Nicole Kidman is one of our most fearless actresses, from her Oscar-winning role as a depressed Virginia Woolf in “The Hours” and warbling woman of the night in “Moulin Rouge!” to the grieving mother in “Rabbit Hole,” aggressive newswoman on the rise in “To Die For,” and sexy turn in “Paperboy.” I talked to her on a chilly Sundance balcony right before her latest film “Strangerland” made its debut in the World competition.
“Strangerland” is a gorgeously moody outback thriller shot in Alice Springs about a pharmacist (Joseph Fiennes, replacing originally cast Guy Pearce) and his wife (Kidman) who move to a new town after their sex-crazed 15-year-old daughter has an affair with a teacher. They haven’t had a chance to settle down when the girl and her younger brother vanish during a dust storm, presumably into the desert, spawning all sorts of talk and suspicion as the town police chief (Hugo Weaving) tries to find them before it’s too late. As much a portrait of a strained marriage as a mystery thriller that conjures up “The Killing,” “Strangerland” relies on Kidman’s provocative exploration of a sensual woman under extreme duress.
Kidman told me about why she’s willing to take chances on such young woman directors as Australian TV and short filmmaker Kim Farrant. Shooting this film was a blessing, she says, as she was able to be near her father during his last months. She reveals why she knew before walking up the red carpet on opening night at Cannes that “Grace of Monaco” would face some heavy going.
After Sundance she headed off to Berlin for the opening of “Queen of the Desert,” about the pioneer Gertrude Bell; Rob Pattinson costars as T.E. Lawrence of “Lawrence of Arabia” fame. Kidman loves shooting in the desert, pale as she is, and adored working with the inimitable Werner Herzog.