Nicole Kidman has had her share of playing depressing characters, but finally lets herself ago. Now in New York, she shares the spotlight with co-stars Bette Midler, Faith Hill and Glenn Close, but as per usual, the press cannot get enough of Aussie Kidman.
A darkly comic interpretation of the original novel, originally filmed in 1975, Kidman plays a powerful career woman who winds up in Stepford, a mysterious Connecticut town where the women are perfect wives and homemakers, but oddly vapid and robot-like. A film that in part satirises domestic perfection in true American style, Kidman says that, as is expressed in her Stepford Wives, “the thing is that happiness is not found through perfection or even trying to achieve it. I’m nowhere near perfect, and am not ever trying to be,” Kidman explains.
“Actually, the things that I find most attractive in people are their flaws and imperfections.” The workaholic Kidman, now an Oscar and Golden Globe winner, says that even in her world, she finds time for domestic bliss of sorts. “I suppose that my thing is that I like cooking. That’s the thing that I would like to become better at, which actually relaxes me. I don’t see it as work. I really enjoy being able to make things, otherwise, forget it. I can’t sew. I’m a very poor knitter, but I can wrap Christmas presents really well,” Kidman laughingly confesses.
The Stepford Wives, in part, satirizes the all-American housewife, embodied in post-World War 2 American culture. Kidman is unconcerned that today’s housewives will find The Stepford Wives offensive. “A stay at home mom is not sort of doing her hair. I mean, basically my mum was at home for most of our lives and I don’t think that I ever saw her in stilettos and her hair all done while baking a cake. I mean, sure, she would cook and could sew like the best of them and she would make all of our clothes, but she was real and complicated and a wonderful, wonderful role model for me and a wonderful women. But she didn’t have to appear or present herself in any particular way which I think this is. It’s all about the presentation and not having a mind.” Kidman forcefully adds that “I don’t think that that this film is offensive to a stay at home mom or to women who are choosing to raise their children and not have their career for a certain period of time or choosing not to have a career at all, but that’s what it’s about. It’s about that also, and about the choice to do those things.”
Kidman says that it wasn’t easy trying to relate to the ambitious elements of her character we see at the beginning the movie, this dominant, take-charge character, who is running TV network. “But then I wanted her to be very extreme,” Kidman explains. “I actually kept fighting for more extremes in her kind of nature, at the beginning so that you want her to fall in a way, because I think that that’s interesting. It’s someone who seems so out of control, power hungry, obsessed and completely imbalanced and therefore there’s this desire to see them actually fall down and get their comeuppance in a way. Then when she’s taken to the other extreme, it’s like, ‘No. This is too much.’ So that’s what appealed to me about the character. Am I like that? The beginning woman? No. I have a lot more insecurities, I think,”
Those insecurities have as much to do with Kidman’s continual battle, combining motherhood with the career that has dominated her life since childhood. In previous interviews, the actress has commented on eventually giving up the career, but here she is, centre stage trying to address that issue in this city that never sleeps. “I guess what I grapple with is that I still haven’t learned how to balance those things. I suppose that what I’m implying is that at some stage I would love to have another child,” Nicole confesses. “I would love to settle into a relationship that’s really important to me and I actually am not good at the balance at that. So that’s what I sort of see as my future in a way, but I don’t see the two combining which I think is a big problem in our society as well.”
In discussing the theme of men’s suspicion of powerful women in Stepford Wives, Kidman laughs when asked if she feels that to be really the case in her own life. “I don’t see myself as terribly powerful or successful. I see myself more as just absolutely loving what I do. With that has come all of the other things that you sort of deal with in relation to it. But I love to act and love to have an opportunity to play an array of women who are sort of fascinating and complicated, which is a dream as an actress. So in terms of men in relation to that, I think that a lot of it is that you maybe don’t have a lot of time to give to someone else which comes back to my thing of how do you balance. When you’re passionate about what you do, how are you then passionate about someone in your life? I suppose that all works out, doesn’t it? So in relation to power and success, I never even think like that. I mean, it’s not something that I’m focusing on. It’s more about just having the blessings at the moment to do some things creatively and to express things that I have going on inside my head.”
Asked what her definition of the perfect man is, a la Stepford-type technology, Kidman offers a slight smile. “I don’t want perfect. I think that the discovery of someone is the fun thing and the discovery of the things that someone else might find appalling. You think that they’re really cute. I mean, I don’t even know what I’m looking for. I suppose it’s a mystery isn’t it and I like the mystery.”
What is not a mystery is how hard Kidman continues to work. About to shoot two more comedies, The Producers and Bewitched, Kidman is reflective about her professional future, disputing the notion that she is rushing forward with a plethora of films. “I hope that it’s not rushing. I think I’m in a position where I say no to a lot of things, but I also say yes to things that come my way that I feel strongly about. I don’t actually have the answers. I read scripts, respond to them and have the opportunity to work with some of the most extraordinary, talented people at the moment and I respond to that. But I have my time. I actually don’t go out a lot. I spend a lot of time with my kids, my sister and my parents and stuff when I’m not working. The good thing about when you make a film is that you work intensively for a period of time, so it’s a slightly different way of doing it. You know, you’re not working a nine to five job. This film was the longest film that I’ve done besides the Kubrick film I don’t do well with long times. I actually like the period to be short because I have two kids and I certainly won’t go certain places in the world because of my kids and just my situation. So I hope that it doesn’t appear that I’m rushing, as I really value and honour my work and what it brings to me.”
If it’s not her work that Kidman obsesses about, then the protection of her children remains of paramount importance. As fiercely protective as she can be in this day and age, Kidman says she does what she can to protect them from the prying eyes of the media spotlight. “I never take them to premieres. They’ve never been photographed for magazines, and I’m absolutely a maniac about that. The only photos of them that have ever been printed are sort of paparazzi, long lens, and even then, I’m always like, ‘Please, please don’t.’ It jeopardizes them.” She sighs heavily when asked if either or both have expressed an interest in acting. “Oh, no, here we go, that’s the big one. Honestly, I have to be careful because my job is to be their mother and just because their mother is famous does not mean that they are. My job is to try and give them their life and once they’re sixteen, if they’re going, ‘I want to be an actor,’ then it’s different.”