Sunday, April 05, 2009

Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole and the Legacy Factor

Why is it so hard to stay in the present with the movies? The news cycle is constantly asking us to look ahead a year or two. Just barely came to grips with performances we might be loving in 2009 and already we have to think about Nicole Kidman's 2010? Alas, it can't be helped. When it comes to Nicole Kidman we can't look away.

She's taking over Cynthia Nixon's (Sex & The City) TONY winning role as the grieving mother in the hit play Rabbit Hole. Aaron Eckhart takes over for silver fox John Slattery (Mad Men) as the grief-stricken father. Emmy regular and TONY winner Tyne Daly was the third name actor in the Broadway production, playing the wife's mother. No word yet on which movie star will be getting her part. This is yet a further reminder that it's nearly impossible for actors to be cast in the screen versions of their stage successes, even when they're already known quantities. You only get lead movie roles if you're an 8 figure salaried movie star.

News about the transfer of the Pulitzer winning Rabbit Hole spread like wildfire Thursday. I'm not quite sure what prompted the sudden news surge since Nicole Kidman was booked for this film as early as January 2007 . Maybe it's that the whole thing is more real now with Aaron Eckhart in place and none other than TFE favorite John Cameron Mitchell (himself a Broadway vet) signed to direct.

<-- John Cameron Mitchell (right) with fellow firestarter Bruce LaBruce last year. John is 45 years old and he still looks like he's 25. I hate him.

It's that last bit that's most interesting. John Cameron Mitchell has made one widely acclaimed outré miracle (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and one divisive but still award winning outré picture (Shortbus). He has never directed someone else's material for the screen. It makes sense to employ him for a theatrical conversion since he understands the medium but why Rabbit Hole? It doesn't seem to fit into what we know of his sensibility. It's a relatively conventional story of a husband and wife whose child is accidentally killed. It won stellar reviews for its performances and its incisive look at grief but studies of grief aren't exactly untrodden ground at the movies and the material isn't out there in any way. Its detractors claimed it wasn't theatrical enough for the stage. It was more like a screenplay already.

I hope Mitchell has an interesting take on it. But even if it remains only a straightforward quality drama, good on Kidman. She can't be stopped. If there's a great or challenging director alive that she wouldn't crawl across beds of glass to work with, it's probably just because she hasn't heard of him/her yet. For all the heat she takes in the press for her box office returns being disproproportionate to her salary and her "weird" taste in unconventional projects (i.e. interesting failures or thorny near-masterworks), she'll have the last laugh. Most movie stars are beautiful and talented. Those things are givens. Few of them seem to understand the importance of working with auteurs. They concentrate instead on finding mainstream hits, franchises and middlebrow prestige pieces. Kidman has done that, too, sure. But the best thing about her is her willingness to throw herself down the artistic rabbit hole and into the wilds of auteurial visions. I'm a staunch defender of Kidman on this front. Think of Dogville, Birth, Eyes Wide Shut, Portrait of a Lady, Moulin Rouge! and even the ones that didn't work like Fur and Australia.

Auteur-loving Kidman, always plotting.

I'm of the opinion that stars that serve auteurs first and foremost have the best chance of being remembered once they're dead. Uma Thurman has had a continually rocky career. Will she be remembered in 50 years time? Absolutely! Playing muse for Tarantino seals the deal. Stars that don't challenge themselves by working with real auteurs tend to fade, no matter how blinding their spotlight currently is. Box office is mostly irrelevant to the legacy equation. Consider this current example: Julianne Moore. She started her acting career in the 80s but found her first substantial fame in 1995. Guess which movie people associate with her ascendance: Assassins which grossed $30 million or [safe] which grossed $512,000? That's what I'm talking about! And that's with only 14 years of distance. Imagine what happens to the collective cultural memory in 50 years time.

So... Nicole Kidman. Mega famous now. Mega famous forever. Add John Cameron Mitchell to her ever expanding list of auteur conquests. Cross your fingers that their collaboration makes Rabbit Hole really sing and sting on the screen.


par3182 said...

well, we talk of [safe]; i doubt joe public even know of it, let alone will remember it...

i applaud kidman for her choices but her ice queen persona will hardly engender much sympathy as a grieving mother. i'd much rather watch cynthia nixon get teary (she gets me every time)

patrick said...

Kidman has the most interesting résumé of any English-speaking actress. Her career is all over the place (I mean, from Dogville to Bewitched??) but no one but her understands how an actor will be remembered.

Hepburn also had an eclective career, and she's in the cinematic pantheon.

The next 3 Kidman films (Nine, Rabbit Hole, Woody Allen Summer Project) look very promising.

