IN a town where religion is treated almost like a dirty word, where nontraditional faiths are hip and fundamental religions are not, Nicole Kidman is a breath of fresh air.
The actress is Catholic and proud of it. Speaking to reporters in a hotel where the paparazzi were waiting outside like a flock of buzzards, Nicole explained how she keeps her cool in her very public life. Catholicism, she said, guides her.
"I was raised a Catholic," said the very fair, very blonde ex-Mrs. Tom Cruise in a Prada dress (in aubergine, my female colleagues told me). Late afternoon California sunshine streaming through the room made her appear whiter than white-but in a radiant, dazzling way. "Catholicism is a part of my life. Last Easter time was lovely because I was back with my family. That's the first time in a long while that I spent Easter with my huge extended Catholic family, with aunts and cousins from all over the place. Being a Catholic was so much a part of my childhood, that it still remains with me."
This being Hollywood, the skeptical question was inevitable: Is she a practicing Catholic?
Pope was 'admirable'
"I certainly have a strong belief," replied Nicole, one of the nicest A-list actresses. "I try to go to church regularly, and I try to go to confession."
On the recently departed Pope John Paul II, Nicole commented: "Whether you agreed with him or not, it was admirable that in this world, he stood for issues and stuck by them."
Inspired by her faith and parents, whom she describes as having "very strong social conscience," the 37-year-old Aussie keeps herself involved with the Unicef. "I also do an enormous amount of fundraising for ovarian cancer," she stated. "My mother had breast cancer. If you're in a position like I'm in, it's your duty to try, in a small way, to help the world."
As for her personal life, this statuesque beauty laughed as she rattled off what is not true about her at the moment: "I'm not engaged. And I'm not pregnant. Obviously, I haven't moved forward in that arena. He's just a friend."
"He" is Steve Bing, millionaire producer and former boyfriend of actress Elizabeth Hurley.
Still laughing, Nicole pointed out, "I read on the cover of a magazine that I was engaged. I was like, I wish someone had told me!"
The Oscar and Golden Globe Best Actress for 2002's "The Hours" confirmed that her adopted kids with Tom Cruise, Bella (12) and Connor (10), do ask if she's dating. She assures them by saying, "If I am, believe me, you're going to be the first to know." And have the children put in their two cents' worth on prospective stepdads? "Absolutely," Nicole said, laughing some more. "Unfortunately for the guys, yes!"
Nicole joked, "[The kids are] older than me now. That's what it feels like. They're very independent, really well grounded little people. I'm sort of stunned, actually. Life goes on, doesn't it? I think they're embarrassed by me at the moment. I still smother my son with kisses. He's like, 'Get off me.' I think at the moment they're really trying to be independent. But we're very good friends on top of it all-which is a lovely thing."
As an interpreter for the United Nations in the drama-thriller titled, well, "The Interpreter," Nicole had to learn how to play the flute. The proud, glamorous mommy volunteered, "Connor was like, 'I want to learn that tune [on the flute].' And Bella said, 'I want to learn, too.' So we were all walking around the house with our instruments when I was starting to learn the flute. It became a contest of who could learn it quicker. I was the last."
In this movie that is the first ever to shoot inside the United Nations headquarters since it was built in 1946, Nicole co-stars with Sean Penn (also a first-time teaming) under the direction of Sydney Pollack (Oscar Best Picture "Out of Africa" and "Tootsie"). "He's extraordinarily generous as an actor," she said of Sean. "When he's in a scene with you he wants you to be great in that scene. That is a lovely quality."
She will be seen next in the movie adaptation of that classic 1960s TV sitcom, "Bewitched." Does she wiggle her nose, just like Elizabeth Montgomery did in the TV series? "I do it a lot," she answered with a laugh. "You'll all be sick of it. I do it even in the trailer."
As for the photographers waiting for her outside, she commented, "A lot of the time you're not aware of them because they're in the bush or something. So that means I'm not the kind of girl who would go topless on a beach. Besides, I'm a little too shy for that."
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