Saturday, September 04, 2010
From the Vault: Nicole Kidman
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED OCT. 1, 1995
After seeing To Die For, it's nearly impossible to imagine anyone other than Nicole Kidman playing Suzanne Stone, the ambitious would-be television star/killer. However, that's almost what happened since director Gus Van Sant had originally cast another actress to play Suzanne. Thankfully, that casting fell through and Kidman was a contender once again.
Kidman doesn't just play Suzanne, she inhabits her in such a way that people skeptical of the actress's abilities should kneel before her talent. The opportunity presented by To Die For wasn't won easily. There were fears that Kidman wasn't a funny enough actress or couldn't lose her Australian accent for the completely American creation.
"I called (Van Sant) and we spoke about an hour about it, and I said, 'Please, just give me this chance. I won't let you down.'"
The director did, and Kidman landed the main role in screenwriter Buck Henry's satiric adaptation of the Joyce Maynard novel of the same name.
"I think sometimes you read a script and you just go, 'Wow! I would so much love to play this role.' The way that Hollywood works a lot of the time is that whoever is the highest earning actress at the time gets the role. That can be very frustrating because you may have an idea on how to do it. To have the opportunity to do a Buck Henry script is one of those great opportunities because he's a brilliant satirist and a great writer. Almost every line in To Die For has his genius behind it and they're so Buck."
In order to become Suzanne, Kidman did insist that her husband (for those who've been living in a cave for the past five years, his name is Tom Cruise) stay away from the To Die For set.
"It's a distraction for the other actors and when you're creating a particular character if you have that person who knows you so well there and watching, it can make you self-conscious. The role meant so much to me that it was one of those things where I said, 'No, I can't have you there,' and it wasn't like he was going, 'No, I have to be there.'"
Marriage to a movie superstar has also introduced Kidman to world of tabloid media that To Die For skewers. She finds a marked difference between the way she, Cruise and her family are treated in London than in the United States.
"When we're in London, we tend to be followed more. When we're in America, we tend to be left alone. It's sad when there is so much attention on so many silly things when there are crises all over the world, from Bosnia to whatever ... and they're putting Hugh Grant on the cover of the paper. To me, that is ridiculous and stupid and that's what it's like in London."
While Suzanne Stone is an ambitious woman who will stop at nothing, including having her husband killed, to realize her dreams of television success, Kidman doesn't see a parallel in what is required to make it in the film industry.
"I don't think you have to be like (Suzanne to make it in Hollywood), and I think that is something that television now is making a different moral code, for particularly a younger generation of people. I think so much of having a career and being an actor is maintaining your integrity, maintaining your relationship with your emotions and your experiences so you have the capability to put them on screen and have access to them. It doesn't become about blind ambition trying to achieve something."
Television is not only the main focus of the movie but provided Kidman with much of the research she needed to find Suzanne's character.
"I went to television. I basically spent three days in bed. I checked into a hotel and watched television all the time. It was amazing because it becomes so hypnotic and the effect of just flicking channels — you can watch talk shows forever, 24 hours a day."
Though Kidman admits to having had a "naughty" streak when she was a teenager, she's never sunk as low or gone as far as her character does.
"To play Suzanne was one of those things where you just get to go completely wild and crazy, but you ... can't make it into a caricature. You have to find the reality and the emotional reality that it is grounded in, otherwise it becomes ridiculous and it loses the disturbing quality. I had to find playing her, the things that I liked about her, so that it wasn't me sort of winking at the audience going, 'Isn't she awful? ... '"