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A pinch of luck helps Kidman brew a hit, Time Dispatch, June 24th 2005

Nicole Kidman decided to make "Bewitched" when she heard that Nora Ephron was going to write and direct it. Ephron decided to write and direct it when she heard that Kidman was interested in starring in it.


Call it synergy, call it synchronicity - call it witchcraft, if you must - but "Bewitched" would never have been made were it not for the simultaneous interest of Kidman and Ephron. The project had languished for years, because no one could figure out how to turn the 1960s sitcom about a witch and her husband into a movie worth seeing.


Then, Kidman attended a dinner party at the house of actress Carla Gugino. The two were in the kitchen - eating the dessert before it was brought out to the other guests - when Gugino encouraged Kidman to find out why the project was stalled.


When an actress of Kidman's standing expresses an interest in a long-dead film, things sometimes happen. Kidman called Sony Pictures' chairman, Amy Pascal; Pascal called Ephron; and Ephron called her sister and frequent co-writer, Delia.


Working under an extremely tight deadline, the Ephrons came up with an irresistible hook: A self-centered actor (ultimately played by Will Ferrell) decides to remake the "Bewitched" show with his own character as the lead. He hires a complete unknown (Kidman) to play the role of Samantha, not realizing that she is, in fact, a genuine witch.


"It was one of those things where many people have tried to develop it and have never quite been able to make a story. Because if you just stick to the series, then the actual story doesn't warrant a feature film, you know?" Kidman told reporters.


Before any film was shot, the filmmakers had to make certain Kidman could perform Samantha's distinctive nose wiggle. She could, or at least she could wiggle her lips to give the appearance of moving her nose.


"I should have been fired if I couldn't do that," she said with a laugh.


Standing nearly 6 feet tall, with red hair and pale skin, Kidman is hard to miss. Her features are more angular than you might expect, and she is so thin she looks like she could catch a chill from a whisper. Yet despite wearing a lace-embellished heavy black dress that doesn't quite work, she looks stunning.


Her looks got Kidman her first acting jobs in Australian television and movies while she was still in her teens. When she began acting as a child, it was just a way to earn a paycheck, get the treats she wanted and get out of school. But she said she has grown into becoming an actress.


It was Stanley Kubrick, with whom she worked at great length on "Eyes Wide Shut," who taught her that acting is an art, she said. Some actors merely read their lines and try to get through their roles, but Kubrick showed her that the cinema is important and that actors' contributions to it can be of enormous value.


That said, her co-star in "Bewitched" is Will Ferrell. He does not act - he just performs ironic comic shtick, usually with a wink at the audience members to assure them that he is not as silly or stupid as he appears. Ferrell is pure comic impulse, and, fortunately for Kidman, this role did not require her to maintain a straight face when working with him.


"You know, when you're doing a film like this, so much of it is about almost being on the verge of laughter," she said. "A lot of it is about that sense of anticipation and fun within you, and allowing that to exist and seep through."


It was not even difficult, she said, to play a romantic scene opposite Ferrell. There was something about his eyes, she claimed, that made her want to be around him.


"I kept saying to Nora, 'My God, this doesn't feel like I'm working. It just feels too easy.'"


There were also advantages to working with Ephron. Kidman asked Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, whether she should make a movie with Ephron, because they worked with her on "Sleepless in Seattle."


"Both of them said, 'Absolutely, you have to do it. And on top of that, she has the best catering in the world.'


"And she does! I have to say, she would fly cakes in from Seattle - there's some food store there that makes a particular type of cake. She used to be a food critic. It's always good to have your director having been a food critic."



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