Even with her flat shoes, Nicole Kidman remains a formidable presence. Understated in black, her hair, now more blonde than usual and in short pigtails, Kidman was flanked by her publicist, ready to talk about Bewitched. A far cry from her more intense work, the actress says she was attracted to this comic take on the 60s TV sitcom, partly as a release from the more dramatic work that garnered her an Oscar, and partly, she says, “because I’d watched the series as a kid and there seemed something quite fun at the idea of having watched something as a little girl, then being able to step into it as a woman and kind of pay homage to it. “
In this latest incarnation of a beloved television series, directed by Nora Ephron, Will Ferrell co-stars as Hot-shot actor Jack Wyatt, set to star as Darrin in a new TV version of the ’60s TV series “Bewitched,” who finds his ideal Samantha in unknown actress Isabel [Kidman], who just happens to be a witch in real life. For Kidman, playing such an icon meant engaging in a certain amount of nose twitching, she recalls, laughingly. “I needed a mirror and the slow-mo on the VCR. Then I would put her nose in slow motion, put up the mirror and would kind of try to mimic it. Finally my mum would say, ‘No, that wasn’t very good, try again'”
The actress is philosophical when discussing the inherent dangers of contemporising a beloved television show. “I think that the lesson you learn is not try to stay within the confinements of what’s been set. That’s where I think Nora Ephron tackled it quite well, that even though you’re doing a remake, she was able to find another way of telling a story with this film.”
Witchcraft, it seems, comes naturally for the Aussie Oscar winner, having dabbled in it once before in the critically maligned Practical Magic, but the actress says there are no similarities between the two. Yet at the same time, playing a witch has some liberating elements to it. “If you’re pissed off, it’s kind of nice to be able to walk through walls, blow up the cappuccino machine, make a dog jump into your arms and make him speak in tongues,” Kidman says, laughingly. “I think that’s sort of funny and cool, but at the same time, I obviously think the concept is that everyone wishes they could do a little magic and I think the overall idea of the film is that to fall in love requires some of that.” But Kidman says that if she were a witch, she would use her powers in less frivolous ways. “To get heavy, I do a lot of fund raising for women’s cancers, so I probably would choose to eradicate not just women’s cancers, but all cancer, so that would be a good thing.”
In all the years that I’ve known Kidman, 20 years to the day, the actress has always maintained that she perpetually has doubts before taking on a project, whether it’s a broad comedy or heavy drama. Nothing, it seems, has changed. “I think that that’s something that motivates you in the sense of: if you think you can do something then it’s a whole different ballgame. I think there’s a slight arrogance to that, so I think it’s always better to be, ‘I’m not sure’, ‘teach me’ and ‘I’m willing to learn’.”
Kidman says that a time comes when she needs to leave part of those lingering doubts off the set. “There’s a time when you step into it and you just go, well now I’m kind of on the roller coaster, so I’ll be kind of brave, throw myself into it and not worry if I fall flat on my face. You know, the first few days of shooting or rehearsal, is when you’re kind of hoping that you DO fall flat on your face, so then you’re not frightened of making a fool of yourself, because so much of your trepidation is just based on, ‘I don’t wanna make a fool out of myself’, particularly if your nature is a little kind of shy to begin with.”
Kidman has always denied being a workaholic, though even at the time of this interview, she was in the midst of shooting Fur, the unconventional biopic about photographer Diane Arbus, a film she wouldn’t discuss in detail, except to admit it was the antithesis of studio fare. “Here the budget is so small and we’re kind of running trying to get everything we can so that the director gets his shots, in order for the film to get made.” It’s a film that Kidman is clearly passionate about, “because it’s such a bold and unusual thing and there isn’t a lot of money for it to be made.”
The actress says she took a break recently for 6 months, returning to her native Sydney, where she enjoys spending quality time with her parents, but has no intention of revealing where her next vacation will be. “Now I don’t tell anybody where I go or what I do, because it just gets publicised and then I can’t go back,” she adds, laughingly.
The actress does hope to return to Australia to work, admitting that she and Baz Luhrmann are set to reunite for a new project, following the disappointed collapse of Eucalyptus, in which she was to star opposite Russell Crowe. “They just didn’t have the script together, and Fox decided not to make the film, which was a very bold move, considering what we were attempting to do. But at the same time, I think it was the right move, because a lot of times films go ahead and get made, and people know that they’re not going to be good, yet they still make them, so I think this was actually a sort of honorable decision in the sense that they didn’t want to waste the money and make something that wasn’t going to be good.”
And Kidman has no idea if that film will resume or not. “I have no idea, but I hope so.” In the meantime, having enjoyed Kidman’s musical prowess in Moulin Rouge, she gets to sing and dance again. “I did do a movie musical with George Miller, called ‘Happy Feet,’ where I got to sing a little bit.” Ah yes, the versatile actress plays a penguin, “and hopefully a cute penguin,” she adds, laughingly. “I mean, George is obviously a huge talent, who hasn’t made a film for so long, so I’m looking forward to this one. I’m a big penguin, but a small role, so I’ve gone from Bewitched to a penguin.