01/23/2013 10:50 am ET Updated Mar 25, 2013

Nicole Kidman, Character Actress, Continues to Go Where Other Beauties Won't

"NICOLE GOES out of her way to walk on the razor's edge as an artist. I think she'd find it unnatural to be anything but exploratory, dangerous and challenging."

That's director Baz Luhrmann, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about Nicole Kidman, the world's most glamorous and daring character actress.

Nicole is on the cover of HR, looking for all the world like a fresh young thing who wouldn't dream of taking off her makeup, ratting her hair, being a bitch onscreen or crazy onscreen, or do things that other actors might say: "Uh, let's talk, and then let's not do it!"

  • I REMEMBER the first time I saw Kidman onscreen with soon-to-be-husband Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder. Kidman, an Aussie, was an unknown quantity in the United States. I recall liking the movie -- Tom was at his appealing peak -- but reserving myself on Kidman. I made some comment along the lines of, "Maybe she can act if she can ever get that mass of hair out of her face."

    Well, I had to soon eat my words, because I then saw her in an earlier film, the thriller Dead Calm. She could act. And she acted even better in Billy Bathgate and (especially) To Die For, as the coldly aspiring TV reporter who'll do anything to become famous. Her exclusion from an Oscar nomination for that was one of those eternal Academy mysteries.

    Her career -- and her marriage to Cruise -- progressed. But she didn't seem altogether comfortable as a traditional leading lady. She didn't quite fire up as some of her best performances had hinted she might. Then came the shocking divorce from Cruise, and suddenly she was in high gear with Moulin Rouge, The Others and The Hours. (The latter finally won her an Oscar.)

    Then, Kidman took increasing ambitious, off-the-wall roles in movies not meant to be blockbusters. And when she did try a blockbuster (like Australia or The Invasion) her heart didn't seem to be in it. The box-office was not besieged.

    Movies such as Dogville, Margot at the Wedding and Birth were indicative of where her real interests lay. ("Birth" confounded many, but I still think it will have its day being reevaluated and appreciated.)

    Kidman is now happily married to singer Keith Urban and the mother of two small children. She declines to reveal much about her adopted children with Tom, who are devout Scientologists. Of her own status and Hollywood in general, she tells HR writer Merle Ginsberg: "I actually don't even know what a movie star is now -- what is a movie star? When the best female part of the year is Claire Danes in Homeland, you know the game's changed. Maybe in the 1950s there was a far more particular idea. But now that's all blurry -- everything's more fluid."

KIDMAN'S OWN MOST recent detour from the straight and narrow is The Paperboy, directed by Lee Daniels. The movie includes scenes of bodily functions and some shocking sex moments with John Cusack. It was rough sex, and Kidman didn't hold back, and urged her co-star not to either. When Daniels asked if she'd been hurt, she shrugged. But she appeared the next day covered in bruises. The director was shocked, "You crazy bitch -- go put some makeup on your legs!" Nicole hadn't even thought about it.

She has come a long, long way from the unknown with "all that hair" that annoyed me. Now I adore her. As an actress and as a woman who has apparently found herself.

  • RUMORVILLE -- That Warner Bros. is making big plans for a Justice League of America superhero movie. This would team Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, The Green Lantern and The Green Arrow. This was a hugely popular comic book series back in 1960s.

    The wish-list cast includes Ryan Gosling as Flash, Ryan Reynolds reprising Green Lantern (despite the disappointing returns on that movie) and luscious Megan Fox as Wonder Woman.

    Speaking of Megan Fox, she got a lot of publicity putting a tattoo of Marilyn Monroe on her body a couple of years ago. Now she's getting more publicity having it removed, because she doesn't think Monroe was a good, powerful role model. She compared Monroe to Lindsay Lohan!

    MM was indeed a troubled woman, and died tragically at 36. In her day, however, she was a great movie star, if not taken as seriously as she'd hoped. Since her death, she has become an historical figure.

    Lindsay? The jury's still out. But she remains a "starlet" with a shattered career, at the age of 26.
  • OUT IN Los Angeles, the weather is unpredictable, and apparently nobody gives news on that unpredictability with such an alluring spin as one Jackie Johnson of KCBS TV. She's blonde (what else) and quite attractive. She has acting aspirations, too and has even landed a cameo in a small film. But she doesn't intend to give up the often ominous meaning of cloud formations to the east. CBS wants to build her up and her Twitter account has 10,000 followers. Being the popular, curvy blonde weathergirl has become something of a cliché in movies and TV shows -- and even in real life. But Miss Johnson is determined to break the mold and move beyond cliché. We shall see.