IAR INTERVIEW: Nicole Kidman Talks 'Stoker'

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 11:37 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR INTERVIEW: Nicole Kidman Talks 'Stoker'

In a Hollywood career that has spanned over twenty years, Nicole Kidman has demonstrated time and again that she's unafraid of challenging material.

The Oscar-winning actress, a true international movie star, shows her fearlessness yet again with Stoker, an uncategorizable new film hitting theaters in limited release this Friday, March 1st.

Kidman first attracted the attention of a mass American audience in 1989 with the tightrope-taut thriller Dead Calm, which pitted her against a psychotic killer on the open sea. The Australian native went on to star in films as varied as To Die For, Moulin Rouge!, Dogville, The Others, Just Go With It, Eyes Wide Shut, Rabbit Hole, Batman Forever, Margot at the Wedding, and The Hours, in which she played Virgina Woolf, a performance that won her a Best Actress Academy Award.  Last year, she starred as part of the ensemble in The Paperboy and earned a Golden Globe nomination playing Martha Gelhorn to Clive Owen's Ernest Hemingway in the HBO movie Hemingway & Gelhorn.

And now she kicks off 2013 with Stoker, a strikingly unique thriller.  At the Los Angeles press day for Stoker, IAR Managing Editor Jami Philbrick had the opportunity, along with a few other members of the press, to speak with Nicole Kidman about the new film.


In Stoker, Kidman plays Evelyn Stoker, the unstable mother of India Stoker, an isolated young woman played by Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right, Alice in Wonderland).  As India retreats into herself and Evelyn attempts to connect with her daughter following her father's tragic death in a car accident, the mysterious Uncle Charlie, portrayed by Matthew Goode (A Single Man, Watchmen) inexplicably appears at their home.  India almost immediately suspects that Charlie has sinister ulterior motives, yet both mother and daughter find themselves drawn to the enigmatic stranger.

The film marks the English-language debut of Park Chan-wook, the South Korean director who won fans all over the world with films like Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, and ThirstKidman's attraction to Stoker was based largely on the director's involvement, as she explained, "For me, primarily it was the combination of the cast and being spearheaded by director Park. I knew his films and I wanted to work with him. I just thought the combination of this script with his direction would be really unusual. I saw it for the first time at Sundance last week and I was like, 'Wow,' which is a great reaction to have – a good wow, not a bad wow."


Chan-wook is a gifted visual stylist and a director of remarkable control, but any time a foreign director tackles their first English feature, the language barrier can present a problem on set.  Unsuprisingly, Kidman handled the relationship like a professional.  "There are times when you have to clarify words," she said. "Because obviously particular words mean certain things. And so a lot of times it would be me just going, 'Is this exactly what he wants?' Because in translation, things can get lost. So I was just very specific with him."

Wentworth Miller, an actor familiar as the star of the FOX series Prison Break, wrote the Stoker screenplay, crafting a story that deliberately defies easy genre classification and audience expectations.  When Philbrick asked Kidman about Miller's script, she answered, "I had to read it a couple of times to understand it just because it’s got a lot of subtext and layers and stuff, so I just wanted to kind of absorb what the overall feeling of it was. And I think the strength of director Park is his atmosphere. He creates incredible atmosphere. And this script relies heavily on the language of the images because there’s not a lot of dialogue and so the cinematic language of it has to be very, very strong. When I had a meeting with him, we talked about all of that and it was just extraordinary how detailed and precise in what he knew he wanted to say it with. And his use of color and sound and everything is all very specific and it’s not by chance. And that’s something that really kind of fills in a lot in a script like this."


"I’m not sure what genre it fits in to," she said of the final product.  "It’s hard to define it. But I was amazed at the filmmaking. You don’t see that kind of filmmaking that often. A lot of the stuff I hadn’t seen because I’m not in it. So even the scene in the playground, I was just like, 'Wow,' with the way she climbed up the slide. It’s very, very layered in the metaphors that he uses. The hair scene, I had no idea. He’s just like, 'We’re just going to shoot brushing your hair.' And then I see the film and I’m like, 'Oooh, that’s amazing.' But that sort of detailed filmmaking is one, really hard to do and not have it be pretentious and two, have it really sort of tell the story which is what you’re taught is that cinema is the language of images and dialogue. You really should be able to make a film with no dialogue and tell a story, and I really think director Park should do that next."

Stoker presented many opportunities for Kidman to play intense scenes, but her favorite exchanges to perform actually involved humanizing her character and sprinkling in some humor.  "For me, I loved the dinner scenes. I loved the scenes around the table because there’s humor in them as well," she said. "I actually don’t think that Evie’s evil. I felt like she’s misunderstood. No, I feel like she’s just starved for love and she’s got a child that she doesn’t connect with. Director Park, when we first met, said to me, 'Ever since you’ve held this baby, this baby’s never wanted to be held.' And that’s an amazing way to start building the relationship of a mother and child because that’s horrifying as a mother if your baby doesn’t want to be held by you. So I think that’s the thrust of her is that she’s never – this child that she’s had just doesn’t connect with her and so she’s always trying to in some way connect. I mean obviously that’s gotten broken down over years and years and India had a much stronger connection with her father. They hunted together and Evie didn’t like to hunt. So that was fascinating to me. And then also, I sort of came up with my own thing in terms of she’s just very starved for love and that creates a particular personality after a while – being starved of being touched and held. She’s not evil."

"And Park, which is interesting to talk to him about, says this is a movie about bad blood," she continued.  "Which I thought was a really interesting sort of way of describing it and whether what bad blood is in a way."

Stoker opens in limited release on Friday, March 1st, and will expand in the weeks that follow.


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