While David Lindsay-Abaire's play Rabbit Hole was enjoying its Tony-winning run on Broadway in 2006, Nicole Kidman was sitting in a coffee shop here in Nashville, reading a review in The New York Times. Kidman immediately sent her Blossom Films producing partner Per Saari to see the show, and soon afterward they'd secured the rights to adapt it into a movie, with a screenplay by the playwright and a star turn by Kidman as a woman dealing with the death of her young son. Now Rabbit Hole has netted the Australian-born actress an Academy Award nomination. Kidman, who recently made headlines when she welcomed a baby girl into her family, spoke about what drew her to the film project, how she dealt with such grim subject matter, and why she and husband Keith Urban love living in Nashville.
Director John Cameron Mitchell is known for edgy films like Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus. Why did you to hire him to direct Rabbit Hole?
I've followed his career and knew he was really talented. We had other directors responding to it as well, but there was just something about John with this material that seemed really unusual, because of his boldness and his warmth. He's also talked about losing his brother when he was young, and how it was an unresolved thing in his life.
Your character Becca's son is only seen briefly in the film. Did you have an image in your head of the boy?
There's no rhyme or reason to my method. I've studied Meisner, I've studied Stanislavski, I've studied all kinds of different approaches. And I've somehow put together my own way of working. Different images and different ideas and sensations are used in different scenes at different times. From the very beginning of this film, I didn't have to work hard to find the emotions. I don't know if that's because I'm a mother, or because I've had my own personal losses. I could probably do that performance again and again. We would do numerous takes and it would play out differently, but I was never searching for the emotions. If anything, it was John saying, 'Let's pull back here,' which is what this performance is very much about. It's about a very restrained, stoic woman learning to live her life again. Becca has a stoicism to her that I probably relate to.
Wasn't it also difficult, though, to put yourself in that place?
The willingness to go into those places is part of what we're taught as actors. When you go to drama school, you're doing Chekhov and Shakespeare. If you play Medea in drama school, you're dealing with extreme emotions. As a parent, I've learned where to put them. When you're 17 and you're working, it kind of bleeds into your personal life more than you want it to, and then you learn just through experience how to be an actor and reach those places but still have a life that's not destroyed. Luckily, because I'm married to someone who's creative, there's an understanding. I guess I've always been drawn in relationships to people who are creative, because that's where I feel the most understood.
Are you able to compare and contrast what you do with what Keith does? Can you have conversations about your craft from a place of mutual understanding?
I think we're both on a quest, where we want to do work that challenges us, and be given the space to do that. That's something that we talk about. But at the same time it's very delicate, someone else's artistic journey, and I'm very aware not to tread on his just as I think he is with me. Y'know, he was very instrumental in me going back to work, because part of me so loves living here and having this very, very safe, kind of warm environment and family life. Nashville's been so good to me for that, because I lead a very simple, very normal life here.
Do you consider yourself a full-time resident of Nashville?
This is very much our home. We have a great life here. There's so much available now in the city. I love the Belcourt. I like going to F. Scott's sometimes to listen to jazz, and shopping at Whole Foods, and eating sushi at Shintomi. The Ryman we love, and I just went and saw the Impressionism exhibit [at the Frist], which was great. I love that we have all that here. We're supporters of the community in general because it's still got such a feeling of closeness.
Going forward in your career, are you interested in doing more producing?
The reason we started our company Blossom was to support writers and filmmakers that are more left-of-center or avant-garde. So in that regard I want to produce. Do I want to go out and produce some big blockbuster? No. That to me is just business, and I'm not interested in the business part of it. I like the nurturing of the director, or giving somebody a chance who hasn't had a chance before. But it's a lot of work, producing, and I don't want that to take away from other things I'd like to do. The one thing I want to do before my life is over is write a screenplay. I'm thinking that's what I might do on one of Keith's next tours. We go out together because we try to keep the family together, but we don't work at the same time. So that's a very good place for me to write.