KIDMAN THE NOT-SO-PERFECT-WIFE?Nicole Kidman/The Stepford Wives Interview by Paul Fischer in New York.
Nicole Kidman has had her share of playing depressing characters, butfinally lets herself ago. Now in New York, she shares the spotlight withco-stars Bette Midler, Faith Hill and Glenn Close, but as per usual, thepress cannot get enough of Aussie Kidman. A darkly comic interpretation ofthe original novel, originally filmed in 1975, Kidman plays a powerfulcareer woman who winds up in Stepford, a mysterious Connecticut town wherethe 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 thathappiness is not found through perfection or even trying to achieve it. I'mnowhere near perfect, and am not ever trying to be," Kidman explains."Actually, the things that I find most attractive in people are their flawsand imperfections."
The workaholic Kidman, now an Oscar and Golden Globewinner, says that even in her world, she finds time for domestic bliss ofsorts. "I suppose that my thing is that I like cooking. That's the thingthat I would like to become better at, which actually relaxes me. I don'tsee it as work. I really enjoy being able to make things, otherwise, forgetit. I can't sew. I'm a very poor knitter, but I can wrap Christmas presentsreally well," Kidman laughingly confesses.
The Stepford Wives, in part, satirizes the all-American housewife, embodiedin post-World War 2 American culture. Kidman is unconcerned that today'shousewives will find The Stepford Wives offensive. "A stay at home mom isnot sort of doing her hair. I mean, basically my mum was at home for most ofour lives and I don't think that I ever saw her in stilettos and her hairall done while baking a cake. I mean, sure, she would cook and could sewlike the best of them and she would make all of our clothes, but she wasreal and complicated and a wonderful, wonderful role model for me and awonderful women. But she didn't have to appear or present herself in anyparticular way which I think this is. It's all about the presentation andnot having a mind." Kidman forcefully adds that "I don't think that thatthis film is offensive to a stay at home mom or to women who are choosing toraise their children and not have their career for a certain period of timeor choosing not to have a career at all, but that's what it's about. It'sabout that also, and about the choice to do those things."
Kidman says that it wasn't easy trying to relate to the ambitious elementsof her character we see at the beginning the movie, this dominant,take-charge character, who is running TV network. "But then I wanted her tobe very extreme," Kidman explains. "I actually kept fighting for moreextremes in her kind of nature, at the beginning so that you want her tofall in a way, because I think that that's interesting. It's someone whoseems so out of control, power hungry, obsessed and completely imbalancedand therefore there's this desire to see them actually fall down and gettheir comeuppance in a way. Then when she's taken to the other extreme, it'slike, 'No. This is too much.' So that's what appealed to me about thecharacter. Am I like that? The beginning woman? No. I have a lot moreinsecurities, I think,"
Those insecurities have as much to do with Kidman'scontinual battle, combining motherhood with the career that has dominatedher life since childhood. In previous interviews, the actress has commentedon eventually giving up the career, but here she is, centre stage trying toaddress that issue in this city that never sleeps. "I guess what I grapplewith is that I still haven't learned how to balance those things. I supposethat what I'm implying is that at some stage I would love to have anotherchild," Nicole confesses. "I would love to settle into a relationship that'sreally important to me and I actually am not good at the balance at that. Sothat's what I sort of see as my future in a way, but I don't see the twocombining which I think is a big problem in our society as well."
In discussing the theme of men's suspicion of powerful women in StepfordWives, Kidman laughs when asked if she feels that to be really the case inher own life. "I don't see myself as terribly powerful or successful. I seemyself more as just absolutely loving what I do. With that has come all ofthe other things that you sort of deal with in relation to it. But I love toact and love to have an opportunity to play an array of women who are sortof fascinating and complicated, which is a dream as an actress. So in termsof men in relation to that, I think that a lot of it is that you maybe don'thave a lot of time to give to someone else which comes back to my thing ofhow do you balance. When you're passionate about what you do, how are youthen 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 likethat. I mean, it's not something that I'm focusing on. It's more about justhaving the blessings at the moment to do some things creatively and toexpress things that I have going on inside my head."
Asked what her definition of the perfect man is, a la Stepford-typetechnology, Kidman offers a slight smile. "I don't want perfect. I thinkthat the discovery of someone is the fun thing and the discovery of thethings that someone else might find appalling. You think that they're reallycute. I mean, I don't even know what I'm looking for. I suppose it's amystery isn't it and I like the mystery."
What is not a mystery is how hard Kidman continues to work. About to shoottwo more comedies, The Producers and Bewitched, Kidman is reflective abouther professional future, disputing the notion that she is rushing forwardwith a plethora of films. "I hope that it's not rushing. I think I'm in aposition where I say no to a lot of things, but I also say yes to thingsthat come my way that I feel strongly about. I don't actually have theanswers. I read scripts, respond to them and have the opportunity to workwith some of the most extraordinary, talented people at the moment and Irespond to that. But I have my time. I actually don't go out a lot. I spenda lot of time with my kids, my sister and my parents and stuff when I'm notworking. The good thing about when you make a film is that you workintensively for a period of time, so it's a slightly different way of doingit. You know, you're not working a nine to five job. This film was thelongest film that I've done besides the Kubrick film I don't do well withlong times. I actually like the period to be short because I have two kidsand I certainly won't go certain places in the world because of my kids andjust my situation. So I hope that it doesn't appear that I'm rushing, as Ireally 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 herchildren remains of paramount importance. As fiercely protective as she canbe in this day and age, Kidman says she does what she can to protect themfrom the prying eyes of the media spotlight. "I never take them topremieres. They've never been photographed for magazines, and I'm absolutelya maniac about that. The only photos of them that have ever been printed aresort of paparazzi, long lens, and even then, I'm always like, 'Please,please don't.' It jeopardizes them." She sighs heavily when asked if eitheror both have expressed an interest in acting. "Oh, no, here we go, that'sthe big one. Honestly, I have to be careful because my job is to be theirmother 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, ifthey're going, 'I want to be an actor,' then it's different."
THE STEPFORD WIVES OPENS ON JULY