She and Eckhart make a great couple. I'm sure she'll get plenty of noms for this one. And a supp nom for Nine or the Woody Allen film is not out of question.

Also, her friend Naomi Watts is also working with the most interesting auteurs (Haneke, Lynch, Cronenberg) and her career is taking a nice turn with Mother and Child, Fair Game (she's playing Valerie Plame) and the Woody Allen Movie.

Australian actresses dominate the screen !

Jim T said...

I think Nicole should also consider Todd Field. Or she can try Lady Mcbeth.

FrenchGirl said...

what kills Nicole Kidman's career is the botox and plastic surgery!but she has good taste about directors.

juli miller said...

@ pomme

apparently Woody Allen and John Cameron Mitchell don't think like you do so her career is not dead, so spare us your comment, 'coz I doubt you're an interesting auteur yourself

Nat, isn't that smart from Kidman and her company to hire Eckhart, fesh from The Dark Knight success, and Miller, so popular with the arthouse crowd ? This could do better than Doubt.

Also, Fur and Margot didn't get her noms because the first one was unapologetically weird/indie and in the second one she played a tough-to-like character, which is a big NO from the Academy when it comes to females.

Rabbit Hole is far less controversial, it's right up the Academy alley. i'm glad Mitchell is directing and not Ron Howard, although with the latter noms would have been a given

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan, but she does take on interesting projects.


Hayden said...

Let me just say that I absolutely adore NIcole Kidman. She is easily the most prolific and fascinating leading actress of the decade who works with the most incredible directors on the most interesting projects.

I get so angry when people accuse her of trying to get back into Oscar's good graces because her career trajectory hasn't indicated anything close to that. I love her so much for taking chances on auteur projects, unlike other play-it-safe actresses (cough, Meryl Streep).

adam k. said...

I think Kidman should dye her hair back to a real-looking color. Or her actual one, in fact! Who else is sick of the ubiquitous dishwater vaguely yellow tone?

But on the subject of films, yes, this should be interesting, with such diverse talent as Kidman, Eckhart, and Mitchell (does Eckhart remind anyone else of Keith Urban? just a little bit?).

I just think it's rather disheartening when major, legit cross-medium stars like Nixon and Krakowski can't reprise their own Tony-winning roles on film, but must instead be replaced by Tom Cruise's exes. Is that really how we give out roles now?

I mean it's not like Nixon isn't well known. EVERYONE knows who she is. People would pay to see her in the theater, I have no doubt. Maybe not as many as Kidman, but then, is Kidman really that big a star commercially? Her films never ever make the kind of money they're supposed to. What was her last major hit?

I'm sure she'll be good, but when it wasn't even a director casting her (since that guy was just brought on), but rather some producer assuming she will bring $... well, it just gives me pause. Why can't we give Nixon a chance?

Mikadzuki said...

LOVED Kidman's checklist of auteurs (especially the furious crossing over Von Trier's name).

Anonymous said...

remember "the producers" and how they used the same broadway stars...and it sucked. maybe kidman gets hired because she's the best out there and not just because she's the ex-mrs. tom cruise?

Anonymous said...

nicole's margot would eat anne hathaway's kym for lunch.

Murtada said...

I loved Kidman in The Hours, she was so moving. She was cerebral and weired. That is what she is good at, see also The Others, To Die For ad The Portrait of a Lady. However I don't get her when she tries to be funny or sexy - see Moulin Rouge (know I'm in a minority) or Australia or her awful comedies Bewitched and Stepford Wives.

Anonymous said...

"thorny near masterworks"
there's nothing thorny or near about dogville, birth, eyes wide shut, they ARE masterworks. PERIOD

Marshall1 said...

I really love the list you've made. If I have to pick a few directors that Kidman should work with, they will include Cronenberg, Haneke, Haynes, Anderson, Mike Leigh, and Eastwood (probably guaranteed a Oscar nom!!)

mrripley said...

who to cast as the mother kate nelligan maybe.

alex said...

technically she also did voice work for David Fincher in Panic Room

I'd like her to work with Cronenberg, Scorsese and Haneke.

But Von Trier and Kubrick are my favourite directors of all time

Anonymous said...

She mentioned about wanting to work with Scorsese when he makes a film that revolves around a female.


kate nelligan. now there's a name i haven't heard in a while.

Fernando Moss said...

LOL, I loved the "Kill Laura Dern" joke...


Anonymous said...

Amazing how just a few months ago when critics were panning her performance in Australia that she was talking about retiring and actually being a mother. That didn't last long. Between shooting films, commercials & PR campaigns around the world she certainly has kept pretty busy for a new mother.

