Sunday, September 10, 2006

"Nicole Kidman"

David Thomson's Nicole Kidman comes out this month.

From the publisher:

Here is the story of how this actress began her career, has grown through her roles, taken risks, made good choices and bad, and worried about money, aging, and image.

Here are the details of an actress’s life: her performances in To Die For, The Portrait of a Lady, Eyes Wide Shut, Moulin Rouge!, The Hours, and Birth, among other films; her high-visibility marriage to Tom Cruise; her intense working relationship with Stanley Kubrick and her collaborations with Anthony Minghella and Baz Luhrmann; her work with Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Renée Zellweger, and John Malkovich; her decisions concerning nudity, endorsements, and publicity.

I'm not sure I want to read this book but it may prove irresistible. Here's the passage where Thomson writes about Kidman's breakthrough role:

And then came the turning point: To Die For, the black comedy in which she played a homicidal television weather girl.

“Suddenly I had something,” she says. “The earlier parts that I’d had in America, so many were lame. But now, I thought, ‘I can say these words.’ I didn’t change a line... The sexuality was something I had never had a chance to do. And I relished the darkness of it all. It felt like being set free to play.”

To Die For altered most people’s ideas of Kidman as an actress and as a force that might generate and sustain whole movies. The best thing about the film is the direct-to-camera narration that Kidman’s character gives — uninfected by the immorality of what she has done — spinning the story to her own best ends. There could not be a better model for the way in which vanity and self-love have obliterated critical thinking.

Nicole had difficulty with these scenes, and the difficulty is close to her engine as an actress. “I battle with being shy,” she tells me. “I have lots of ideas — many more than I actually give in a film. And shyness embarrasses me. I’ve never given a performance I think is really good. It’s why I can blush on camera — because I am embarrassed, because I’ve blown it. Perfection never comes.

I still remember how astonished I was by how truly excellent she was in that role. Today, having seen other exceptional screen work by Kidman, I doubt I would be so surprised. But at time I had only seen her in Dead Calm and Billy Bathgate, both well-acted parts; but To Die For was really something else. Watch it if you haven't already. Read more of that lengthy excerpt, click here.

There is another excerpt, from Chapter 1, here.

To read a Q & A with the author--first question: "You are a well-known film scholar and historian. Why did you decide to do a book about a movie star—and why Nicole?"--click here.

--Marshal Zeringue