Interview with Nicole Kidman of The Hours, ugo.com, 2003
Dan Epstein: Let's get the fake nose thing out of the way. What did you think of having to wear the prosthetic nose?
Nicole Kidman: Well, we went through three different noses. The main thing was saying, "Do we really want to go this route?" Was it going to be a distraction or was it going to help create the character? I just didn't want to feel like a complete idiot walking around with this huge nose and have everyone just laugh the minute I came onscreen. That was my beef.
When I had the nose on, I wasn't recognized at all. The photographers would be outside my trailer and I would use a different name and no one had any idea it was me. I love going to flea markets, and that's the thing now that's difficult. I would love to have a disguise to drift into.
DE: How long did it take to apply the nose?
NK: Two and a half hours.
DE: And your children, did they recognize you?
NK: Yes, but they hated the nose...hated it. My son [Connor Antony] said, ''Oh, not that nose again!'' when he saw the poster.
DE: I read you lived alone in a cottage in the woods to prepare for this movie. How did that help you for this movie and also did it help you during your divorce?
NK: Being isolated helped me be with my thoughts and do what Virginia did. I did a lot and felt isolated. I felt a little like I was captive. For different roles, you do different things. For this, it was very important to delve into her psychology. I was drawn to Virginia. I wasn't quite able to understand her. I think that's good to not totally understand her and just exist within her and get lost in her writing. She was a genius and she had such an extraordinary life that we only tap into a small part of it. I got to tap into all of it. She had so many complicated relationships in her life, her father. I studied all of that, then you throw it all out. I basically read so many of her letters to her husband, Leonard. They were beautifully written, witty and so candid. She has great wit and mischief. I loved that about her, and imbue that spirit. Her sexuality has always been questioned, how was it and who was it. But I think she was sensual, which is something that's not often said about her.
DE: What does the kiss with her sister mean to you?
NK: I don't want to describe how it feels to me, because it's different for everybody. I know how I think. There's a huge desire there. There's the way I play, then how it's interpreted. Obviously, the debate about what happened between Virginia and Vanessa has always been one that's been discussed. Whether it was ever incestuous.
DE: Miranda kind of laughed it off.
NK: I think we were true to her essence. She didn't want to be in her house at the time; her sister lived in London. There are so many different layers to her relationship. She was incredibly attached to Vanessa. Virginia's life is fascinating. Then you get into madness and creativity, and how did those things affect her work?
DE: Did Virginia intimidate you as a character initially?
NK: Yes. I read the script and I couldn't believe they wanted me for Virginia. Then Stephen [Daldry, the director] told me he wanted me for Virginia, and I thought there was no way I would be able to pull this off. It's going to be a disaster. Then, I thought if Stephen Daldry believes I could do it, then I have to have some sort of faith. As an actress, when do you get the chance to play older, because people always tell you not to? People told me I'd ruin my career. I like when people say I shouldn't do something.
DE: What was it like working with David Hare again?
NK: Wonderful. I worked with David onstage in The Blue Room, and I'm developing a screenplay called Lee Miller he wrote.
DE: Are you going to return to the stage soon?
NK: I would love to. I'm doing the film Cold Mountain right now. I flew in from Romania to do press for The Hours.
DE: Are there any actor nightmares that happened when doing The Blue Room?
NK: There are always mishaps. When you work together as actors, you sort of carry each other. The great discipline about theatre is that you have two hours where you have to concentrate, because you have to get through it. Anything that goes wrong is not wrong, but just what it is that night. Lights go out, things crash to the ground, phones ring.
DE: I was intrigued that you learned to write right-handed for this role. Was that necessary?
NK: It helps me. There are some roles you do an enormous amount of research for. I just did a Lars [Von Trier] movie called Dogville where I just showed up. He said he didn't want any preparation whatsoever, and just come as you are. For The Hours, I'm playing someone that existed. She smoked, so I smoked. She wrote right-handed, so I did that. She drowned, so I put myself under water. But I had to keep telling myself, ''Don't actually drown yourself!'' You're given such wonderful opportunities when you're given a role like this. You have to be willing to go the distance for it.
DE: Does Virginia Woolf inhabit you now?
NK: Does it seem like it? [laughs] I think she has left an effect on me, just because of her writing and her profundity of how she viewed life. Inhabiting me in my skin, no. But just as I took something from Stanley Kubrick, you take something from Virginia Woolf. Everything feeds you and you don't quite know how. There are certain things that speak to you more clearly. That's what the film is. It's this writer, now dead, influencing these two other lives on such a profound level through a novel. That's something we don't experience a lot now with television and the way we are barraged now. It's the power of literature. You see the power of great writing.
DE: How was it working with Stephen Daldry?
NK: He can lighten you up in a dark moment. I really clicked with Stephen. I love to hug him.
DE: How closely did you relate to Virginia Woolf in terms of her depression?
NK: Everyone asks me this and I have to be careful here. The lines get blurred between life and art, but I think that's a good thing. If you take what exists within and put it into your work, then it's no so indulgent and it takes it to a new level.
DE: What kind of preparation do you do for the new version of The Stepford Wives?
NK: I don't know yet
DE: What intrigued you about doing that?
NK: Because it's going to be done as comedy, a black comedy, and I've been wanting to do one. I'm in the middle of Cold Mountain, which is an epic tragic love story, and I just had to do a comedy. I need to have some lightness. Talk about great writers, Anthony Minghella [writer/director of Cold Mountain and The English Patient] is the most poetic writer working today. I feel so lucky working with him.
DE: How is The Human Stain?
NK: That's very odd, being back in Australia, because I stay in my accent when I work.
DE: Do you prefer the over the top of Moulin Rouge or the sublime of The Hours?
NK: I like the balance. I wouldn't want to do all of one. I think so much of me now is instinct. I get drawn to things at different times, sometimes against the advice of what I should be doing. If it doesn't work, then I'll take the rap for that, and if it does work, then great. I wouldn't want to make ten Moulin Rouges because I would be dead, and I wouldn't want to play Virginia for ten years. But I'm fortunate the stuff I've been doing lately has been so diverse. That doesn't last forever.
DE: Is the price you have to pay for your art worth it?
NK: Once it's not, I won't do it anymore.
DE: You could just walk away?
NK: It's not even walking away. It's more that you go, ''Well, I went through a creative period and now it isn't there.'' When that goes, and when that dries up...then, yeah. Maybe I'd go back and do some theater. I think there's a time in your life when you don't even know why, but you just have to do these things, they just come out of you. You can't even quite control it. You say, ''Let's see where it takes me.''
DE: Everyone says you give 110 percent into your roles. What do you get back from the performances you give?
NK: I get very satiated. I also think you get some wisdom from the brilliant minds you're working with. Being around people that are thinkers and the modern philosophers. David Hare is, and Kubrick was.
"I want to walk through life with grace and dignity and generosity and never take it all for granted."
Why? / Who?
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