Anonymous said...

She Should work with Scorcese. Actually, she was his first choice to play katherine Hepburn in the Aviator, but she had to drop because of the scheduling conflict with stepford's wives. too bad!

Annie said...

@ Hayden

Hayden, I don't think Meryl Streep play it safe. Dramatic actresses are often panned for their comedic performance, but she survived Mamma Mia. Also, she worked with Spike Jonze who is an auteur, and she did a small indie film called Dark Matter (2007), and she worked with Altman, another auteur, recently, and she's starring in a rom com right now.. at 60. There's no guarantee that a rom com with a 60-year-old woman could become a hit.

Also, she's voicing a character in Fantastic Mr Fox by Wes Anderson. And yes, she did a movie with Nora Ephron, but hasn't Kidman as well ?

To sum up, Streep has worked this decade with Daldry, Jonze, Redford, Altman, Anderson, Mike Nichols, Shanley (a Pullitzer-prize winning author)... not bad for an actress pushing 60. You probably know that roles are fewer the older you get, especially for women.

Maybe you're criticising Streep for not working with European auteurs ? Well, she worked with some of them in the 80's, when she did mostly serious, depressing dramas. There's a time for everything


Anonymous said...

First, Im not a Kidman fan, In fact, I think she's a little bit overated for her fans, especially defending her with the big Hollywood failures (Australia, The Golden Compass, Bewitched and Stepford Wives). But for the other hand, I respect her when she chooses small films like Dogville and Birthday Girl. In my opinion Kidman should left the Hollywood productions and her big salaries but instead start a good career with real auteurs.

It's interesting these next three projects, but I'm not too optimistic:

*Nine: Even when she's the biggest star of the group, we didn't know how big or important is her role (Rumor has it her role is just a cameo). And she's big internal competition: Cotillard and Cruz (Both are hot, talented and european actresses), Dench (AMPAS loves her) and Loren (Maybe a comeback).
*Woody Allen's project: Remember 2006? Woody made a hit with "Match Point" and after that "Scoop" and "Cassandra's Dream" and before that "Hollywood Ending" and "Melinda and Melinda". Woody is right now more a miss that a hit director.
*Rabbit's Hole: With the right direction I think this is the real comeback to the Kodak Theater for Kidman. The role is just fantastic on paper and in Broadway did it work with Cynthia Nixon. But I'm honest and I'm glad for Eckhart -This guy deserves being in the top of Hollywood-. Handsome, charismatic, talented and a manly presence. I hope this role is finally his big opportunity

Anonymous said...

where the hell is the rumour that it's just a cameo???

She will be singing like 4 songs?

Peter Chan said...

If they're continuing with casting new actors for the remaining roles, I'll suggest Ellen Burstyn as Kidman's mom and Emile Hirsch as the teenager who kicks off the story. Even though Nixon, Slattery, Daly and (sigh) John Gallagher Jr. were fantastic in the original production.

Those four roles are so meaty and Oscar-baity, I'm already thinking this is 2010's "Doubt", having four acting noms for the film, despite the latter two roles yet to be cast.

Lurve the Eckhart choice to counter Kidman.

alex said...

Also in what way are The Golden Compass and Australia failures ? Just look at their overall box-office numbers. Also, Australia DVD sales are going strong in USA right now, and it still showing in a few theaters in Oz

If Kidman stars in bombs, what can one say about Blanchett ? She has never been able to open a movie. And Benjamin Button didn't even make its budget back in the States, even if it's a hit. Also most of the time she's only a supporting player (Indiana Jones) or has an extended cameo (LOTR). I doubt it's gonna change with Robin Hood.

Fernando Moss said...

Well I think Blanchett and Streep are really talented as Kidman is (especially Streep). The only trouble I might have with Streep is this:

-It seems like there's no other actress over 50 with talent for casting directors, producers and film directors. I think someone else would have been better in Doubt, The Manchurian Candidate, Mamma Mia! and Prime.

C'mon where are the über-great parts for Sigourney Weaver and Kathleen Turner?

And same goes for Blanchett, some of her roles could have been handled better by Kidman, Watts, Winslet, Thurman, Zeta-Jones or who know who.

jerry said...

@ fernando mosse

Weaver is doing fine now, she has a lead role as a detective in Nicholas Roeg's Night Train and she's in Avatar, the most awaited film of the year. Also, Prayers for Bobby was a hit for HBO and she'll get the Emmy for sure.

It has always been harder for her to be cast in dramas because of her physique : she's less traditional-looking than Streep who's blonde, more feminine and of average-height.

