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Cold Mountain - Nicole Kidman Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. The film was shot in Romania, Nicole was it a rough shoot because of all the wild animals?
A:
The thing that was amazing shooting there was that it was so different, even in terms of just taking a walk. The first morning I was there, I thought I would just set off at 6am, to try and get over my jet lag and I said, ‘no, no I don’t need anyone with me, I’m just going to go off by myself’, and there was this pack of dogs, and I sort of came running back and I was told that there are lot of wild animals around. And then we started to see bears, I mean on Saturday night would be the sort of weekly bear-spotting, we’d all have dinner together, in the guest house. You’d drive to work and then there’d be sheep ­ it was a real mountain town.

Q. Nicole, can imagine yourself coping in that situation?
A.
You conjure up those images, because you’re character. I remember we were sitting out on the porch of the house that we were shooting in, and there was something so simple about it, that you see the way people existed then, and it was incredibly satiating at the same time.
I mean, I think the way Ada takes care of herself, of course I could eventually learn to do that [laughs]. But that, to me, is one of the most powerful parts of the film, actually, and it’s one of the reasons I really wanted to do the film, because I wanted to work with Renée, and I thought the two of us up a mountain would be fun. It’s a shame she’d not here. Where is she?
AM: She’s in Thailand, shooting Bridget Jones.
NK: She’s just great to be around. We spent a lot of time together, well over two months, and so we really got to know each other. And I think that just being the same age actresses; actresses in the industry, basically in the same position, as she had Chicago and I had The Hours coming out just when we finished making the film together, so it was really strange timing, coming together and being able to share and help each other in the movie. I hope that friendship comes through, it’s one of the things we’re most proud of.

Q. One of the most remarkable achievements in the film is the romantic tension that’s sustained through very little dialogue and very few scenes. Obviously that’s down to casting, directing and writing, but was it ever a concern for you that people had to buy into the reality of Inman being driven on his journey by Ada?
AM:
I remember when I was researching The English Patient, and I kept reading about wartime romances and war brides, and this strange thing that happens, that when death is very close at hand, life becomes very urgent and it accelerates relationships. People cling to each other, people cling to life in the face of cruelty and death. It feels to me that in these periods all the volume controls are turned up: The camaraderie and compassion exists with enormous illustrations of violence and lack of tenderness.
There were stories of soldiers returning from the Second World War and being greeted by a sea of faces of women at the barricades, and not knowing which one they married four or five years previously. It felt very true to me, that part of the story.
But also, I would say this, that first of all, these characters are very conscious of the fact that they hardly know each other, it’s the thing that pre-occupies them. They’re holding on to the idea of something good in the face of something bad.

Q. Nicole, does that raise the stakes for you and Jude in those few scenes you have?
A.
It was certainly something that the three of us talked about, because it was really like a triangle in terms of Anthony, Jude and I, when we embarked on this together. It was a strange coming together when we had the rehearsal period.
Jude and I were like, ‘okay, how do we make it believable’, when we would literally share, at most, a kiss and glances and the occasional minute touch of a hand, and then make it believable that that would stay present in someone’s head and be their light for such a long period of time and draw them back.
I would constantly be saying to Anthony, ‘are you sure we’ve got enough’? And it was more up to him to know what he’d captured, because I think we were both so existing in it, that you’re really in the hands of the director.
And I hope, you hope, that people will buy into it, that people will believe it. It’s also an idea that Jude and I bought into, as we were basically passing ships in the night, because he would be carrying one part of the film, and I would go back to America, and then I would come back and he would go back to London, so we were constantly crossing in the night.
But we would constantly say to each other, hold it, remember it in the scenes, the presence of each other. Because we were both very much aware of trying to feed that into each scene, to the point where you feel snow and you remember Inman, that everybody, somehow, has a presence of the person, that you’re still seeing the world through there eyes. Which I think is when you are existing with the thought of someone, you view the world with them, even if they’re not there.
AM: I wrote this moment, when Ada is reading from Wuthering Heights, about the love of Kathy and Heathcliff (‘Little visible delight, but necessary.’) And that seemed to be the clue to the character.
But also, we weren’t simply trying to make a love story, and I think if we had, we’d have approached the film differently.
The relationship between Ada and Ruby is at least as significant as the one between Ada and Inman. And the fact that they’re both on journeys, and their journeys collide, is important ,and it was also the case that Jude is on an odyssey to get home. Ada stands in for home. In the same way that there is a real Cold Mountain, there’s a series of Buddhist poems called Cold Mountain, which is a spiritual destination.
If you’ll allow me to at least say there are other things going on in this film, one which is to look at how people find redemption, and how they find atonement, and the whole emotion of walking and journeying, in the same way that a pilgrimage in the medieval period was a penance that you did to be allowed home. That was very much in my mind in the film, as well as the simple romantic connection between a man and a woman.

