PLAYBACK is a Variety / iHeartRadio podcast bringing you conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films. New episodes air every Thursday.
An Oscar nomination for the 2015 film “Lion,” an Emmy for TV’s “Big Little Lies,” continued collaborations with exciting and singular filmmakers — Nicole Kidman is in the middle of quite a run. She attended the Telluride Film Festival this year with two films in tow, Joel Edgerton’s “Boy Erased” and Karyn Kusama’s “Destroyer,” and that’s where we caught up with her, to discuss these very different films and performances and a little bit of her career highlights as well. Kusama’s film in particular, about a police detective haunted by her past, is a great example of the bold moves Kidman is making at this stage in her career.
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“It’s what I’m seeking. I’m trying, always, to burrow into places I haven’t been,” the 51-year-old actress says. “I think a lot of times as an actor that’s hard because directors see you a particular way. Your physicality and so-called persona can really limit you. The fire within me is still there and the curiosity and desire to keep exploring what all of this is in this strange dream. My mom said to me about five years ago, ‘Take opportunities. Because you could easily just sit at home now. But really get out there and do some things. You won’t regret it.’ And I’m so glad she said that, because I could have gone into a slightly complacent place and been slightly frustrated with myself. Because it’s easy to say no. And it’s safer to say no.”
With “Boy Erased,” Kidman plays the mother of a young man forced into gay conversion therapy in a southern community. The film is based on author Garrard Conley’s life story. Kidman met with his family in preparing for the project.
“There’s a big thing when someone lets you play them and they’re alive and you’re interpreting their life and the relationships they have with their family. That’s so trusting of somebody,” Kidman says. “The whole family was open and I think they wanted this story told. For me this wasn’t a want; this was, ‘I have to do this.’ What I think I was drawn to is the mother, through the whole film, is the bridge. And the confusion — her love for her son and her love for God.”
We also discuss the upcoming second season of “Big Little Lies,” which was expanded into a new volume after the closure of the first season. Andrea Arnold took over directing duties for Jean-Marc Vallee.
“It felt scary and then it felt comforting,” Kidman says of getting the gang back together, joined this time by Meryl Streep. “Laura [Dern] and Zoe [Kravitz] and Shay [Shailene Woodley], their stories hadn’t been mined and in this second season we get to give them far more time and explore deeply, particularly Zoe. It just warranted it. Maybe it didn’t warrant it in terms of the closure of [the first season] being so well-constructed as a thriller and how it worked with the murder at the end — not murder, push — and how it happened. But just the idea of abandoning these women and not exploring them further felt like short-changing them.”
And what specifically can we expect of her character, Celeste Wright, after the dramatic happenings of the first season?
“When you are in an abusive relationship that’s so complicated, coming out of that, because he is not alive anymore, does not mean you are healed,” Kidman says coyly.
For more, including thoughts on joining the DC movie universe with “Aquaman” and memories of films like “Dogville” and “Eyes Wide Shut,” listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.