Really, there's no need to worry for Weaver, she get good parts but in indies like The TV Set or Snowcake, which very hew have seen.

jerry angry said...

Also, I don't like how Nathaniel is talking about Uma when it comes to work with auteurs : she's always been working with auteurs, not just QT !

Stephen Frears, Terry Gilliam, Philip Kaufmann, Bille August, Roland Joffe, Woody Allen, Richard Linklater, Mira Nair, Vadim Perlman, Anthony Page.. a pretty diverse resemu I might say

palle said...

Meryl Streep is not fuckin playing it safe! I get so irritated of this habit some people have of not being able to compliment one actor without slagging another off!

Streep in fact took a huge gamble with taking the role in Mamma Mia. It could easily have turned into a disaster and as we all know despite the movie being a huge hit many people hate it with passion.

Also I do not doubt for a second that Streep would do more serious projects with auteurs if she were offered them! I do not doubt that for a second. I think Streep is doing incredibly well for an actress of her age and should get credit for it. As we all know parts are hard to get for older actresses, most screenplays contain the best parts for women at the age of under 40 and Streep is 60 next year. Kidman is very good but don´t discredit Streep!

patrick said...


you've never said what you thought about Kidman in Portrait of a Lady ? Would you have nominated her for your awards ?

Anonymous said...

Oscars 2011, Best Actress :

Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Naomi Watts, Fair Game
Julianne Moore, The Special Relat.
Hillary Swank, Betty Ann Waters
Angelina Jolie, Salt

Winner ? La Moore as Hilary

adelutza said...

Enough with Hilary Swank - she can't be nominated every year now, cmon'!


isn't the Julianne moore picture for Cable? I believe it is. Her second EMMY then! Too bad about that missing Oscar

patrick said...

Revolutionary Road was also produced by the BBC and it was screened in theaters.

The imdb page for The Special Relationship does not indicate that it is a TV Movie

So Nat, what do you think of Kidman in Campion's Portrait of a Lady ?

Jim T said...

Anonymous, both Blanchett and Streep out? It never happens.

Anonymous said...

Rabbit Hole could still possibly be released this year if it starts filming in May!!! Cheri's Michelle P. would NOT like that!

Fernando Moss said...


Yes, I agree, but still Sigourney doesn't get the variaty of roles Meryl gets... and it's not for lack of talent.

And don't get me wrong I LOVE MERYL (she's one of my top 10 also).

Long live Meryl, Michelle, Sigourney, Silvia, Kate, Nicole, Shirley, Elizabeth Kathleen and Catherine.

Anonymous said...

Nat, do you like Anne Hathaway's performance as Kym, better than Nicole Kidman's Margot perf.?

p.s. 0 gold Film Bitch medals for Nicole = the end is nigh

Alex said...

It's funny how this has almost morphed into a discussion on Meryl and her auteurs. I actually remember hearing that Jane Campion offered Meryl the role of Merle in Portrait of a Lady but Meryl didn't want to spend too much time away from her kids. Maybe I heard that on a FE podcast, I don't remember.

But still, Meryl has worked with auteurs and she does so consistently, really. She took a bit of a break from auteurs in the 80's and 90's for the most part, but she's starting to work with them a lot more often. Here's a few:

"Fantastic Mr. Fox" with Wes Anderson
"Doubt" with John Patrick Shanley
"Prairie Home Companion" with Robert Altman
"The Manchurian Candidate" with Jonathan Demme (granted, that movie isn't even close to "art" but he's still Demme)
"Angels in America," "Silkwood," and "Postcards from the Edge" with pal Mike Nichols
"Adaptation" with Spike Jonze
"The Bridges of Madison County" with Clint Eastwood (say what you will, he's an auteur)
"Sophie's Choice" with Alan Pakula
"Manhattan" with Woody Allen

Anonymous said...

"where the hell is the rumour that it's just a cameo???

She will be singing like 4 songs?"

Kidman said in a interview that her role is smaller that the others actresses and accpet that role because shewants to be with her baby. But I said that... JUST A RUMOR, we still don't know if Marshall respect the original play.

Cinesnatch said...

Whenever I'm ready to close the door on her, she always manages to pry it open.

CNO said...

so... Kidman is taking Cinthia Nixon`s chances for the grand slam?

StinkyLulu said...

I'm struck by one auteur's name -- missing from Nicole's thought bubble -- that I would love so see Nicole work with: Spike Lee.

As for the Rabbit Hole mom, I'd love to see someone like Glenn Close, Sissy Spacek or Diane Keaton in the role.

Alex said...

If Glenn Close played the mom in "Rabbit Hole" maybe she could finally...

