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The Hours - Nicole Kidman Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Excerpts from a syndicated interview with Nicole Kidman, by Sheila Johnston

Q. How did you become Virginia Woolf?
A. I became pretty obsessed with her and basically read everything, all her letters, and the Hermione Lee biography - that sort of became the Bible. And then it was, 'How do we give her something else?' We played around with my face to try and find the character.
Your face is your tool, as an actor. You can't be attached to it - you've go to be willing to change it. I would spend two and a half hours in the make-up chair getting the nose put on and I did this thing where I pulled my lips in when I talked and moved my face in a certain way. I just hoped it wouldn't become a huge issue in terms of, 'Look at this girl walking around with a nose on.'
That it would be, 'I believe this person.' I loved having that profile but I did have a fear that people would laugh when I come on the screen.

Q. You also learned to write with your right hand...
A. It was slower and so much harder because I'm very left-handed. I'm not ambidextrous. And how do you play a writer with that sort of imagination and inner life, how do you capture that? Stephen [Daldry] was so wonderful because he gave me this image. He would say, 'Think of it as electricity that goes from the brain, down the arm, down the finger into the pen and on the paper.'
There's almost no time between having the thought and putting it on paper. I would be just allowed to sit in an armchair in this beautiful big house with the writing board and write and smoke and he would film it. But I hate to demystify it too much. I always kind of cringe when I hear people divulging all their secrets.

I don't know if it's being Australian, but you tend to keep your business to yourself a bit. You take on attributes, you're not quite sure how or why but it just starts to wash over you. I don't have to be called Virginia when I'm playing the character, but while I'm filming she orbits around me and is always there. The ideas come at 3am and you just hope it's all going to synchronise and somehow blossom.

Q. What most struck you about Virginia?
A. The way in which she grappled with her creativity. It's just so extraordinary, the way she was under such duress in terms of her psychological make-up and yet still stayed true to her creative process. I find it inspiring that all of the pain and all of the struggle made it into her writing. She didn't censor herself; it just would be.
At other times when she was in a coma, practically, when she was having the real breakdowns, they thought the writing would make it worse and so they would forbid her from writing. There's a scene between Virginia and her husband on the train station where she says, 'You cannot find peace by avoiding life, Leonard'. A beautiful line. And true.
When I read the script, it reverberated through my psyche. It somehow had great relevance and great meaning. You don't know when that's going to hit you, when you read a book or study a person. I had it happen with Chekhov as well, with The Seagull. I studied that at school and then when I was about 19, I delved into it again and suddenly Nina was real on a very, very deep level within me. I understood everything and it clicked, you know.

Q. Are you ever tempted to avoid life yourself?

A. I think we all are, aren't we. Sweep it under the carpet! As an actor your emotional life tends to be very present, but the beautiful thing is that you do get to express yourself quite openly. Finding that balance is sometimes difficult. I have no idea how I act. I'm always sure that I'm never going to be able to act again after I've finished something. It's such an intangible thing. You hope that it stays around and doesn't evaporate.

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