You’d be forgiven for assuming that Nicole Kidman could be chilly, or aloof, or some combination thereof. In fact, the mother of four is just shy and reserved, especially in high-wattage settings.
Take the recent U.N. Women dinner, held at the Central Park Boathouse and featuring Kidman, who’s an impassioned ambassador for UNIFEM. She took the stage and implored folks to donate and then seemed both humbled and embarrassed to be standing in front of a packed room asking for money.
Later, upon seeing a reporter she liked, her effusive, maternal side emerged — she embraces those she knows well with full-body hugs and doesn’t waste time on empty niceties, asking pointed questions about children, jobs, and schools.
That’s the Kidman on display in Lion, playing the adoptive mother of two Indian boys with vastly different adjustment issues. It’s based on the book A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierley, played in the film by Dev Patel. The film has gotten largely positive reviews, and the ending is a sucker punch of emotion.
“People really cry in this movie. I’ve been doing the Q&As, and they have to take a few minutes before we can start. The audience is crying,” says Kidman, 49, with wonderment.
The film drew her for intensely personal reasons: She’s the mother of four. She has two daughters, Faith, 5, and Sunday, 8, with Keith Urban, and son Connor, 21, and daughter Isabella, 23, with ex-husband Tom Cruise.
“Ultimately I loved that this story was real and true. Obviously playing a mother who has adopted children, that’s part of my life too. It’s a love story on behalf of mothers in all forms. It’s a love story to my children. So many women have come up to me with children, and there’s a big umbrella this covers in terms of motherhood. It comes in so many forms. The overriding thing is the unconditional love you have for your children. Once the bond is there, it’s there,” says Kidman, who adopted her kids with Cruise, much like her character does in the film.
Plus, for once she didn’t have to learn an accent. “I love to play to Australian. I finally got to play Australian. I got to honor the women, who are so similar to the women I grew up with. That’s what I come from,” says Kidman, who was born in Hawaii, raised Down Under and now lives in Nashville with Urban.
In Tennessee, Kidman and Urban are part of the fabric of the city. They go out to dinner. They get coffee. They drop their kids off at class.
“Everyone always seems so amazed at that. For me, it’s a perfect place to live. It’s quiet. We have a simple life there. We can travel and see the world. That’s where my kids go to school. That’s where Keith’s work is, obviously,” says Kidman.
She chooses her projects with great care. First, they have to hit her in the heart. Then she has to figure out logistics and not being away from her brood too long. Her résumé, she says, is “random” and full of stuff that segues from the highly anticipated adaptation of Big Little Lies for HBO to the upcoming Yorgos Lanthimos drama The Killing of a Sacred Deer opposite Colin Farrell.
“I have so many reasons as to why I’ll do something. It can be the director. It can be the character or the story. Once I’ve connected to it, I don’t care about money or anything else. I want to do this. With Lion, I connected with the story,” she says, and then met with director Garth Davis. “We sat down in New York in a coffee shop and talked about life, and at the very end we talked about the film.”
Career aside, if you really want to get to know Kidman, ask about her kids. She is smitten. “Aren’t they the best? The best. It’s the best thing ever. I would have 10 more if I could. But that’s not an option. So I’m grateful for what I have. Down on my knees grateful,” she says.
Naturally, she’s spending the holidays with them. “We’re going to the beach. I haven’t had a holiday for a long time. This is so needed. Thanksgiving is at the beach. Christmas is in Australia,” she says.
To kick off the return of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life — the highly anticipated revival of the quirky, poignant mother-daughter series that everyone, it seems, cozied up to on Thanksgiving night (12:01 a.m. on Nov. 25, to be precise) — we are celebrating some cool moms we know and the parenting styles that are uniquely their own, through a series called #MyMomStyle.