Anonymous said...

"She will be singing like 4 songs?"

Kidman said in a interview that her role is smaller that the others actresses and accpet that role because shewants to be with her baby. But I said that... JUST A RUMOR, we still don't know if Marshall respect the original play."

yes, Kidman also said her role in The Hours was a "small role" and we all know how that turned out.

Arkaan said...

1. Sorry guys, Streep played it safe with Mamma Mia. Translating the biggest theatrical hit in years to the big screen that has a popular singing group providing most of the ammo. On top of that, a low budget so it WON'T be a massive flop even if it grosses twelve dollars AND has major overseas potential (it made back it's budget before it's American release). AND on top of that, it's not like Streep's viewed as this huge box office titan anyway - if a film of hers does little business, you don't really hear her taking any blame (see Rendition, Lions for Lambs, etc). Streep made 50 MILLION DOLLARS FOR THE MOVIE with earnings from the profits.

Overall, I don't think she's a risk-taker, but frankly, I think thirty years into her career, still surprising us with deft performances in intriguing roles is good enough.

2. The reason Blanchett isn't talked about in those terms of "box office titans" is simple. She doesn't make tens of millions of dollars per movie. She isn't expected to open films. If a film is a box office hit, she really has nothing to do with it (see Indiana Jones). Kidman does make massive amounts of money. So if a film underperforms, her worth as a box office performer is justifiably questioned.

3. Having said that, no major star is as fearless as she is. She's the closest English language filmmaking has to a Isabelle Huppert, and that's damn cool - I wouldn't give that away for anything, box office poison or not. I look forward to Rabbit Hole, for Kidman, Eckhart and Mitchell (in particular, I think Kidman's "ice queen" persona actually helps.) All three seem suited to the material (there's a vein of grief running through Shortbus in particular that suggests he may be better for this than his outre reputation suggests).

4. Auteurs I think Kidman should work with:

Haneke: that sadistic streak in him should be interesting with her

Ang Lee: how many performers has he elicited career defining work from? Hell, Jewel didn't suck when she worked with him.

Todd Haynes: Because he rocks.

Francois Ozon: Nathaniel, I can't believe you forgot him.

Soderbergh, David O'Russell, Pedro Almodovar, Julie Taymor as well.

Rich Aunt Pennybags said...

Amazing how just a few months ago when critics were panning her performance in Australia that she was talking about retiring and actually being a mother. That didn't last long. Between shooting films, commercials & PR campaigns around the world she certainly has kept pretty busy for a new mother.

Yes, I think she's a wonderful actress, but I get so tired of her saying that she's going to take time off because she never follows through on that promise.

I know that she's very insecure especially when she used to go on and on after her divorce about how she couldn't do a part, cried when she saw footage of her, almost called _____ ____ to fill in for her because she thought she was so terrible, etc., which also annoyed me at one time, but she should really stop saying that she's finally going to take a break because when she knows that's just not going to happen.


rich aunt penny... that's totally what bugs me about Cate Blanchett! ;)

i'm going to run this theater company and slow down! (and then endless movies. ha ha)


arkaan -- good point on Mitchell's deft handling of emotional undercurrents!

well, in regards to the Isabelle Huppert reference, it's either Julianne Moore or Nicole Kidman. If only both of them would find better mainstream movies/comedies (since they both keep/kept doing them)

Andrew David said...

Nathaniel R... too bad Cate is running the theatre company excellently and doesn't need to slow down!

I saw her as Richard II and then Queen Anne in a War of the Roses cycle and it was unbelievable. She's a powerful actress and a better one than Kidman, although her range of directors thus far is less diverse.

That's not to bag Kidman though -- I really appreciated your post because I often defend Nicole in the same way.

Anonymous said...

Cate better than Nicole? no way. unless you like the LOOK AT ME I'M ACTING style

Rick said...

Good for you, Annie and palle... Hayden is really a total snob and should stick to the many cartoons he features on his blog.

Streep is the ultimate risk taker... and Kidman is a plastic actress ( I am not talking botox and whatever )

Anonymous said...

Most people loose track of the fact that Nicole does very well and is very popular on the WORLDWIDE screen. I'm sure that has something to do with the fact that she is always being offered movies to do. I love the fact that she is so versitile. I LOVED her in Bewitched and Far And Away.

palle said...

I will clarify what I meant about Mamma Mia: The movie may not have been a gamble box-office wise, as has been pointed out the budget was modest and I think most thought it was somewhat garanteed profit because of the popularity of the show and the music of ABBA. However...

Streep did gamble with her reputation as a failproof actress as she has arguably never given a bad performance and this becuase of the nature of the movie could very much have been it!

