Actress Nicole Kidman has demonstrated her ability to command just about any kind of role, including in her latest film, "Lion," as the mother of an adopted child who goes in search of his birth mother. CBS Tracy Smith talks with the Oscar-winner who knows just how to break our hearts.
I was watching an interview from Far and Away days, 2002. And you said, Yeah, well, I walk funny.
I do walk funny.
I have a little bit of a knock-knee…
You might say Nicole Kidman is larger than life.
… and then I have a little bit of scoliosis. Okay, we’re gonna get my whole medical history here!
She’s nearly six feet without shoes, so she kind of stands out even on a quiet street in her Nashville neighborhood. But as a kid growing up in Sydney, Australia, she didn’t always like being the tallest girl in the room.
I think maybe when I was little I would try to, there’s a way where you can look shorter where you put your hip out and you stand like that. Which I sort of started doing when I was a teenager, to look the same height as the boys. But then I just started to go, ‘No, I’m gonna stand up, pull my shoulders back, and stand up straight, and hold my head up high.’
And now, if it’s possible, she stands even taller on film.
Nicole Kidman can play anyone, and she often has, like the doomed song girl Satine in 2001’s Moulin Rouge.
She was a Civil War heroine in 2003’s Cold Mountain; and she was the icy villain in last year’s teddy bear fantasy, Paddington.
But Nicole Kidman’s latest role just might be closest to home. In the movie Lion, she plays fellow Australian Sue Brierly in the heart-wrenching true story of a couple who adopted a lost Indian boy, and help him find his birth mother.
Why did you connect so deeply with Brierly?
Because I have adoptive children, but she’s also a mother. She’s an unconditional-love mother, if that makes sense. That love brings you to your knees. That love has you crawling over hot coals. That love has you laying down on a train track and giving up your life like that if you have to.
It seems that love, and the pursuit of it, has been a constant in her life.
She met her first husband, Tom Cruise, on the set of her first big Hollywood movie, 1990’s NASCAR epic Days of Thunder. They instantly became one of the most famous and photographed couples in the world.
Was it that sudden to you?
It was pretty sudden but, you know, when I fell in love, everything else was like, ehhh! I was distracted!
And you were.
I was distracted.
She still won’t say exactly why, but after 10 years and two adopted children, Kidman and Cruise went their separate ways. Kidman channelled her personal anguish over the breakup, and put on a prosthetic nose, to play the role of a lifetime, British author Virginia Woolf, in 2002’s The Hours.
As a viewer I found it hard to shake the sadness of that movie. Did you find that difficult?
Yeah. I mean, I was deeply sad at the time. So then I sort of just kind of got lost in her. And it all sounds sort of mumbo-jumbo crazy stuff, but it kind of saved my life.
So when you say saved your life, what do you mean?
I mean, let me feel like, Oh, I can keep going. It’s okay. Life goes on.
And on it went: She won the 2003 Oscar for Best Actress, with most of her family, including mother Janelle, by her side.
You gave her your Oscar?
And then I took it back.
I did! I gave it to her. And then it was sitting on the mantle. I’m like, Why is it sitting there? So she had it for a little while, I’ll give it back to you, momma, but I suddenly went, Actually now I want it back.
She found another keeper in 2005: country singer and fellow Aussie Keith Urban, whom she met at an event in Los Angeles. They were married the following year, and now have two daughters.
What was it between the two of you that clicked, when you first met?
Chemistry. We just had chemistry. I never underestimate the power of chemistry.
And she knows good chemistry when she sees it: her own parents were married 50 years, until 2014, when her beloved dad, Dr. Tony Kidman, died suddenly of a heart attack. Understandably, Nicole was a wreck.
When my father passed away, I literally was down saying, Please, give me the strength just to be able to wake up tomorrow. Because I was shattered beyond belief at that. I didn’t even know how to get up from this.
How did you get up?
Because I had a husband that came right back. I called him screaming and crying. And he was about to go on stage. And he walked off stage and he got on a plane, he had just gotten there. He flew six hours and he was right back there. And he literally picked me up and pretty much carried me through the next two weeks. And I also had, you know, my children going, It’s gonna be all right, Momma.
Is that what they said?
Well, it’s interesting the way children view things, ‘cause they’re like, You still got your mommy.
And her children have her: When she’s not working, the 49-year old Kidman spends most of her time in Nashville.
Were you at all worried about moving here at first?
Actually the opposite. When I met Keith, he brought me down here and we went to a place called Labour’s Fall, which is about 40 minutes from here, 30 minutes, and I was, I so hope he asks me to marry him and I can live here! And now both my daughters were born in Nashville so… they are Nashvilleians, my little girls are Southern girls.
Do they have southern accents?
They say ‘y’all.
That will do it! There you go!
She’s already racking up award nominations for Lion, but you get the sense that what Nicole Kidman really wants more than any trophy is time.
What’s the impression that you’d like to leave on the world?
I would just like to… it makes me sad… I would just like to be here long enough to have my children grow up and for me to see them thriving. Right? Oh you would… should not have done this to me. So that’s all I ask. And that my husband and I are with each other. Simple, simple requests.
Why does it make you just the idea of the kids getting older, why does it get to you?
Just wanting to be here, I’m an older mother so, you know…
It’s that prayer of, I wanna be… Gosh, let me be here.
Oh, please. Yeah. Please. Please. But, hey, what will be will be.