Q. Nicole, any plans for any more theatre work in London?
A.
I was going to do one with Sam Mendes, at the Donmar, but I ended up doing Cold Mountain instead.

Q. Would you like to be directed by Anthony again?
A.
We are going to do a recording of Ann Carson, the Canadian poet, who Anthony introduced me to actually, and we’re going to do a recording of ‘The Glass Essay’, which is one of her poems. It’s beautiful.

Q. This one of several quite arduous roles you’ve taken recently ­ do you ever take the trauma that you experience on screen home with you?
A.
This was my balance film. Dogville and the The Human Stain, I kind of pick things in threes, not consciously, but there seems to be something there, and this, for me, was something I needed to do because it was about belief in someone, not actually losing belief in someone. I felt that Ada is not damaged, I think Ada still has this beautiful innocence, and when somebody says they’ll come back, she still believes that they will, even though that wavers within, the basis of that is always there, where as something like Dogville is a lot different.
And it certainly stays with you, I think each roles takes something from you, and then sort of circles around you for the rest of your life. I don’t really think you abandon any of them.

Q. Was working on the accent more difficult this time, given that Ada’s personality changes?
A.
I was conscious of doing that, of having some of the effects of Renée, espeicially in the last quarter of the movie. In terms of the Charleston accent, it’s very different from the accents that the other actors were doing.
And some of the sounds sound unusual, but they’re very, very precise sounds, and you have to do them, because to a well-trained American ear, they can hear absolutely everything. Luckily, Charles Frazier gave me the thumbs up on the accent, which was all I cared about, and his wife and his daughter, and I remember when Charles visited the set and he’d spent six years writing this book.
So the idea of meeting the author and knowing that you’re portraying something that has existed in his head for such a long time was very intimidating. I did it with Michael Cunningham [author of The Hours] but Virginia was a person in real life.
But to actually meet the author and be playing a person that didn’t exist, except to them, was very difficult. He was very generous to us and he came to Romania and he embraced all of us, which was very important to me, in the same way that with Philip Roth, for The Human Stain, and Michael Cunningham ­ the last few films have been based on important, important novels.

Q. On behalf of all the women in the world, how did you look so fantastic with death and blood and guts all around. How was the porcelain skin maintained.
A.
I had a tan ­ I did [she emphasizes, laughing].
AM: I want to say that the thing that’s infuriating, as a filmmaker, is that whatever you do to her, she looks beautiful.
NK: That’s not true [laughs and blushes]
AM: That’s so true. Ann Roth, who’s the costume designer, did a lot of work, because part of the story of Ada is that she starts off as a kind of doll. She is this strange creature, who appears in an ordinary town and everybody’s head turns. And she wears all of these costumes and corsets, to represent d the idea that she’s constrained and in her father’s image.
And Ann came up with this idea that when Donald Sutherland’s character dies, she simply gives the rack of Donald Sutherland’s clothes to Nicole and says ‘this is what you have, make them work’. So for the rest of the film, she’s wearing the remnants of her own clothes, and some of Donald’s clothes, and from the minute she puts them on she looks like she just came out of Prada. It was absurd!
NK: That’s brutal. There was a conscious decision by Ann Roth, in terms of the trajectory of the character: at the beginning, that’s why she dresses me in that cream outfit ,when I’m walking up that dirty mountain, and believe me it’s very hard to walk up a dirty mountain wearing cream, with Ann Roth going, ‘don’t get it dirty because we only have one’.
But it really fed into it, because I just felt like a strange bird. And it was wonderful to have those things. The way you move and suddenly you would have us in the real corsets, the real boots which are very slippery, but it was great because when Renee’s running me round the mountain, I was literally tripping and falling around, desperately trying to keep up with her because all of my things changed the way I moved.
And there was a huge emphasis on the hair and the size of their waste. It was particularly important to a woman from Charleston. And then by the end of it, no it was just trying to stay warm and braiding my hair and that’s more what I prefer.

Q. Nicole, everyone who works with Donald Sutherland has a story to tell ­ do you?
A.
I have a crush on him. He has a lot of stories because he has been in some of the greatest films. I’d just sit there and say tell me about Klute, tell me about Jane Fonda, tell me about Don’t Look Now, how did you shoot that love scene in Don’t Look Know, what was Julie Christie like? He’s very open and a wonderful actor and has incredible knowledge, in terms of books, and he was very willing to share, and I just adored him. I was so glad he was playing my father.

Q. Nicole, you always seem to be in serious movies, can you see yourself acting in a comedy?
A.
I just finished The Stepford Wives, we hope it’s a comedy. Scott Rudin, who produced The Hours, said you need to go to Summer camp and Stepford Wives is going to give you Summer camp. But I tell you, comedy is a lot harder. I’m on holiday now.

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