The movie is cheesy as hell and could have been seen as a turkey by the critics. Streep and the movie did survive though, she got a Golden Globe nomination for it and plenty of great reviews (to go along with some bad ones) It did well despite what one person here tried to show with some cherrypicking where he choosed one bad review as an example out of many.

With over 50 percent fresh at rotten tomatoes, that´s very good for this type of movie, could have been way worse. I´m gonna stop my rant here but what I mean is that in it´s own way Mamma Mia was a huge gamble for an actress like Meryl Streep.

palle said...

About the review I mentioned in my previous post about Mamma Mia, it´s on Haydens blog (which I checked out since he got my blood boiling with his snide Meryl remark, sorry I´m a Merylfan ha ha) where one person (not Hayden) cherrypicked a bad review from the New York Post (I believe) to show off the movie as bad, no mention about the plenty of good ones it got, funny isn´t it ;)

Wayne B. said...

I understand that there is a public demand for beautiful romantic leads but I think that studios and audiences could accept that Nicole Kidman isn't a movie star; she's an ACTRESS, in the purest sense of the word. Like numerous before her, her beauty is a weakness at times. It takes focus away from her greatest asset: her diverse intelligence. Her best work comes from unafraid auteurs who understand how to
utilize those intelligences.

Personally I prefer her darker work: slyly manipulative Suzanne Stone, tragic worldly Satine and caustic damaged Margot. Besides these, the performance that convinced me of her genius is "Dogville"; so much to say about that one. That conversation with James Caan and its result sent chills through me. I'm excited for this new collaboration with John Cameron Mitchell.

jd said...

Kidman starred in two professionnal stage productions : Steel Magnolias in 1989 and The Blue Room in 1998-1999.

Each time she earned at least one nomination.

She was nominated as Best Actress at the Laurence Olivier Awards and got a Theatre World Award.

eric said...

To the person who said Blanchett doesn't earn millions :

you probably hasn't read Forbes or Times for a long time, because Blanchett does have a six figure salary.

And when it comes to small indies, Kidman isn't paid millions, she usually agrees to be paid less, otherwise the film couldn't be made. That's what's gonna happen with Rabbit Hole, another independent film.

Anonymous said...

i love you nat!! love you love you

Anonymous said...

Meryl playing it safe? Ummm sure...

I say Meryl over Nicole ANYDAY.

Anonymous said...

To add: I think Nicole plays it safe MUCH more then Meryl. Sure Nicole takes on interesting projects (sometimes) does Meryl. Please don't forget that Nicole has done many turkeys (as of late) with the belief they would be sure-fire hits. Why do you think she did Stepford Wives, Bewitched, Golden Compass, The Invasion? Recent films like The Invasion and The Golden Compass, not to mention Australia looked superbly good on paper. The Devil Wears Prada and Mama Mia looked great on paper too, but they actually lived up to expectations.
Meryl > Nicole.

Anonymous said...

I love Meryl too but - at least in the 80s and 90s she didn't take many risks.I was quite bored with her for a long while. I like her much more since the 2000s, now she really plays diversified roles.
She had a few non-mainstream roles in the 80s , don't get me wrong. Like "She Devil" which was really fresh - or "Death becomes her". But her image was more like a perpetual crying ingenue :-)

As for Nicole Kidman I hope she can come up with something much much better then Australia. I fell asleep watching it. And that wasn't even a risky film...


anon 10:52 I love you too. You're Nicole Kidman, right? You just don't want people to know you're reading blogs you sly minx!

Yancey said...

Damn, why couldn't Cynthia Nixon nabbed this role? She already has a Grammy, Tony, and Emmy, and in the right hands, this is prime Oscar-bait that could get her a grand slam. It's not like Nicole Kidman is box-office gold right now, and Cynthia Nixon is freakin' Miranda. That could count for something, at least the female audience bloc who will likely be the strongest audience for a film like this. I would have taken Amy Ryan too for this. But still, I'll be there to see this however it ends up, and I hope that Nicole Kidman makes the most of this great play. Aaron Echkart should be good, but this would have been a great break for John Slattery. And that silver hair. Yum. Who should play the mother? Sissy Spacek, La Meryl (duh), Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Tyne Daly, Sally Field, or my personal choice, GLENN CLOSE! Get that Oscar win, Glenn!

bubba said...

Glenn would be a great choice for the mother.
And second Arkaan's post: I hold my breath to see Kidman work with those directors. Seeing her existing repertoire, there is hope.

Arkaan said...

1. A six figure salary is in the hundreds of thousands, which isn't exactly breaking the bank in Hollywood. Kidman commands 15 million.

