Praised as a risk-taker, Nicole Kidman was awarded the 18th annual American Cinematheque Award during a fundraiser for the movie preservation group at the Beverly Hilton on Friday.
But the evening also served as a celebration of the auteur theory, since in accepting the award, Kidman paid tribute to the directors with whom she has surrounded herself -- among them, Baz Luhrmann ("Moulin Rouge"), Stephen Daldry (("The Hours"), Robert Benton (news) ("The Human Stain") and Anthony Minghella ("Cold Mountain") -- who also were among those she dubbed her "film family" seated with her at the head table.
"I am proud of one thing," Kidman said in acknowledging the tribute, which was presented to her by Adrien Brody, this year's best actor Oscar winner for "The Pianist." "It is that I have searched out or I have been searched out by visionaries, and I've surrendered whatever I have to them."
For the 36-year-old Kidman, who picked up a best actress Oscar earlier this year for her self-effacing performance as Virginia Woolf in "The Hours," the Cinematheque award served as a midcareer testament to her prominent position in the Hollywood pantheon.
Testified Naomi Watts, a 20-year pal of the Australian-born Kidman: "You make audiences absorb and feel. You make actors watch, learn and steal ... You have directors dueling over you and producers crawling over broken glass, begging, 'Say yes."'
Director-producer Sydney Pollack, who co-starred with Kidman in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut," noted: "I think Nicole's work in this film is powerful, ingenious and brave ... Stanley adored her." He called it "the start of an amazing growth period for her. ... She's really blossomed and the power of her work has culminated with her being here tonight."
The film clip chosen to illustrate that film, showing Kidman in a sexually charged exchange with her ex-husband Tom Cruise, did create an awkward moment, however, as the actress' two children, Isabella and Connor, seated beside her, were quickly escorted from the ballroom.
According to sources, Kidman had requested that the film clips shown at the banquet -- which will be broadcast by AMC on Dec. 1 -- be selected with some discretion since her children would be present and was thus caught off-guard by the frank "Eyes" scene.
The evening also paid tribute to the actress' Australian roots, featuring clips from the music video "Bop Girl," in which she appeared at age 15, as well as "Vietnam," the 1986 Australian miniseries that first brought her acting honors. Taped testimonials were provided from its producer, George Miller, as well as Mel Gibson and Dame Edna Everage (the drag creation of Barry Humphries). Claiming to have discovered Kidman in a children's acting school, Dame Edna joked, "You were a tall girl with curly red hair, and, frankly, I didn't see much hope."
Others who rose to praise Kidman included Lauren Bacall and Danny Huston, who co-star with her in the upcoming "Birth"; fellow actors Stockard Channing, Matt Dillon, Allison Janney, Michael Keaton, Wayne Knight, Natalie Portman and Chloe Sevigny as well as Miramax Films' co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, who said: "Nicole Kidman has been a force for great integrity in my life."
Before thanking both her real family and her film family, Kidman observed, "We live the process of making movies and not the results, and it is really the process I live for."