- and then...

MINGHELLA: I think it's a testimony of how convincing you were in the movie.

KIDMAN: You either demystify it or you just let it...


KING: Did you have instant chemistry with him, though?

KIDMAN: I don't even understand what chemistry is.

KING: No one does.

KIDMAN: I mean, what is it? You know?

KING: Well, you know...

KIDMAN: Did I want to be in the film with him and did I think that the two of us could play these characters, and did I just absolutely sort of love working with him and everything? Absolutely. And would do it again in a second.

KING: When you do love scenes -- Marcello Mastroianni, the great Marcello Mastroianni, said the love scene is the least turn-on scene to do because there's all these technicians.

KIDMAN: I don't know if I agree with that.

KING: Oh. He said it's hard because you've got to always watch the camera angles and...

KIDMAN: It's hard. But at the same time, I think as an actor you have to be absorbed in something and you have to get lost in it. And you have to -- I mean, that's what you learn to do very early on, is to block everything out. So you start to -- I mean, when people look at me, when I'm actually doing a film, I don't really even notice other people off camera.

KING: Really?

KIDMAN: No. I go into this...

KING: You're totally into it?

KIDMAN: It's like you're still present. You can still (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But you concentrate -- I can't even describe it. I think athletes might get it at certain times.

It's like a weird state of being. And I can't even describe it. But I think you've seen me in it, because people always say -- and so, therefore, it's the only way I know how to act. I mean, if I was aware all the time of everything...

KING: That's right. So you're totally in it. She's easy to direct?

MINGHELLA: Adorable. Completely adorable. But also challenging and intelligent. And she does one thing which I think is really interesting, is that she's both in the film and for the film, by which I mean that many -- there are many wonderful actors and actresses out there, many. And they submerge into their zone in the words that Nicole is describing, and that's it.

That's what they're there for. They show up to be part of the film in that way. What she's doing is both being that role, but also taking care of the whole movie.

She was always thinking about where we were, what adjustments we could make, because we had a really tough shoot. Incredibly difficult shoot.

KING: Why Romania?

MINGHELLA: Well, because it was the next best thing to shooting a movie where it was set. I mean, we worked for nearly six months in locating the movie in North Carolina where it was set. I scouted, I went with Charles Frazier, I went with the production designer.

And two things. One was the cost was astronomical. And people don't want to make these kinds of films. They're so expensive anyway, with such...


KING: Yet in Romania you...

MINGHELLA: And Romania is like a 19th century location. It's like time traveling.

KING: Really?

MINGHELLA: And it was an extraordinary place.

KING: Did you like it there?

KIDMAN: Well, I like traveling. I'm a gypsy. That's sort of part of...

KING: Just got here from Sydney, right?

KIDMAN: Yes, but you -- I mean, I think when you choose to be an actor, part of you is saying, I choose to not have a home in a way. I choose to move.

KING: We'll be right back with Nicole Kidman and Anthony Minghella. And still to come, Kim Cattrall and Ed Norton will be with us tonight.

Right now, a scene from "Cold Mountain."


KIDMAN: I found you this book to take with you, William Barchum (ph). And this, I'm not smiling in it. I don't know how to do that, how to smile.

JUDE LAW, ACTOR: Well, you're doing it.



KIDMAN: I can talk about farming in Latin. I can -- I can read French. I know how to lace up a corset, god knows. I can name the principle rivers in Europe, just don't ask me to name 1 stream in this county.

I can embroider, but I can't (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I can arrange cut flowers, but I can't grow them.


KIDMAN: Ruby, you can ask why about pretty much everything to do with me.

This fence is about the first thing that I've ever done that might produce an actual result.


KING: OK, Nicole, what was Rene Zellweger like to work with?

KIDMAN: I was...

KING: She's funny.

KIDMAN: Yes, she's funny. She's a fireball. She sort of arrived, and you've never seen somebody with so much energy.

She'd pace around the set. I mean, it was the character she was playing, too. But she would pace around the set before we'd shoot and she'd be like yelling her lines out and she'd be (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


KIDMAN: Remember? I loved watching her do it. And she's tiny, but she's so strong.

KING: She wanted to buy the rights to this, didn't she?

MINGHELLA: That's how I met her.

KING: Really?

MINGHELLA: I met her. I was so intrigued by whoever -- the actress who wanted to buy the rights to this book that I thought I should have lunch with her.

KING: She was bidding against you?

MINGHELLA: She tried to get the rights. I didn't bid -- I might have...

KING: Because she wanted to play that role?

