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Role Recall: Nicole Kidman talks 'Batman Forever,' 'Moulin Rouge!' and more

·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
·4 min read
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In her new thriller Before I Go to Sleep, based on the bestselling book by S.J. Watson, Nicole Kidman plays a housewife who suffered a terrible accident and wakes up every day without any memory of the past 15 years of her life. Co-starring Colin Firth as the husband who may or may not be manipulating her, Sleep is only the latest film in Kidman’s canon to put the actress though the emotional and physical wringer.

Lucky for us, Kidman’s memory in real life is perfectly intact. The gracious and soft-spoken Sydney, Australia native, 47, shared stories with us from the past 25 years of her celebrated career, which includes three Oscar nominations, one Oscar win for The Hours, 10 Golden Globe nods, and the world record for longest continuous film shoot ever.

Dead Calm (1989)
Kidman had been working steadily in Australian film and television for six years when this import from Down Under, a seafaring thriller co-starring countryman Sam Neill, brought her international attention. The actress says they lived on boats while filming the movie, and she picked up a handy new skill: “I learned how to sail for that movie, because they made me. And then I got really into it.”

Days of Thunder (1990)
Tom Cruise was so enamored with Kidman’s breakout performance in Dead Calm that he handpicked the tall and striking actress to play his love interest in Tony Scott’s racing drama. “I just remember being amazed that I was in America, and suddenly I had this role in this huge Tom Cruise movie,” remembers Kidman. The co-stars fell for one another on the set, would marry six months after the film was released, and reunite two years later for the immigrant epic Far and Away.

To Die For (1995)
The Aussie flexed her comedic chops in Gus Van Sant’s darkly humorous satire about a New Hampshire woman who will stop at nothing to become the country’s next great newswoman. Kidman says she and Van Sant had to fight hard to get future Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix cast as one of the young men she manipulates. “Now, I think they’re very glad they cast him,” she says with a smile. Speaking of the Oscars, many believed Kidman was badly snubbed for her blissfully conniving turn as Suzanne Stone. Among her fans: Sean Penn, who sent her telegram saying, “You were robbed.”

Batman Forever (1995)
Kidman’s career reached super heights when she was cast as Dr. Chase Meridian opposite Val Kilmer (who took over the batsuit from Kidman’s My Life co-star Michael Keaton) in the third Batman movie. It was a role Kidman was grateful for, but also one that left her envious of her male costar. “I remember going, ‘I wish had more of a role, though,’” she says laughing. “‘It’s great being the girl in the Batman movie.’ But I’m an actor and you go, ‘Gosh I want more to do.’ So I would still love to do some sort of superhero movie where I get to do the cool stuff.”

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Kidman and Cruise would star together for a third and final time in Stanley Kubrick’s last film — the director finished editing just days before passing away. The actors signed open-ended contracts, requiring them to remain involved for as long as the film would be in production, which ended up being a Guinness record of 400 continuous days. “I knew that when we entered into his world, it would be a long time that we would be orbiting around him, but what a glorious person to orbit,” she says. “So I was very Zen about it. I’m working with the greatest director in the world. I’m working with my husband. I’ve got my kids here. And it’s on this wild, weird trip of a movie. What more could you want?”

Moulin Rouge! (2001)
The actress says her family often watched musicals when she was growing up, “so to be cast in a musical was like, ‘I’d made it.’” Baz Luhrmann’s beloved song-and-dance hit, which earned Kidman her first Oscar nomination, wasn’t necessarily an easy shoot, though. She was nervous to sing on set, and at one point, fractured two ribs and injured her knee while rehearsing. “I’m dancing in high heels, I broke my ribs, I tore up my knee. I did all the things you’re meant to do while creating great art,” she says.

The Hours (2002)
Kidman would win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her acclaimed portrayal of Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry’s time-spanning drama. She also wore one of the most famous prosthetic noses in film history (one she kept on after-hours to avoid the paparazzi since the movie was filmed during her highly publicized divorce from Cruise). “It was at a really, really extraordinarily hard time in my life,” she says. “I think I tried to convince them to cast somebody else and somehow I’m there on the set playing Virginia Woolf. I kind of stepped in and didn’t step out.”