And the arguement isn't that she takes pay cuts for small films. It's that those films she gets paid ten million + underperform. I'm not talking Margot, I'm talking The Invasion/Bewitched/etc.

Again, I'm fine with her as an actress. I love her as an actress. I actually prefer her performance in The Hours to Julianne Moore's in FFH. But I don't think it's out of line to suggest that her earnings are out of proportion to her film's grosses.

Anonymous said...

Arkaan; Kidman has never big a huge box office star in America. Her earning power (salary-wise) lies in the fact that she's consistently shown herself to be one of the biggest international box office draws. It's the old "he's big in Japan" thing that made Brad Pitt a megastar earning top dollar salaries, even when he didn't have much consistent sucess at the American box office. Outside of the American box office, Kidman is a bigger star than Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, George Clooney and several other "A-listers". She's also probably the biggest female box office draw, in non-American markets. Take America out of the equation, and Kidman is the biggest female star on the planet, in pure box-office terms, and has been for the last 9 years (yes, she's had

Kidman's international appeal has saved several movies from total disaster, and in some instances made them unlikely sucesss. AUSTRALIA tanked in America, making under 50 million domestic. Internationally, it's already made 160 million, and is on course to reach 200 million at the international box office alone. Fox would liked to have hd a hit i America, but they'll take the money wherver it comes from.

THE GOLDEN COMPASS is the same. Made only 70 million in America, but whopping 300 million overseas. Kidman's studio films have consistently performed much better with foreign audiences this decade. Even MOULIN ROUGE made most of it's monet at the international box office (only 57 million in America, compared to 121 million internationally).

If Kidman didn't have so much international box office appeal, she wouldn't still be commanding upwards of 15 million per studio film. It's a purely economic thing. They aren't paying her because her name is "Nicole Kidman". They pay her because her films make money, even if it isn't in America. American media and audiences aren't that interested in hearing that THE GOLDEN COMPASS and AUSTRALIA were big blockbusters outside America, so it suits them to pretend Kidman's films don't make money anywhere, and she's overpaid.

She isn't overpaid. The movie buisness is international, and not just about American grosses. I can't imagine AUSTRALIA making 200 million bucks internationally, if Scarlett Johansson or even Naomi Watts had Kidman's role. Based on the international box office of her last two big studio films (which canceled out the total flop of THE INVASION), Kidman is still earning her keep, and her salary. Hollywood isn't a charity, and Kidman's asking price would shrink considerably, if her international box office wasn't so much better than most everyone else.

And Cate Blanchett does make "tens of millions" per studio movie, despite having nothing close to Kidman's international box office clout. Blanchett is incredibly rich, and her quotes for big studio movies are not far off Kidman's (between 10-13 million, which is what she would have picked up for THE GOLDEN AGE, INDIANA JONES AND THE CRYSTAL SKULL, THE AVIATOR and Ridley Scott's upcoming ROBIN HOOD). Blanchett gets paid stupid money, for films she isn't crucial to opening, maybe based on the "prestige" her name brings. The salary of Blanchett rarely gets discussed, people it rarely gets disclosed (wheras we know what Kidman is getting paid to the last penny). But truthfully, Blanchett bis often paid far more than she's actually worth.


Anonymous said...

It's true that The Interpreter, Golden Compass and Australia did very well overseas. Kidman is a draw in Europe, for sure. Americans tend to think they're the only one on this planet. Funny when you consider most of their grandparents are European of Afrikan immigrants !!

Arkaan said...

Fair enough, Ronald. I actually went to check Forbes, and saw that from mid 2007 to mid 2008, Blanchett made about 12 million, which was FAR more than I expected. Wish I checked before I posted, so my bad. I will say that I doubt she made that much prior to that, and I would be shocked if she raked in eight digits for The Golden Age. No wonder she works so much.

That stated, I will say that even on that scale (international grosses factored in), I think Kidman's overpaid (in Hollywood, not real world, terms).

Anonymous said...

Arkaan; I'd be shocked if Blanchett picked up anything less than 10 million dollars to make THE GOLDEN AGE. It's a sequel to a film where Blanchett oscar nominated lead performance was absolutely crucial to it's sucess (the first ELIZABETH made 83 million dollars worldwide). The film could not have been made without Blanchett's participation, and agents who negotiate salaries know this. The estimated budget for THE GOLDEN AGE was around 60million ( though it's probably more), and I reckon at least 10 million of that budget would have gone to Blanchett. She might also have negotiated a back-end gross deal, since there is no GOLDEN AGE without her. She had serious bargining power on this film, and Universal and Working Title really wanted it to be their big Oscar contender of that year. She would easily have picked up a fat fee for this film.

