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Cold Mountain - I hope that people will buy into it, that people will believe it

Feature by: Jack Foley

OSCAR-winning Australian actress, Nicole Kidman, describes Cold Mountain as ‘her balance film’, despite the many challenges it represented during the course of filming.

Having recently completed The Human Stain and Dogville, in which she is seen to portray characters who endure immense emotional suffering, as well as physical, Cold Mountain represented the chance to play someone who isn’t ‘damaged’, and who still possesses ‘this beautiful innocence’.

Kidman stars as Ada Monroe, the beautiful sweetheart of Jude Law’s Confederate soldier, Inman, who is forced to wait at home while her would-be lover goes off to fight in the American Civil War.

In the ensuing three years, she must learn to fend for herself, on a farm in Cold Mountain, while clinging onto a promise made by a man she was only just getting to know when they were separated.

And it is this aspect of the relationship which represented one of the biggest challenges for both Kidman and director, Anthony Minghella, in translating to audiences just why two people, who barely knew each other, could strive, so passionately, to be reunited.

Speaking at a London press conference, Minghella told journalists: "I remember when I was researching The English Patient, and I kept reading about wartime romances and war brides, that this strange thing 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."

It was this aspect of the relationship that Kidman, in particular, was keen to realise onscreen, even though it raised the stakes in terms of her performance.

"It was certainly something that the three of us talked about; 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 touch of a hand? How would we then make it believable that such moments 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’?

"I hope that people will buy into it, that people will believe it. But it’s also an idea that Jude and I bought into the film, while filming, 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.

"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."

It is pleasing to be able to report, therefore, that the ensuing relationship is one which audiences can root for, particularly as the ‘love’ between the two is offset against some shocking scenes of brutality, played out against the backdrop of the last, desperate days of the US Civil War.

But while the role of Ada was by no means an easy one to portray, it also marked the realisation of two ambitions for Kidman, who leapt at the opportunity of appearing alongside both Renée Zellweger and Donald Sutherland.

The relationship she developed with Zellweger, especially, is something the actress remains most proud of, and which, she hopes, translates well on-screen.

"She’s just great to be around," recalls Kidman. "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, and 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, as it’s one of the things we’re most proud of."

As for screen veteran, Sutherland, Kidman could think of no one better to portray her father, and is equally pleased to have had the opportunity to work with him.

"I have a crush on him," she confessed. "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 Now, 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."
With the role of Ada now behind her, and talk of Oscar nominations for at least one of her three upcoming movies, it is little wonder to find that Kidman is turning to comedy for her next project.

"I just finished The Stepford Wives, and we hope it’s a comedy," she announced, with a laugh. "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."

Right now, however, Kidman has plenty of reason to smile. She followed up the London press conference with the Royal Premiere of Cold Mountain, in Leicester Square, the same night, before flying back home to Australia for the Sydney-based premiere, at which she was handed the keys to the city.

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