Kidman grins and bares it

GOOD MORNING: Nicole Kidman spoke to me from backstage at London’s Donmar Warehouse where she is co-starring in David Hare’s “The Blue Room” directed by Sam Mendes (“Cabaret”). She was about to have dinner with her two small children (5 and 3) before one of the eight shows a week she is performing with Iain Glen. I had called to congratulate her on the superlative reviews she’d received and to also applaud her courage in exposing herself (ahem!) to awaiting brickbats which could be hurled at a “Hollywood movie star” daring to tread London’s venerable boards. She was still in shock from the plethora of praise from all critical quarters. “A half hour before I went on (opening night) I couldn’t believe I was doing this! So I thought, ‘Well, if I fall on my face — I fall on my face.’ Luckily I’m short- (near-) sighted so I can’t see the audience.” But she certainly could hear the repeated applause as she segued from one scene to another, never off stage except for costume changes. She said Tom Cruise had been there for the opening and rehearsals and now commutes from L.A. where he is readying “Mission Impossible II.” He will start filming in Sydney (where Kidman grew up in local theater) in February and she and the children will be with him — she will not be working — it’s part of their togetherness program whereby when one films, the other doesn’t. Now, she admits, “I’ve never worked so hard in my life, six weeks in rehearsal — but it is exhilarating. I thought I was doing a small play in a 250-set theater — but now they pack it with standing room. Of course, it was nerve-wracking. But the great thing about theater as opposed to movies, is every night you can do something new.” She is set to play through Oct. 31 but there is talk of extending the run. As for talk about doing more theater in New York, she says, “It’s a little premature. I’ll wait to discuss Broadway. Maybe something (a different play) at a later date.” I told her Annette Bening would be starring in Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” at the Geffen Playhouse. Would Kidman tackle local legit audiences as well? That too is possible — and depends on the mutual skeds with husband Cruise. Sandra Bullock, who co-stars with Kidman in “Practical Magic,” has been in to see her as have Richard Gere and Donatella Versace. I brought the conversation around to whether Stanley Kubrick had been in to see her on stage. She laughed, “Everyone wonders. But he is coming in this week. I’ll be very nervous.”

HAS SHE — OR TOM — seen Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” in which they’d been involved, on and off, she said, for three and a half years in London? “He said we’ll see it in October. It’ll be fun. I only did it for five months — in-and-out. But we’ve been here so long, the children speak with British accents! Tom and I worked very hard on that movie — it took a long time but actually Stanley was very frugal in production (costs) — but it did take time.” Was it difficult? “Not that difficult — you’re acting,” she laughed. “He (Kubrick) was very inspiring, he is a great director — very passionate and very dedicated and he pushes. I love that dedication . He really cares.” Will the movie (and the Cruises’ portrayals) shock audiences? “Stanley is making a movie he wants to make — not to shock. He says what he wants to say. He’s lovely. And it was very sad when it (the movie) was over.” She admits she has no immediate film acting plans — “Physically and mentally, everything was taken out of me leading up to the opening of the play — a lot of stress. But it’s now one of the best times for me.” She does plan to produce and star in “In the Cut,” a thriller with Jane Campion directing in N.Y. “This one is a small film,” adds Kidman.

STANLEY KRAMER CELEBRATES his 85th birthday today and will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Luis Obispo Film Fest. And youngest daughter Jennifer makes her stage bow in “The Sisters Rosenzweig” at the Century City Playhouse this weekend … Michael Douglas (54), Barbara Walter (67) and Christopher Reeve (46) celebrated their birthdays together Friday at N.Y.’s Coco Pazzo … A memorial for Philip Barry will be held 11 a.m. Oct. 4 at the WGA theater. Among those speaking: wife Pat Barry, Roger Gimbel, Walter Grauman, Daniel Petrie, Ethel Winant, Fielder Cook, Edgar Scherick, Lorenzo Semple, plus film clips … Nicole Johnson, recently crowned Miss America, is a diabetic and insulin-dependent. “Thus,” said Barbara (Mrs. Marvin) Davis, it is particularly appropriate for Nicole to be a guest speaker,” at the Oct. 23 BevHilton Carousel of Hope gala fundraiser to fight childhood diabetes” … Nearly $1 million was raised at Macy’s and American Express Passport ’98 fashion show at the Barker Hangar of Santa Monica Airport for 10 local HIV/AIDS orgs. Elizabeth Taylor and Magic Johnson co-hosted … The gala show Sunday of the BevHills Museum of TV & Radio, 4 honoring David E. Kelley and Jerry Seinfeld, will include: Calista Flockhart, Christine Lahti, Dylan McDermott, Bette Midler, Paul Reiser, Garry Shandling and Marlo Thomas. More to come … For the Millennium New Year’s Eve party, the BevHills Hotel has sealed a deal with Dom Perignon with a special, exclusive edition for the big bash there.

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