Nicole Kidman is seeking substantive roles where her own life can inform her characters, but her influence on other people’s careers is what energises her most. Screen talks to the Being The Ricardos star.

Being the Ricardos

Source: Glen Wilson/2021 Amazon Content Services LLC

‘Being The Ricardos’

The perception might be that Nicole Kidman has countless scripts sent her way. Too many, in fact, to choose which to pursue. That directors are knocking down her door, begging her to be in their project. But Kidman says that is not the case.

“It’s not like there’s a bunch of scripts coming at me every week with these fabulous filmmakers [attached] and you’re just going, ‘Yes. Yes. No. Yes,’” says the Oscar-winning actress and mother of four, including two teen daughters with husband Keith Urban. “It might appear like that but it’s definitely not like that.”

However, she acknowledges that — thanks to a mix of tempting offers and her own producing initiative — her career is flourishing just fine, jumping in recent years between eye-catching miniseries Big Little Lies, The Undoing and Nine Perfect Strangers (all of which she executive produced), and films such as Bombshell, The Prom and this year’s awards contender Being The Ricardos, for which she is SAG-nominated.

“I’m sort of astounded at what possibilities have arisen,” says Kidman. She will often express this shock to her mother, who will say in return, “But you’ve worked hard, nothing’s been given to you on a platter,” relays Kidman. “And I go, ‘Yeah, okay.’ There have been ups and downs, but I would never have thought at this age [54], at this time of my life, there would be the hope and the possibilities that there are. Not just as an actress, but as a producer and the ability to jump-start people and work with people who [deserve opportunities].”

Indeed, Kidman is most excited to hold other women up by using her name and her influence. Under the umbrella of her production company, Blossom Films, which she started in 2010 with Per Saari, she is finding much joy in helping progress other people’s careers. She recently executive produced Apple TV+ anthology series Roar, and was able to award Australian director Kim Gehrig, who had prioritised raising her kids while helming commercials and music videos, her first television assignment. Kidman is also producing Expats as part of her overall deal with Amazon Prime Video, which she is keen to mention because of its actors.

“I’ve got a show right now where the two leads are Korean-American and Indian-American women and I’m the supporting role,” she explains. “They would never have gotten those leads; we had to advocate [for them]. They’re not stars but they will both become huge stars, mark my words. [These] are the sort of things that are exciting for me right now.”

Behind the curtain

Being The Ricardos

Source: Glen Wilson/2021 Amazon Content Services LLC

‘Being The Ricardos’

Of course, getting to play iconic comedian Lucille Ball in Amazon Studios’ Being The Ricardos, under the wing of Oscar-winning screenwriter-turned-director Aaron Sorkin, is also exciting. But despite the handful of auteurs over the years who personally reached out to Kidman to express interest in working with her — including Jane Campion, Baz Luhrmann, Lars von Trier and Stanley Kubrick — it was surprising to Kidman that Sorkin wanted to collaborate.

“I’m idiosyncratic,” says Kidman, “as I think all the directors [who ask to work with her] are. So it’s finding people who see something in you, and are interested in whatever is in you that maybe doesn’t appeal to everyone.”

When it came to playing Ball, Kidman felt a kinship with the I Love Lucy star in many respects: “The pressure and the struggle, and the desire to have a home and a loving marriage and kids, and yet also to fulfil a creative path. And then the ups and downs of that path based on age, opportunity and how people view you.” But otherwise, getting into character required a sort of rewiring of Kidman’s brain.

Not least, there were two Balls that Kidman had to play: the Lucy that 60 million people saw every week in their living rooms; and the woman who was married to Desi Arnaz (played by Javier Bardem), trying to run her business, run her home and be happy and fulfilled. This was the primary guidance she received from Sorkin, along with his desire not to carbon copy Kidman into Ball.

“It’s Lucille Ball who creates the character of Lucy Ricardo,” says Kidman. “[Sorkin] didn’t want me imitating the I Love Lucy show because everything that he’d absorbed and read and then written [in the script] was very different; it was the woman behind the curtain. That is the fascinating part of the storytelling.”

Collaborative effort

The search for rich storytelling saw Kidman team up with Reese Witherspoon and her production company Hello Sunshine to option 2014 novel Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty; it was developed into David E Kelley’s hit HBO series of the same name. Kidman then optioned Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers for the Hulu miniseries — although its author admitted she had written the role of wellness resort founder Masha Dmitrichenko with the actress in mind, making it not so much kismet as collaboration.

“[Other offers] didn’t have the substance that I [was] craving,” says Kidman, who is busier at the moment with developing projects than she is with fielding scripts for potential roles. “I think as you get older, if you’ve lived a life, you have a lot to give. There’s an enormous amount there waiting to be used, mined, explored and shared.

Being The Ricardos

Source: Amazon Studios

‘Being the Ricardos’

“My [own] life, it’s obviously private, but it’s a very real life. I don’t need to go into detail, but I am dealing with what probably many other people at my age are dealing with: teen girls, mothers, you know — just deeply embedded in intimate relationships in my family and all those things that go with it.”

This introspection goes even further for Kidman as she admits to examining her own “sense of mortality” and her “physical limitations”. Though you wouldn’t know it, judging by her experience on Robert Eggers’ The Northman — which The Lighthouse filmmaker shot in Ireland and Northern Ireland from August to December 2020, and is set in 10th-century Iceland.

“I loved the mountain and the biting cold wind and night-shooting at 2am in the mud,” Kidman recalls, with audible excitement, of playing Queen Gudrun opposite Alexander Skarsgard. “I thought it was going to kill me but I rose up. I must have some Viking blood in me because I came alive in those conditions. I was hearty. I never got sick. I never got hurt.”