Nicole Kidman takes on romantic comedy as a nose-twitching witch
There are few bona fide movie stars in Hollywood today, and one is arguably Australian-raised beauty Nicole Kidman. The tall, red-haired and porcelain-skinned 38-year-old goddess has tackled horror (Dead Calm, The Others), action (Days of Thunder, Batman Forever), dark comedy (To Die For) and literary adaptations (Portrait of A Lady, The Hours). And now the Oscar-winning thesp is delving headfirst into a romantic comedy, Bewitched. Directed by Nora Ephron and based on the famous 1960s television series starring Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha - the witch who marries a mortal - the film centres on a witch (Kidman) who wants to lead a normal life, and is cast as Samantha on a new television series based on the 1960s series. The film, which opened in Italy this week, also stars Will Farrell as Kidman's love interest. Tandem talked to Nicole Kidman about Bewitched.
Did you twitch your nose easily?
"Oh no, I needed a mirror and I needed the slow-mo on the video. I put her nose in slow motion and then I would look in the mirror and try to mimic it. And my mum would say, 'No, that wasn't very good. Try again.' "
This is very light in comparison to the work you've done recently.
"Yes, because I loved the series, I used to watch it when I was a kid. There seemed something quite fun having watched something as a little girl and then being able to step into it as a woman and kind of pay homage to her."
You had no hesitation doing this considering it was such a beloved show?
"Well, you're always hesitant about any movie. Everything that we try and do, whether it be adapting a novel or doing a remake of a TV series... in the strangest way we're making a TV series that has more of an onus on it than trying to do Portrait of a Lady. I think that the lessons you learn is that you do not try to stay within the confinements of what's been said. And that I think Nora has tackled quite well. But even though you're doing a remake she was able to find another way of telling the story with this film."
Is it odd that almost everyone involved in the original series is dead?
"Well, Elizabeth Montgomery's husband is in this film. And he also directed some of the series. But he was on the set a lot and I always felt slightly uncomfortable that 'omigod, he's looking at me thinking she's not at all like her.' I really didn't talk to him much, he just came to watch."
Whose idea was it to put Samantha in Cool-Whip?
"Nora, Nora. Nora and food. If you notice there's a lot of consumption of food in this film when people are depressed. She was a food critic, Nora, and when she makes one of her films they say she has the best catering in the business. I think to bring it to a broader level, I think Nora is incredibly witty and powerful as a woman, yet she is also extremely nurturing. She invites you over on a Saturday night and she does all the cooking and she kind of has 30 people over. She loves to direct the film during the week and then entertain on the weekends. And I think that that's something that people don't realize about her, that there's such a selfness to her and at the same time she is one of the smartest writers and smartest women working today."
You've played a witch in Practical Magic as well. Do you get a kick playing fantastical characters?
"It's kind of nice if you're pissed off to be able to walk through and blow up a cappuccino machine, make a dog jump into your arms and make him speak in tongues. I think that that's sort of funny and cool but at the same time obviously I think the concept is that everyone wishes they could do a little magic. And I think the overall idea of the film is that to fall in love requires a little magic."
Papers have said that your pairing with Will Ferrell is unexpected...
"Yeah, they said that about Sean Penn and I in The Interpreter. But I suppose with Will and I it is kind of an odd pairing. But at the same time it was a really fun pairing. He's very generous with his talent and he would go, 'C'mon Nicole, you can do it.' And coaxing me out of my shell."
You can't have doubts about your talent.
"I always have doubts on everything. I think that that's something that motivates you in a sense. If you think you can do something then it's a whole different... I think there's a slight arrogance to that. I think it's always better to be 'I'm not sure,' and 'teach me' and 'I'm willing to listen, I'm willing to learn.' "
Is there ever a time when you've reached what you needed to reach in a role?
"No, there's a time when you step into it and you just go 'Well now I'm kind of on the rollercoaster and with that means I'll be kind of brave and throw myself into it and not worry if I fall flat on my face.' And I think a lot of that is during the first few days of rehearsals, when you're kind of hoping that you do fall flat on your face so then you're not frightened of making a fool of yourself. Because so much of your trepidation is just based on 'I don't want to make a fool of myself.' Particularly if your nature is a little reticent and shy to begin with."
You're famous for saying almost nothing on a set...
"On certain things. I didn't do that on this film. It's more like you're sitting around a table, and I'm always get accused of being really really quiet because I sit there and I watch and I listen and I tend not to say much until I feel at ease and that kind of takes me a little time."
Do you find that cast members tend to be really scared of working with such a celebrity?
"I've tended to work with huge stars and I've never really seen that, to be honest. They say that that usually happens with people who are in fear, so a lot of the people that I work with tend not to be that fearful. They tend to be really hard workers and really passionate about what they do and willing to do things for very little money to make a good film. I'm working on a film now [Proof] where the budget is so small and we're kind of running trying to get everything we can so that the director gets his shots, so that the film gets made because it's such a bold and unusual thing and there isn't a lot money. And that's your passion, that's your commitment, that's what you do. And it's my last film for a long time, I'm not doing anything else. I need the break."
What will you do?
"I went to Australia, I took the whole family away for Christmas. But I don't tell anybody where I go and what I do. It just gets publicized and then I can't go back."
What happened with Eucalyptus? Both you and Russell Crowe quit.
"They just didn't have the script together and Fox decided not to make the film. Which was a very bold move considering what we were attempting to do. But at the same time I think it was the right move because a lot of times films go ahead and get made and people know that they're not going to be good, and they still make them. I think that this was actually a very honourable decision in the sense that they didn't want to waste the money and make something that wasn't very good."
Coming from Australia, did you find working in a Hollywood studio magical?
"Oh, yes. There's time when I'd walk on a studio lot and there is something magical. You just forget, because you're doing it a lot these days. I remember the first I'd come to America and I walked onto the Paramount lot and I went 'This is what it's like!' It just inspires awe because of the history, the people that have walked the same steps you've walked. There are times now, especially in the evening when you're walking through those places, and there's that beautiful twilight when you're just going home, and you can feel the ghosts. It's lovely."
Bewitched is currently playing in local cinemas.
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