MINGHELLA: She wanted to play Ada.

KING: She wanted to play your role?


MINGHELLA: And I met her, and I had lunch with her. And I said, "You know, would you ever consider playing the other role?" And she said...

KIDMAN: I would have liked to have played Ruby.

MINGHELLA: She said, "I'd do anything. I really would."


KIDMAN: I think if you're an actress you can say, well -- you know, in the same way "The Hours" I wanted to play Julianne Moore's role.

KING: Did you?

KIDMAN: Yes. Yes. It's funny. You sort of don't -- you see what you're given, and then you go, oh, but that looks more fun.

KING: You're both from other places. Do you know what America still remains fascinated with its Civil War?

MINGHELLA: It's... KING: There's always been books on it.

MINGHELLA: I think in some ways I've been naiive about the degree to which the wounds of the Civil War have not healed in this country. From a distance, perhaps, we're not quite so alert.

And I wrote a line very late on which said, "The land will not heal. The heart will not heal." And I didn't realize how prescient that was.

It's -- you know, I think when we were in the South -- we did shoot some of the movie in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia. It was clearer to me that there are still...

KING: Vestiges.

MINGHELLA: ... a certain amount of a sense of an unfinished business.

KING: That's the war that -- well, it took the most casualties, the most American casualties ever. And it's imbedded in us. It never goes away.

There's been some criticism, Nicole, that there were very few blacks in the movie. How do you respond?

KIDMAN: I mean, I don't think it is my place to respond to that. I didn't write the novel. And in terms of what it's dealing with, I mean we're not dealing with that part. We're dealing with a love story. That, for me...

KING: There was no place for it?

MINGHELLA: Well, I think it was a different thing, even. I mean, as Nicole says, the novel is about a particular group of people. And those people were poor white farmers in the mountains who had no slaves, who weren't fighting for slaves. They the were told that they were going to be threatened by a northern invasion. And that was a war of northern aggression is was called.

And so I was trying to tell that story, which is the story that the book is telling. Whereas the people who -- they were told they were going to war to fight for the right to end slaves. Why would they have gone?

You know, they were sent to war on a lie in a way. And so that felt to me like the angle, the political angle of the film that I needed to express properly.

KING: Do you adapt to accents easily, Nicole?

KIDMAN: I have because I'm Australian. And it's very rare that you get...

KING: Australian parts?

KIDMAN: Yes. So you learn that very early on.

KING: So what do you do? How do you do it? Do you get a coach?

KIDMAN: Well, you get -- yes. I mean, I have -- if I work in England, then I'll have an English coach. And if I work in America, then I'll have an American coach.

KING: And were you looking for -- because there are different southern accents.

KIDMAN: But this is very specific, this southern accent. Yes. It's very -- it's a Charleston accent, which has very specific sounds, which I actually adore. I loved doing it.

KING: Is it hard to keep it throughout?

KIDMAN: No. Once you -- it's musical, so if you approach it in a musical way, where you just hear it rather than looking at it phonetically or technically, if you just say, this is -- you listen, and then before you know it, it will come out.

KING: And you can turn -- in other words, you can go home and be yourself and then come in and take the accent the next day?

KIDMAN: Well, it's that, too. I mean...


KING: You go to dinner and you...

KIDMAN: Everything starts to blur. So I'm not quite sure. Suddenly, yes, my sounds will change. But I'm not aware that they're changing.

KING: What are you working on now, Anthony?

MINGHELLA: Being a person. It's taken me over four years to make this movie. I finished it at Christmas.

KING: Four years?

MINGHELLA: Yes. Over four years.

KING: The project, the writing...

MINGHELLA: From writing, researching, scouting, right until the end. I finished this before Christmas. So I'm trying to plug myself back in.

And also, Nicole's going to be in a movie that my partner, Sydney Pollack, is making. And I'm going to go to New York next week.

KING: What movie?

KIDMAN: "The Interpreter" it's called. And Sydney Pollack...

KING: Original screenplay?

KIDMAN: Yes. It's really...

KING: Sydney Pollack is your partner?


KIDMAN: And he produced "Cold Mountain." (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The family, I don't meet the family.

KING: That's nice. Keep it in house.


KING: Best of luck Sunday, tomorrow night. Good luck.

MINGHELLA: Nice to meet you. Thanks very much.

KIDMAN: Thank you.

KING: You don't need luck. Neither of you need luck.

Nicole Kidman and Anthony Minghella. He's the writer and director. She's the star of "Cold Mountain," nominated for a Golden Globe and Academy Award. They're both in that picture as well.


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