'Rouge' her color, among 'Others'

OSCAR QUOTIENT

PROS: Showed great range in polar-opposite roles.

CONS: Perfs may compete vs. one another.

If Nicole Kidman was the subject of a book, one might title the current chapter of her career “The Turning Point.” And what a year it’s been. In December, the newly single actress received Golden Globe nominations for leads in a drama and comedy/musical: “The Others” and “Moulin Rouge,” respectively — the first such hat trick since Julie Andrews pulled it off in 1986 for “Duet for One” and “That’s Life.”

If some felt the Aussie star was robbed of an Oscar nomination for 1995′s “To Die For,” the Academy might be harder pressed in February, when the nominations are announced, to ignore the accomplishments of an actress who was named “Entertainer of the Year” by Entertainment Weekly.

“This year was a big change for me in a lot of ways,” says Kidman. “Two years ago I was doing ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ and nobody really knew who I was; I could go anywhere and not get recognized much, unless I was with Tom (Cruise). I think, though, that the choices I make in terms of doing films is not going to make this last that long, in a weird way.”

Indeed, Kidman’s choices might appear rather unorthodox for someone now considered Hollywood royalty. In addition to having worked with such maverick filmmakers as Stanley Kubrick, Gus Van Sant, Jane Campion and Baz Luhrmann, Kidman will next be seen in the relatively small-scale indie entrĂ©e “The Birthday Girl,” and is now in the midst of preparing for her role in Lars Von Trier’s “Dogville.”

“I’ve been through all the career phases,” says Kidman, “where you’re so cold nobody wants to go near you and then being offered everything, and then halfway in between. The beauty of that is you kind of know what’s real and what’s not. I guess what I’m saying is I’m willing to fail. I don’t ask myself ‘Is this going to be a hit?’ because my taste doesn’t run that way. So I just have to go work with the people I want to be around and the films that interest me.”

The fact that “The Others” and “Moulin Rouge” have performed beyond expectations (a combined gross of more than $300 million worldwide) validates two potentially risky choices: the former required Kidman to practically carry the film on her own shoulders, and the latter called for the actress to sing and dance in her most physically arduous role to date.

“I just threw my body into that role,” she says of “Moulin Rouge,” “and I thought I was very strong and physically infallible and I learned pretty quickly that I wasn’t. But I was also dancing in three-inch heels with feathers and corsets and exhaustion, because we would work 17 hours a day and I was surviving on three or four hours of sleep a night — and that’s how you set yourself up for injury.”

For “The Others,” Kidman was able to draw on her own experiences as a mother. “I think what’s interesting about the way (director) Alejandro (Amenabar) wrote this character is that it’s about extreme maternal love and the way it can be misdirected, and how your beliefs can get shaken.”

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