Actors like Blanchett are wise not to draw too much attention to what they really earn on studio films, because it might engender some of the envy and jealousy that envelops so-called "bigger stars" like Kidman and Angelina Jolie, whom everyone knows exactly what they are earning. We don't know exactly what Blanchett earns, because her "people" are probably wise enough to realise that she'd face similar criticisms of being "overpaid" if some of her bigger salaries came to light. So people assume she's some lowly paid wage slave doing it purely for her "art". In truth, she's paid like an A-list box office star, which she isn't.

She wouldn't have got less than 10 million (probably closer to 12 or 13) for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON either (especially with a budget of 150 million). The film made serious cash (over 300 million worldwide). But serious, Brad Pitt could do those sort of numbers, with that type of movie, with any actress. Pitt is what sold the movie across the globe. Blanchett gets paid A-list movie star salaries, without having to shoulder the burden of "opening" or carrying the movie most of the time. And when she does, it usually flops.


Arkaan said...

Yeah, I don't feel that smart now. But I appreciate what you've said (and that isn't sarcastic). I clearly don't know much about movie budgeting as well, because 60 million for TGA seems like too much.

Frank said...

Thanks for your comments Ronald. It was such a pleasure to read them. Kidman is a global star and the American media and (some of the) American public is too arrogant to recognise this.

I can't think of another actress in the past decade with a more impressive, interesting and risky resume than Kidmans. I think she really is the leading actress of the decade. She chooses roles in which she has to a carry a film. And it is when she is at the centre of a film that she truly shines.

Often Kidman chooses films for their artistic merit rather than their commercial viability, and in true American (money is everything) custom she is panned for it.

And to Nat: Birth and Dogville are masterpieces. Two of the most interesting, creative and though provoking films of the decade. Both those films are far more art that just entertainment. Films like that are the reason I am interested in cinema and its possibilities.


Frank... my "near" masterwork comment was not meant to diss DOGVILLE and BIRTH both of which are excellent films... but I always hesitate to use the word masterpiece until enough time has passed.

BIRTH is aging extremely well though. I'm so mad at myself for not putting on my top ten list that year -- one of my few blunders ;) -- since I did praise the film, nominate Kidman and name it as truly undervalued even at the time. ARGH.

But with Von Trier's film it's trickier because arguments can be made that BREAKING THE WAVES or DANCER IN THE DARK are his 'masterpiece'. he gets more than one :)

Frank said...

Nat: sorry; any aggravation I expressed about you comments on Birth and Dogville weren't really directed to you, but toward the people who dismiss both these films as brave mistakes by Kidman. They are two of her best decisions she has made as an artist, and are the primary reasons why I hold her in such high regard.

Birth has aged very well. The film is very complex and abstract and it takes many viewings to unravel it layers. I have seen it about 6 times over the years since its release (3 times at the cinema) and I keep discovering new levels to its construction. It is a film that I strongly believe will be considered a masterpiece in the future, and is one of the few films of the past decade that I already call a masterpiece. Kidman's performance in that film is one of my favourites of all time.

It is a pity that Birth hasn't been praised more, at least by the filmmaking world. Its director, Jonathan Glazer, seems to be having trouble making another film. I find this very sad. Are we repeating the wasted talent that was Orson Welles?

I see Birth as possibly the most groundbreaking and innovative film of the past decade. Glazer's abstract use of visual design and orchestral score to tell the story of a women's mental breakdown is breathtaking in. Through his use primarily of visuals and music, without a heavy reliance on the spoken word, he has returned cinema to its purest level - the silent film. I see this heavy reliance on visuals as the ultimate cinema; the highest form of cinematic art.

I need to see Dogville some more times before I can form as strong an opinion on that film as I have with Birth. But I do hold Dogville in higher regard to Breaking the Waves. A director, however, can have more than one masterpiece to his name - eg, Hitchcock, Hawks, Wilder, Murnau, Renoir.

countrycat said...

I just had to comment that it is wonderful to see such intelligent, thoughtful (and non-hateful) conversation regarding Nicole Kidman and her career. As always I look forward to her next project...whatever that may be.

Siya's blog said...

kidman does have the most interestig resume. I remember I was 13 when "the hours" came out and that is when my fascination with her began. I could not understand the film as I was too young but I watched it again and again and in the process I fell completly in love and in adoration of her in a non creepy way. She is a classy lady that I love to respect. As for the critics, well they are a difficult buch but they will love once more her list of new films gives me a lot of confidence
Siya Cape Town

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