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Nicole Kidman

Lead Actress: 'Margot At the Wedding'

Of the Hollywood stars who can command eight figures a pic, is there any one of them who has committed a darker oeuvre to film in recent years than Nicole Kidman?

There are her women of suicidal intent in “The Hours” and “Fur”; the afterlife in both “Birth” and “The Others” is fascinating but not exactly a place you’d want to visit; when she does big-budget remakes, such as “The Stepford Wives” and “The Invasion,” they are exercises in paranoia. And in this year’s “Margot at the Wedding,” her character is definitely headed for a severe mental breakdown.

So while it wouldn’t seem a problem to stay downbeat as depressed mom for “Margot,” she found it a bit uncomfortable not bringing at least a little sunshine to the role.

“It took me a lot of time to get into her skin, to understand how to play a mother this way,” Kidman explains. “It wasn’t my natural instinct, but it was written that way and the tone was powerful. I didn’t want to dilute that at all.

“I used (director) Noah (Baumbach) a lot on how not to. My instincts are far more toward softening the mother. It is easy to give a performance of what you know. It is much harder when it’s off on a tangent.”

That isn’t to say Kidman hasn’t had her more upbeat fare.

“Satine in ‘Moulin Rouge’ isn’t dark. She’s yummy, something that is the equivalent of chocolate. And Ada in ‘Cold Mountain’ wasn’t dark. The movie I’m making now, ‘Australia,’ is just warm. It glows.”

That being said, it isn’t difficult for Kidman to tap into her dark side.

“As a child I was far more interested in the Wicked Witch than Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ That’s a film that changed my life. I loved the drama of the flying monkeys and that somehow played into my fears.”

Which is what brought her to the title character in “Margot,” a writer-mother with so many issues of control that she has grown brittle to the point of breakage. Kidman isn’t Margot by any means, but she sympathizes.

“Everyone has elements of Margot in them, which they want to destroy. I’m a little more dreamy,” she says. “Margot is very earthed. She doesn’t daydream a lot.”

FAST FACTS

Favorite film: “Lars von Trier’s ‘Breaking the Waves.’ That reached deep into my psyche, which is why I made ‘Dogville.'”

Young actor you admire: “Sam Riley in ‘Control.’ ”

What you want from a director: “Depth and obsession. I’m deeply attracted to obsession in a director.”

Vice: “Too sensitive.”

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