Nicole Kidman likes imperfect people.
Particularly people who, on the outside look perfectly fine, but on the inside bear host to confusion, fear and — in the case of Becca Corbett in John Cameron Mitchell’s “Rabbit Hole” — mountains of grief.
Becca and her husband, Howie (Aaron Eckhart), lost their 4-year-old son eight months earlier. The two have their own ways of meandering their way through the grief process. Becca’s often involve vain attempts at simply putting it behind her. Kidman plays her with a skillful combination of “I’m fine” and periodic bursting-at-the-seams grief, keeping the audience guessing how she, and her marriage, will fare.
“She and Howie deal with it so differently, even though the exact same thing has happened to both of them. That’s what I found fascinating,” Kidman says. “He’s trying to reach her, but she’s trying to say to him, ‘I’m trying to move on. If you touch anywhere near what this grief is, I will just become undone.’ ”
Kidman says her challenge was keeping herself in Becca’s latent darkness throughout the 2 1/2 months of production.
“It’s hard to stay in that place for that period of time. It’s like a discipline: ‘I will step out of this, but I can’t step out of it now,’ ” she says.
Mitchell made the process easier by holding two weeks of rehearsals in the Queens, N.Y., house in which the film was shot and where the actors lived during filming.
“We spent a lot of time just talking about the shared history of Howie and Becca,” she says. “You put that time in, and it pays off on set.”
Prickly roles portraying real people are a challenge for Kidman to find, she says.
“Because so many of the characters I’ve played are larger than life, a lot of times people tell me I can’t play roles like Becca. I prefer to exist in a place of discomfort than comfort in my art. That’s probably why I’ll choose more controversial or difficult subject matter.
“I know when I haven’t gone deep enough, I get twitchy. I’m desperately looking for something that’s going to force me to dig deeper into my soul so that I can experience that and offer that up,” she says. “I’ll always keep looking for that.”
Young actresses not looking for celeb status
Annette Bening | Sally Hawkins | Nicole Kidman | Jennifer Lawrence | Natalie Portman | Tilda Swinton
Lead actresses in the mix
Amy Adams | Helena Bonham Carter | Melissa Leo | Miranda Richardson | Jacki Weaver | Dianne Wiest
Supporting actresses in the mix