Learning Not to Shut Down: Nicole Kidman and Lee Daniels on The Paperboy



Editor's Note: In the Scene this week, Jason Shawhan writes about the outrageous Southern melodrama The Paperboy, starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron and directed by Lee Daniels (Precious), which opens tonight at The Belcourt. Jason got to speak to Kidman and Daniels at the New York Film Festival last month, and though there wasn't room to include their remarks in his review, he agreed to post some of them here:

Lee Daniels, asked about the genesis of the film: "Pedro Almodóvar was going to direct it. And the book was by my bed, and it stayed with me since Precious. "

Nicole Kidman, discussing her character Charlotte Bless: "[She's] a woman who's obviously very damaged, and terrified of being close to someone, which is a common thread often in relationships with people in prison."

Daniels, discussing the film's aesthetic: "I studied every film that was done in the late '60s to early '70s. I wanted you to feel that you'd seen a film that was made in the early '70s, flaws and all. I thought it was gonna lose it for a second, and I told Nicole, maybe we can get the lips to lip-sync off? And she looked at me like, 'I don't think so.' "

Kidman, about the development of Charlotte as a character: "I had a conversation with Lee and said, 'This has to be authentic.' I wanted to find a way in, and Lee said, 'You should meet with some women I know who are in love with men in prison,' that are having relationships or are sort of obsessed with men who are in prison. So I met with five different women ... And that was how I found my way in. I just let it flow, and I didn't want to censor myself, so I went into the character and didn't step out of it until we finished filming ... For me, the freedom of her sexuality was very important. An important part of being an actor is learning not to shut down and not to say no, to be free and open.”

Daniels: "This was the first film I had no control over it. We were in a box. It's like putting on a play. I'd tell Nicole, you might have to do your own makeup. I expect Zac Efron to help with catering. We're on the run, we've gotta get it right, and we only have two or three takes to get it right."

Daniels, talking about the role of Anita (played by Macy Gray): "I offered it to Oprah, since she just produced Precious. And she said, 'Absolutely not.' And the universe took care of me, because I can't imagine Oprah lying on a bed [miming] masturbating ... For me, I had seen The Help, and I have so many relatives, neighbors, aunts, grandmothers, that were actually the help and I felt that was not indicative of what it was that I experienced as a kid. And Macy was that."

Kidman, talking about the look of Charlotte, for which he had her study Sylvia Miles' walk in old Andy Warhol/Paul Morrissey films: “Lee was obsessed with the butt; he wanted my butt to be bigger.”

Daniels, speaking of the one thing he couldn't get Kidman to do for the film: “She said, 'I won't do that.' And this is two days in, three days in. And I talked to my producer, I said, 'She won't say the N-word!' And he says, 'Lee, day one, she's bent over a pink washing machine. Day two, she urinates on Zac Efron. Day three, she has telepathic sex. I think you can forgive her.' "

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