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Nicole Kidman - Goddesses of the Silver Screen
142    Dibyendu Banerjee    28/11/2022

Nicole Mary Kidman, known for her considerable range and versatility as well as for her glamorous looks and cool demeanour, was born on 20 June 1967 in Honolulu, Hawaii, while her Australian parents were there on educational visas. Her father, Dr Antony David Kidman, was a biochemist, clinical psychologist and author, while her mother, Janelle Ann (née Glenny), was a nursing instructor, edited her husband's books and was a member of the Women's Electoral Lobby. Since born in Hawaii, she was jokingly given the Hawaiian name Hōkūlani, meaning heavenly star, after the name of a baby elephant born around the same time at the Honolulu Zoo. Shortly after her birth, the family moved to Washington, D C, when her father became a visiting fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health of the United States. The family returned to Sydney in Australia when Nicole was four, where she was raised with her younger sister, Antonia Kidman.

nicole kidman

In her early years, Nicole Kidman attended Lane Cove Public School and North Sydney Girls' High School. However, she was also enrolled in ballet at the age of three, which was her first love and also showed her natural talent for acting during her primary and high school years. As a teenager, she joined and worked regularly at the Phillip Street Theatre, where she met Naomi Watts and the two became lifelong friends, followed by the Australian Theatre for Young People.

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When her classmates sought out fun in the sun, the fair-skinned Kidman found refuge in drama and retreated to the dark rehearsal halls of the theatre to practice her craft. Eventually, she dropped out of high school to pursue full-time acting and broke into movies at age 16, landing her debut role in the Australian holiday classic Bush Christmas (1983), followed by a lead in BMX Bandits (1983).

nicole kidman
Nicole in Windrider (1986)

Unfortunately, Nicole’s acting work was temporarily suspended, when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984 and she was compelled to study massage therapy to help her mother. However, soon she began gaining recognition with her appearance in several Australian films, which included the romantic comedy Windrider (1986). After winning her first Australian Film Institute Award for her performance in the 1987 miniseries Vietnam, she appeared in another Australian film Emerald City (1988), which earned her the second Australian Film Institute Award. However, she debuted as a lead actress in the thriller Dead Calm (1989) as Rae Ingram, the wife of a naval officer who is menaced by a former lover, which proved to be her breakthrough role and gained international recognition.

nicole kidman
Nicole Kidman with Billy Zane in Dead Calm (1989)

Nicole landed in the United States to accept the offer to appear in the sports action film Days of Thunder (1990), in which she played the role of Claire Lewicki, a young doctor who falls in love with a racetrack driver, played by Tom Cruise. While the film came out to be one of the highest-grossing films of the year, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise fell for each other during the filming and after a whirlwind courtship, the couple wed on 24 December 1990.

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Nevertheless, determined not to let her new marital status overshadow her fledgling career, she appeared as a catty high school senior, along with her former classmate Naomi Watts, in the Australian independent film Flirting (1991), which won the coveted Australian Film Institute Award for Best Film. In the same year, she also portrayed the role of Drew Preston, a gangster-loving socialite, opposite Dustin Hoffman, in the gangster flick Billy Bathgate (1991), for which she earned her first Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

nicole kidman
With Joaquin Phoenix in To Die For (1995)

Nicole Kidman reunited with Tom Cruise for Ron Howard’s Irish epic Far and Away (1992), depicting the story of young Irish lovers who flee to America in the late 1800s, which was a modest critical and commercial success. After that, she starred in the thriller Malice (1993), opposite Alec Baldwin, followed by My Life (1993), opposite Michael Keaton. In 1995, she appeared as Dr Chase Meridian, a sexy psychologist, in the superhero film Batman Forever (1995), but achieved her real breakthrough with Gus Van Sant’s critically acclaimed dark comedy To Die For (1995), in which she played the murderous newscaster Suzanne Stone, a fame-crazed housewife determined to eliminate any obstacle in her path. For her performance in the film, Nicole Kidman earned her first Golden Globe Award and BAFTA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

nicole kidman
Nicole in Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Nicole appeared as Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady (1996), directed by her countrywoman and onetime admirer, Jane Campion and portrayed the role of Julia Kelley, a nuclear weapons expert in The Peacemaker (1997), opposite George Clooney. In the American fantasy romantic drama film Practical Magic (1998), she starred alongside Sandra Bullock as two witch sisters who face a threatening curse that prevents them from ever finding lasting love.

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Nicole reunited with her then-husband Tom Cruise to portray a married Manhattan couple on a sexual odyssey in Eyes Wide Shut (1999), their third film together and the final film of director Stanley Kubrick, based on Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler’s novel Traumnovelle or Dream Story. Billed as a steamy romance featuring real-life couple Kidman and Cruise, the film was subject to censorship controversies due to explicit nudity and orgy scenes, but proved to be the highest-grossing film by Kubrick and was included in several lists of the greatest films of the 1990s.

nicole kidman
With Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge!

