The emotional fallout from any marital breakup is hard enough to handle as it is, even without the sort of intense tabloid scrutiny that makes weekly fodder of Kidman's recent miscarriage by offering titillating, fabricated theories about who might've been the father. Celebrities are people, too, and Kidman has had to endure a lot during this media maelstrom of late, all while raising two young children.
In the grand scheme of things, plugging a new movie might not seem like a pressing priority at the moment for Kidman. Even so, she has traveled well beyond the call of promotional duty in support of Moulin Rouge (opening June 1), Australian director Baz Luhrmann's self-described "post-modern musical." From Cannes, where the movie opened this year's film festival and where Kidman faced a typically frenzied international press corps, it was off to Los Angeles to meet with regional American journalists, and from there to New York for interviews with their national counterparts (with a stopover in Chicago to tape an episode of "Oprah," for good measure). Finally, it was back to Kidman's native Sydney, where Moulin Rouge was filmed last spring, for the Down Under premiere.
"You know, there are some films where I do no publicity at all, and some where I do an enormous amount of it," Kidman says. "This is a film that's so unusual and so unconventional. I really love it and believe in it, and we all worked so hard on it. [Co-star] Ewan McGregor's off in Africa shooting a movie and isn't available, so it's all kind of on my shoulders, I guess. That's fine, too, because I feel like this is a film I really want to promote, and so I am."
The filmmakers and the studio have a lot riding on the success of their $70 million investment. In a way, so does Kidman, 33, an actress long-deserving of that one defining role that might put to rest the lingering misconception that she's primarily someone else's wife (or ex-wife, as the case may be), if not just another stunning beauty. Things should've changed after her delicious, diabolical turn in Gus Van Sant's To Die For (1995), but they didn't, and the mainstream commercial prospects for Moulin Rouge seem no more certain.
To be sure, the film is a phantasmagorical alternative in Hollywood's otherwise less-experimental summer lineup. With broad, wild strokes, Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet) paints an extravagant study in contrasts. On one level, the movie's a sumptuous period piece, a decidedly decadent depiction of the famous Paris nightclub at the turn-of-the-century. On another, it's infused with contemporary musical numbers.
On the one hand, the whole production design of the film is undeniably spectacular to behold, but on the other it threatens to overwhelm what's basically an archetypal romantic tragedy as old as Camille, with Kidman's worldly courtesan and McGregor's idealistic poet as the star-crossed lovers. You may admire the unbridled energy Luhrmann brings to the proceedings (he seems incapable of holding any shot in the film longer than 10 seconds), but for all of his flashy visual techniques, his narrative essentially meanders -- the fate of his characters is predetermined, the outcome of their story inevitable.
With so much visceral output and so many mixed signals, the end result of Moulin Rouge risks polarizing audiences, as well. "The one thing I haven't heard anyone say about this movie is that it's boring," says Kidman. "I think that's what made me decide to do it, the fact that it was a risk, you know? I'm sort of drawn to things like that, anyway, plus I also have a lot of faith in Baz as a director. He's just so enthusiastic, almost naive in his approach to the work. He's someone who isn't cynical, who hasn't been jaded, who still has this great belief in trying new things, that anything's possible, that there's nothing to lose. That's a beautiful, refreshing thing to be around."
She admits she was daunted at first by all the musical demands of the role. "Ewan and I sat down at the initial rehearsal and promised that we'd help each other through this. We agreed we had to be willing to make complete and utter fools of ourselves in front of each other, and we did!"
Although Kidman says she wants to cut back on her work, you'd never know it to look at her upcoming schedule. With two films awaiting release -- she plays a Russian mail-order bride in the low-budget indie drama The Birthday Girl and stars in Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar's futuristic thriller The Others -- Kidman is off next to London to play Virginia Woolf in the screen version of The Hours, directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot), and after that she'll start work on a new film with Lars Von Trier (Dancer in the Dark).
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