How Nicole Kidman became the enviable queen of cool

The versatile, talented actor is blessed with impressive range and unafraid of taking risks

Kidman arrives for the screening of Sofia Coppola’s dreamy remake of  The Beguiled at Cannes. Photograph: Getty Images

Kidman arrives for the screening of Sofia Coppola’s dreamy remake of The Beguiled at Cannes. Photograph: Getty Images

 

“Cannes: 70th Fest Welcomes Netflix, TV Series, VR & Lots of Nicole Kidman”, read a recent headline on infotainment bible Deadline. “Nicole Kidman proves she’s still the Queen of Cannes”, echoed the New Daily.

 Plus ça change, you think. Kidman’s crown on the Croisette, at least, has seldom looked in any real danger of slipping. The French have always had her back.

When the rest of the world tittered as the Oscar-winner peed on Zac Efron in The Paperboy, Gallic critics – even the ones who disliked the film - were keen to defend their monarch: “Kidman gives everything to the film but the film gives her nothing,” sniffed movie journal Excessif.

Look right: Nicole Kidman in Top Of The Lake 2. Photograph: Sally Bongers
Look right: Nicole Kidman in Top Of The Lake 2. Photograph: Sally Bongers

But there is something different about Kidman. Something new. Something that seemed almost inconceivable back 10 years ago. Nicole Kidman is, whisper it, cool again. Seriously cool. The Niconnaissance is happening, people.

But how can this be?

Back in 2008, even Kidman super-fan David Thompson crunched the numbers such megaflops as The Stepford Wives, Bewitched, The Golden Compass, Australia and The Invasion and used the dread phrase “box-office poison”.

There was worse to come: Rob Marshall’s ham-fisted musical bomb Nine (2009), Joel Schumacher’s risable home-invasion thriller Trespass (2011) and Olivier Dahan’s ludicrous Grace of Monaco, a film that was booed and hissed right off the theatrical circuit and straight on to TV.  

Kidman and her husband Australian country singer Keith Urban as they leave the Festival Palace following the screening of The Killing of a Sacred Deer at the Cannes Film Festival. Photograph: Getty Images
Kidman and her husband Australian country singer Keith Urban as they leave the Festival Palace following the screening of The Killing of a Sacred Deer at the Cannes Film Festival. Photograph: Getty Images

Just three years on and nobody remembers Grace of Monaco. The four projects Kidman has premiering in Cannes this year – including Yorgos Lanthimos’s dark comedy The Killing of a Sacred Deer, John Cameron Mitchell’s punk-alien romance How To Talk to Girls at Parties and Sofia Coppola’s dreamy remake of The Beguiled – are among the most buzzed-about movies in competition.

This week, the second season of Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, in which Kidman plays a “radical feminist lesbian”, was also unveiled at the festival. Because you just can’t have enough red carpet moments with NK.

Famous five: Cast members Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell, Kidman and director Sofia Coppola arrive for the premiere of The Beguiled. Photograph: Getty Images
Famous five: Cast members Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell, Kidman and director Sofia Coppola arrive for the premiere of The Beguiled. Photograph: Getty Images

Speaking to The Irish Times last January, Kidman attributed her newfound mojo to her “slightly offbeat” sensibility, a bent that has translated into rewarding professional gambles. “I am totally up for taking risks,” she told the press conference for The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

“At this stage of my life, I’m trying to stay very bold and open in my life and try things. I am at that stage in my life when I am still trying to act as though I am 21 and starting my career.”

There’s more, however, to the Niconnaissance than good movies and bold choices. Even during Kidman’s box-office poison period, she still managed to make unique, innovative pictures such as Birth, Rabbit Hole and Fur.

But now, there’s a mischievous glint in the eye that wasn’t there before. Whether she’s snogging – full-on, back-of-the-bike-shed snogging – with her husband Keith Urban on the red carpet, as she did at Cannes this week, or indeed, looking a bit hammered at the Golden Globes, there’s a sense that Kidman, at 50, couldn’t give a flying fig what you, or your granny, or your Twitter feed thinks.

She gamely laughs off seal-clapping at the Oscars. She posts selfies off herself shimmying in silver and hanging in hotel rooms with her daughters. Big-ass Cinderella tutu for the Sacred Deer premiere? Why not? Goth lipstick? You bet. More snogging. Yep. Sign up to play Queen Atlanna in James Wan’s Aquaman? Done.

“[Wan] said I could wear mother-of-pearl and be a mermaid warrior,” explained Kidman last March. “I said: ‘I’m there.’ ”

The sleek Kidman that used to be married to Tom Cruise and who everyone suspected of major Oscar lust is gone forever. Long live Nic-Cool.  

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