Finally, Nicole Kidman received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role, for portraying the role of Satine, the star courtesan, in the Baz Luhrmann musical fantasy Moulin Rouge! (2001). In the same year, she also appeared in the psychological horror film The Others (2001) and played the role of Grace Stewart, a mother living in the Channel Islands during World War II, who suspects her house is haunted to earn her second BAFTA Award and fifth Golden Globe Award nomination, along with a Goya Award nomination for Best Actress. Apart from that, she also appeared as a mail-order bride from Russia online in the dark comedy Birthday Girl (2001), directed by Jez Butterworth.

nicole kidman
In Birthday Girl (2001), with Vincent Cassel

The following year Nicole portrayed the role of Virginia Woolf in The Hour (2002), an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Cunningham, also starring Meryl Streep and Juliana Moore. In the film, the prosthetics applied to her nose to look alike the author during the 1920s, made the actress almost unrecognisable. While the film was a critical success, earning several awards and nominations, including a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Picture, Nicole’s splendid performance was highly appreciated by the critics and the commoners. Apart from that she was bestowed with numerous awards for her performance, which included her first BAFTA Award, third Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Actress, the first Australian to win the award. During the same year, Nicole was named the World's Most Beautiful Person by People, a famous American weekly magazine.

nicole kidman
Nicole in Dogville (2003)

A string of critical successes followed her Oscar win, which included Dogville (2003), an experimental film set on a bare soundstage, by Danish director Lars von Trier. In the second film, The Human Stain (2003), based on the novel by Philip Roth, she co-starred with Anthony Hopkins. The third film, Cold Mountain (2003), is a love story of two Southerners, in which Nicole starred opposite Jude Law and played the role of Ada Monroe, who falls in love with Law's character and becomes separated by the Civil War. While the film garnered several awards and nominations, Nicole received her sixth Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress. Next year, Kidman appeared in the critically panned remake of The Stepford Wives (2004) and also starred in the controversial drama film Birth (2004), in which the character of the 37-year-old actress meets a 10-year-old boy who tries to convince her that he is a reincarnation of her dead husband. Although the film met with a mixed reception primarily due to a scene where the boy strips and joins Kidman in the bathtub, Kidman was nominated for another Golden Globe Award for portraying her role in the film and the film was nominated for the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival. Later, while talking about the film, Richard Peña, a Professor of Professional Practice at the Columbia University School of The Arts described it as one of the most underrated films of the last twenty years. Marking the film as one of her favourites in her entire filmography, Kidman believes it to be one of the most overlooked and misunderstood films of her career and the controversies surrounding the bathtub scene eclipsed the themes of sadness and fear of vulnerability in the film.

nicole kidman

The following year, Nicole starred in the thriller The Interpreter (2005), playing UN translator Silvia Broome opposite Sean Penn and also appeared in the romantic comedy Bewitched (2005). Although neither film fared well in the United States, both were international successes. She reunited with Baz Luhrmann, the director of Moulin Rouge, for the Australian period film Australia (2008), playing a prim Englishwoman in the remote area of the Northern Territory during the Battle of Darwin against the Japanese attack during World War II.

nicole kidman
Nicole in Just Go With It (2011)

Nicole Kidman’s subsequent important films during 1910s include Rabbit Hole (2010), in which her performance as Becca, a grieving mother coping with the death of her son, earned her critical acclaim and she received nominations for the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. In the romantic comedy Just Go With It (2011), she appeared as Devlin Adams, a catty rival of Katherine, played by Jennifer Aniston and in Trespass (2011), she played alongside Nicolas Cage as a married couple whose home is invaded by thieves. She received her first Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her performance as Gellhorn in the HBO film Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012) and portrayed death row groupie Charlotte Bless in The Paperboy (2012), for which she was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award and the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress, in addition to her second Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In Lion (2015), she gave a powerful and moving performance as Sue, the adoptive mother of an Indian boy who was separated from his birth family, for which she received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, her fourth nomination overall and her eleventh Golden Globe Award nomination. Kidman also garnered critical acclaim for her performance as Erin Bell, a greying detective, seeking revenge for a botched undercover assignment from her past in Destroyer (2018).

nicole kidman
Nicole in Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012)

In her personal life, Nicole Kidman had been involved in relationships with Australian actor Marcus Graham, known as a teenage heartthrob in the early 1990s and Tom Bulinson, her co-star in Windrider. She met her first husband Tom Cruise in 1989, while working on the set of Days of Thunder and they fell for each other. During that time Tom Cruise was married to Mimi Rogers, whom he divorced on 4 February 1990 and married Kidman on Christmas Eve of 1990 in Telluride, Colorado. The couple adopted a daughter and a son before they separated just after their 10th wedding anniversary and was officially divorced on 8 August 2001, with Cruise citing irreconcilable differences. The reasons for dissolution have never been made public, but Nicole expressed shock about the divorce in the June 2006 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal and also revealed that she still loved Cruise despite their divorce. It was alleged that an affair between Kidman and her Cold Mountain co-star Jude Law was responsible for the break-up of the marriage, which was denied by the parties involved. Nevertheless, Nicole began dating musician Lenny Kravitz in 2003 before becoming engaged to him, but they ultimately decided to break off their engagement. She met country singer Keith Urban in January 2005 and they married on Sunday 25 June 2006, at Cardinal Cerretti Memorial Chapel in Sydney.

nicole kidman
Nicole Kidman with Tom Cruise

Often regarded to be among the finest actresses of her generation, Kidman transforms herself physically, mentally and emotionally to resemble her characters, which sometimes has adversely affected her health. In 2018, Time magazine included her in their list of 100 most influential people in the world, while in 2020, The New York Times named her one of the greatest actors of the 21st century. Since 1994, she has been serving UNICEF as a Goodwill Ambassador and UNIFEM since 2006. In 2006, she was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia, the highest civilian honour of the country. She appeared in a series of special edition postage stamps featuring some of Australia's great actors, which also included Geoffrey Rush, Russell Crowe, and Cate Blanchett.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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