The Golden Compass : Nicole Kidman


It’s such a rare opportunity to interview Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman that when we learned she would be talking to media in London for The Golden Compass, we jumped at the chance to sit in on the overcrowded press conference to hear what the Australian beauty had to say about her upcoming film. What’s your take on fantasy?
Nicole Kidman: I’m not a huge fan of fantasy. I’ve always been drawn to more-in terms of filmmaking-I’ve been drawn to more psychological dramas but I think what drew me to this was it had the intricacies of the characters allow strong performances and that’s what I found compelling about it. In terms of fairy tales, I grew up with a lot of literature because my mother always would read to me. [She read] a lot of Roald Dahl, obviously the “Narnia Chronicles” and I really think that when you have a film like this that people feel so passionately about, it’s wonderful. That there’s people in these films. I’m glad to be in a film where there’s people and it’s not just animated (chuckles).

CS: Let me ask you about the controversy surrounding the anti-Christian tone. Some people may be pre-judging this film before it comes out. Can you talk about your perception of the film’s message and did you have concerns initially about the religious references?
Kidman: I think for me I don’t believe that when you see the film that it will be the same. I think there’s almost an alarmist approach to it right now and when you see the film that will be dissipated. That’s simply put. I don’t want to make a film that’s anti-religious or anti-Catholic. I come from a Catholic family so that’s not something that my grandmother would be very happy about and I don’t really think that’s what I’m involved in.

CS: Do you relish being bad and what drives you to work as hard as you do?
Kidman: I think when you get employed to do a job, even though to me this is more fun than a job, you have to give everything and do the best you can do so in terms of working hard, I’m still in the middle of doing a film in Australia which I’ve been doing for nine months now and that’s too hard. It’s a long time and I’m looking forward to next year and just having a break. But at the same time I’m so privileged, particularly [because] I’m 40 years old and I’m playing some of the greatest roles I’ve had the opportunity to play in the last couple of years. With Mrs. Coulter, I hope we get to make all three films because I love playing her and obviously it’s just a tiny little bit of her right now, but if you know the rest of the trilogy, the way in which it explodes, opens up and the layers of her are peeled away, are exciting to me. I see her as very complicated so obviously she’s morally questionable at times, but also, and it gives away the film if I talk about it too much, but there is a pulse in her heart beating her, that’s driving her to do things. That’s probably what I was insistent upon with Chris [Weitz] is that you could feel that pulsing through her at all times. Chris was so great with that because he was always trying to give me the opportunity to show the complexity of the woman. And Philip [Pullman] really spelled out a lot of her psychological makeup for me, which is just wonderful when you have the author available to you like that. So yeah, I hope we get to make the trilogy because that would be really exciting as an actor.

CS: I read you didn’t want to play a villain and you only wanted warm-fuzzy roles.
Kidman: I think that must be in the press kit that I did not read properly, I’m sorry to say, but I’m glad you all did. I actually just didn’t want to work, when I originally was offered the part because I was at a place in my life where I was in Tennessee. [I was] feeling a little lazy and wanting to hang out. And then Chris actually sent me a letter and Philip Pullman sent me a letter and with those two letters I was seduced, and I’m really glad that I was actually. It wasn’t so much about the villain or the warm-fuzzy, it was more my own laziness.

CS: Mrs. Coulter seems to be a complex character. Did you have inspiration for her?
Kidman: The books! Actually I scoured the books. It’s beautiful when you can find all the intricacies of her. I actually used a highlighter pen and I wrote it all out and I managed to paste together her history. It’s wonderful having that. It’s something you usually as an actor have to do by yourself.

CS: Can you talk about the scenes where you had to be mean to Dakota Blue Richards?
Kidman: There were points where I had to grab her wrist and say, “Are you alright? Are you alright?” I feel very strongly about it because I work with children in practically every film I’ve done recently. I think you need to define what you’re doing because it can be confusing. Though it’s her first film, Dakota has so much poise. (To Dakota) Block your ears, Dakota. And intelligence. And it’s almost like working with an adult. There are other children you work with that you have to be so protective and careful with.

CS: How was it working with so much green screen?
Kidman: I’ve actually never done it to this degree. I’ve said that at drama school the mime class was the class that I thought, “Well, I’m not going to be showing up for that.” And I would wag that class a lot. I would also wag accent class. And they’re the two things that I’ve used most in my career, is accents and now mime work, because I did a film, “Dogville,” where there was nothing and we had to pretend, and then with this, where you learn how to create an animal and you sit there for five hours stroking a fur ball. Actually, that was very beneficial. So I say to all actors out there: go to your mime classes because it’s the future.

CS: How nice is it to see a young girl at the center of “The Golden Compass,” and do you think it will appeal to boys?
Kidman: I hope so. I hope it appeals to both. My son is really interested in seeing the film, too. But it’s lovely that the protagonist is a young girl. There are not many films where it is. And I also think just the way that Lyra is depicted, she’s got a wonderful sense of her will and she’s a free spirit and she’s serious. I think that’s a lovely combination to have on screen for young girls to see.

CS: What would your own daemon be and why?
Kidman: Well, it changes. Yesterday, it was a kitten, because I love milk and I like to be petted and taken care of and sleep a lot. But today, it’s changed today, and today it’s a tiger. I don’t know how to answer that. (laughs)

CS: Can you talk about the importance of the scene in which Coulter slaps her daemon?
Kidman: I think it’s sort of a complicated response because it depends how you view the daemons. What do you think? I think she loves herself and hates herself at the same time and has a very complicated relationship with her own emotions at this stage and where it is in the film.

The Golden Compass opens in theaters on December 7.

The Golden Compass“