Nicole Kidman Picked Up Her No. 1 Acting Trick by Working With Stanley Kubrick

Video Source: Youtube

The following interview for Backstage’s on-camera series The Slate was compiled in part by Backstage readers just like you! Follow us on Twitter (@Backstage) and Instagram (@backstagecast) to stay in the loop on upcoming interviews like this and to submit your questions.

“I suppose my sense of identity to my physical identity is always up for grabs,” Nicole Kidman says of her dedication as a performer. “I wanna be able to change and become a character; when I started, it was always about: create a character and bring that character to life.” Sitting with Backstage on a Jan. 26 acting webinar, and speaking to a sold-out audience of 1,000 working actors (one of our biggest sessions to date!), the Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG Award winner showcased the character-building process behind her most iconic roles, including her latest on HBO’s mega-hit “The Undoing,” (of which she’s also executive producer). Catch the full video, featuring a wealth of tips and tricks she has for performers at all stages of their career, above!

Kidman always says that “an actor can’t be a control freak,” and admits to still weathering the peaks and valleys of a career onscreen.
“It’s not my pick of the litter, though, I have to say. Because as any actor knows, so much of it is about the director, when you’re working on a film, and so directors very much choose who they want in their films and who they want to play their characters. So you’re still, no matter where you’re at in your career, at the mercy of whether somebody wants us for a role. I’ve had the luxury and the ability to move into being a producer, which gives me a little more control over some of my destiny as an actor, but not all of it. And I’m still very much an actor…. There’s times when I read things and I read scripts and I don’t get a look in, the director goes, you know, ‘No, I don’t want to work with her, I don’t think she's right.’ So I’ve always had that trajectory of going up and down. And sometimes you’re wanted and sometimes you’re not; sometimes you audition and sometimes you don’t.”

Over the course of six episodes, Grace Fraser and “The Undoing” offered all-new acting challenges.
“[The role] was very, very nuanced, but at the same time, emotionally charged and exciting. It just required constant focus because you don’t shoot in sequence, so you’re shooting the final ep and then you’re shooting the beginning, and you could be shooting that in the same day. And that’s where it goes, OK, I’ve gotta have my act together here. And I’ve gotta emotionally have some sort of arc, but I’ve also got to be willing to move with every actor who comes in and dance and change and respond and be very, very supple. So a lot of it was that suppleness and trying to stay in that place, and that was an emotional commitment to a state of being, but it also just requires real preparation.” 

When it comes to that prep work, Kidman goes back to something she learned on “Eyes Wide Shut” with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.
“I was taught really early on to always read the whole script from beginning to end, and the first time you do it, to write everything down because you’ll never have that first response, you’ll never have that first reading ever again. You’ll have different ways of approaching it when you reread it. But the first time, you get an immediate response. And so quickly write your feelings down so that you can capture that. Stanley Kubrick was the one that said that to me, and it was just wonderful, I’ve never stopped doing it. That always has a wealth of information in it.”

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