The Academy Award winning actress Nicole Kidman takes the cover story of WSJ. Magazine‘s May 2020 edition lensed by fashion photographer Bibi Cornejo Borthwick. In charge of styling was Elin Svahn, with beauty from hair stylist Didier Malige, makeup artist Susie Sobol, and manicurist Cenita.
When you get to the top, just remember there’s nothing there. The only thing that really matters is love. No matter what your accomplishments are, it’s incredibly lonely if you’re not surrounded by some form of love. – Nicole Kidman
On her husband:
Urban, she says, is her “mellow muso,” using Australian slang for musician—the one guy she’d call in any crisis. “He’s pretty much the flip side of neurotic.” After a chance meeting at an industry event, she says she fell for him when he took her for a ride on his Harley-Davidson to Woodstock, New York, topped off with a picnic in the woods. “I was a goner—I mean, c’mon.”
On not having a lifestyle brand:
Kidman is interested only in “storytelling,” as she calls it. “Yeah, I don’t have the energy to have a lifestyle brand,” she says. “I don’t think I have the right lifestyle to have a lifestyle brand because I am not sure what I’d be able to do, you know? I’m probably just a bit daydreamer-y. Keith will say, ‘What are you thinking?’ And I’ll say, ‘Oh, I just went away for an hour, I’m not sure where I went, but boy, it was a great journey.’”
On working with women:
“I know how to be with women,” Kidman says. “I was raised pretty much [by women], I had a wonderful father, but the sex in our family is female. I have a sister, I have daughters, I have a very strong mother, I have aunts.” (She and her sister, Antonia Kidman, a television journalist–turned-lawyer, share a secret language, recalls Hugh Grant, who met Kidman in the ’90s. “Acting with her was intimidating,” he says. “You never want to work with someone who is better than you.”)
On choosing her projects:
“My taste is really out there. There’s no sense. I’m a complete random nonconformist,” she says. “People are like, ‘What are you doing?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.’ I’ll very much go on the record saying I have no idea what I’m doing.”
On the psychological toll her work takes:
“Certain things penetrate psychologically in a really deep way. There is just no getting around that, and I wish there was,” she says. “I haven’t been taught it. I have tried to learn it. I don’t have the ability. It does take a toll on my health, and it takes a toll on my spirit,” says Kidman, who copes by writing down her experiences and practicing meditation, taught to her by her psychologist father. “I’m always trying to dig in. The unfortunate part of it is that the feelings are intense. I wish I could be the kind of person that’s like, eh,” she says, shrugging. “I have an unbelievably understanding husband and children—the little ones who are going like, ‘Why are you looking like that, Mummy?’ [But] their ability to understand artistically is very deep already.”
On keeping her relationship and family tight:
“I’ll pass on films,” says Kidman, who frequently selects projects in which she has a supporting role or that shoot on the East Coast during months when her younger daughters’ school is not in session. “We have a system worked out to keep the family together,” she says. “When Keith’s not touring, it’s much easier. He’ll be on tour next year, and then I just don’t work as much. Literally—it will become imbalanced, and we will change it. We don’t have the answers, but the one thing we do know is that we will not jeopardize us.”
Sometimes, this means bringing her girls to the set with her. Both had small parts in The Angry Birds Movie and were extras in Big Little Lies. “They are kind of unusual in that they watch the filming, they are in the films. They have a great work ethic,” she says.
What would she say if one of her daughters wanted to be an actor? “I’d get out of their way,” she says.
On showing up for those who have shown up for her:
“I had no idea, when things have gone down, the people who have shown up for me. And you are down on your knees, you are like, ‘I’m so vulnerable and so lost right now, and I’m unbelievably grateful for what you have done; you have no idea what you have just done,’” she says. “And by gosh, I’m going to do that—if it’s not for you, it’s for somebody else. Because I know what it means.
On being accountable for her choices:
“I try not to analyze things until the end,” Kidman says. “I’ll be on my deathbed going, What? Or my kids will be accountable: What were those choices your mother made?”
Nicole Kidman – The One Sheet
What’s the one trait you consider essential to your success?
What’s the one phone call that changed your life?
I remember Baz Luhrmann calling me and going, “I want you to be the lead in my film playing Satine in Moulin Rouge….” That phone call can mean your whole destiny changes on a dime.
What’s the one trait you most value in a business partner or collaborator?
The one thing that I really value in a collaborator is talent. In an artistic collaborator, I will forgive many, many things if they’re talented.
What’s the one thing that keeps you motivated?
The desire that my fire still burns within. So that motivates me—thinking I haven’t done the work I want to do yet creatively.
What’s the one book or movie that changed your life?
The book that changed my life in a huge way was War and Peace because I read it when I was on summer holidays when I was really young. I fell in love with the characters; I got lost in the characters.
What is the one piece of advice that most changed your life?
When you get to the top, just remember there’s nothing there. The only thing that really matters is love. No matter what your accomplishments are, it’s incredibly lonely if you’re not surrounded by some form of love.
Who’s the one person you call in a crisis?
It would always be my husband.
Who is the one person, alive or dead, you’d most like to have dinner with?
My dad, who’s not around anymore. He died, and I would love to have dinner with him again.
What’s the one thing about which you most often say, “Well, maybe one day”?
Maybe one day I’ll hike Machu Picchu. Maybe one day I’ll sort of get to do all the adventures. Never seen the pyramids.
Still have not been to Africa. Desperately want to go to Africa, so maybe one day.
Where do you wish you could buy a one-way ticket to?
Paradise. I wish I could buy a one-way ticket to paradise and bring a lot of people with me.
Photography © Bibi Cornejo Borthwick for WSJ. Magazine
The article appears in WSJ. Magazine’s May Issue, on newsstands May 2nd – www.wsj.com