LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
Nicole Kidman has received a Golden Globe nomination for best actress for her performance as a grief-stricken mother in the new film "Rabbit Hole." Kidman has been a frequent nominee for Hollywood awards. What's different this time is that she's also the producer of the film, which was adapted from a Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
The movie is directed by John Cameron Mitchell, best known for unconventional, independent movies. Pat Dowell has the story.
PAT DOWELL: Nicole Kidman's already won an Oscar and three Golden Globes. She's one of the most recognizable movie stars in the world. It's been reported that she's made $20 million a picture.
Ms. NICOLE KIDMAN (Actor): No. I've never been 20 million. That's a fallacy.
DOWELL: Or at least that she was Hollywood's highest-paid actress.
Ms. KIDMAN: Who knows? Definitely not now.
DOWELL: After all, Kidman was paying her own salary on "Rabbit Hole." This is her first real hands-on experience producing a film. She acquired the rights to David Lindsay-Abaire's play, found the money for the film, oversaw casting, music, everything - right down to where the cast and crew would use the bathroom while filming on location in New York.
Ms. KIDMAN: A lot of the times when you're acting in a film, you're hired, you know. You're not aware of what's going on in terms of the waste of the money. I mean, there can be so much waste. You just don't know. I mean, when I realized how much trailers cost, I was like we don't need trailers on this film. We can all share a room, we can share a bathroom. Let's just get a port-a-loo and we'll put that out the back.
DOWELL: "Rabbit Hole" was made on a very small budget, $3.5 million, Kidman says. It was turned down by the distributor that gets first crack at films from her production company, she says, because they thought the subject matter too hard to market. Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play a couple whose only child was killed in an accident eight months before the story begins. The play and the movie explore their interrupted life and how to go on living together.
(Soundbite of movie, "Rabbit Hole")
Mr. AARON ECKHART (Actor): (as Howie) Where are you going?
Ms. KIDMAN: (as Becca) Oh, I just, I'm feeling antsy tonight. I'm sorry. It's -was a weird day.
Mr. ECKHART: (as Howie) Right.
Ms. KIDMAN: (as Becca) What? Now you're going to pout?
Mr. ECKHART: (as Howie) It's been eight months.
Ms. KIDMAN: (as Becca) I'm not ready yet, Howie. I'm sorry if you think that that's abnormal, but...
Mr. ECKHART: (as Howie) I don't. I don't think it's abnormal at all but, you know what...
Ms. KIDMAN: (as Becca) So what's the problem?
Mr. ECKHART: (as Howie) We need to at least head in that direction, which might feel strange at first. But...
Ms. KIDMAN: (as Becca) But you want to have to sex.
Mr. ECKHART: (as Howie) Well, don't say it like that.
DOWELL: "Rabbit Hole" was the first time director John Cameron Mitchell has not produced one of his films. "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "Shortbus" were also both low-budget, independent films. This was his first time directing for hire, and he wasn't sure what it would be like to direct the person who hired him.
Mr. JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL (Director, "Rabbit Hole"): Nicole is a very self-correcting actor. Some actors need a lot of coddling, and really have no objectivity at all. She also has done theater, so there's a kind of self-correcting and self-directing part of her that knows when things aren't going well, and a director can interrupt her flow of correcting herself.
DOWELL: He took the job because of a personal connection with the subject.
Mr. MITCHELL: When I was a teenager, I lost a brother. All the feelings that came up reading the screenplay were feelings that I had experienced and perhaps not fully worked through. This film was a real gift to be able to revisit stuff that wasn't allowed to be talked about when I was a kid in the '70s in a military, non-therapeutic family.
DOWELL: Grief is a subject that Nicole Kidman says she's drawn to as an actor.
MS. KIDMAN: I'm drawn to it because it's such a powerful emotion, and there's so many different facets to it. And it terrifies me. I've experienced my own grief at times, and it's played out and manifested in different ways in my life, and I think it's something that we don't converse about enough.
DOWELL: There are times in the movie when Kidman's character seems almost inhumanly determined to get on with her grief. She's not always sympathetic, but Kidman says it's important that she not be. She says Stanley Kubrick, who directed her in "Eyes Wide Shut," called her a character actor.
Ms. KIDMAN: It meant that I didn't sit well playing, you know, the pretty girl who lives next door, which was kind of fine by me. I mean, I remember I watched "Wizard of Oz," and I wasn't interested in playing Dorothy. I was interested in playing the Wicked Witch. I was like, well, that's far more fun. You get to put on a green face and a big nose and cackle. And, no, I wasn't interested in wearing the ruby slippers and skipping down the yellow brick road.
DOWELL: Now what she'd like to do she says is write.
MS. KIDMAN: If I go through this whole life and I don't write something, I'll probably be disappointed in myself.
DOWELL: She's not giving up Hollywood, however. Her next role is opposite Adam Sandler.
For NPR News, this is Pat Dowell.
(Soundbite of music)
WERTHEIMER: You're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.