Debbie Kruger
Nicole Kidman article and photo
Monday December 1 1986


The burgeoning talent and a “pale celestial beauty” have helped to make Nicole Kidman one of Australia’s most successful young actresses. She talks with DEBBIE KRUGER about her life, career and aspirations

Nicole Kidman is a young actress going from success to success. On the set of her latest film she is the focus of attention, her flaming red hair incandescent amid the other actors all dressed in black.

At the age of 19 she has an extensive list of credits including major roles in two forth-coming productions: The feature film Windrider and the mini series Vietnam. She has every right to be pleased with her achievements ut she is remarkably unpretentious.

Her “pale celestial beauty” recently enticed Patrick Lichfield to photograph her as one of his 10 most beautiful women for Harper’s Bazaar. Her beauty makes her an obvious choice as leading lady.

On a bleak, rainy day in Pyrmont’s disused power works, her presence provides a striking contrast against a back-drop of grey industrial pipes and steel.

The production is Watch The Shadows Dance, a futuristic telemovie involving martial arts and verging on nightmare. There is not much dialogue and Nicole admits she does not like having little to say. But she is constantly looking for different challenges and it is difficult to imagine this effervescent woman stopping for a moment.

Since entering the acting profession, Nicole has never been out of work. She knew at the age of 11 that she desperately wanted to be an actress.

Nicole attended North Sydney Girls High School which has produced several notable actresses, including Rith Cracknell and Margaret Throsby.

School had to be squeezed in around acting commitments.

After training at Phillip St Theatre for 3 years, she joined the Australian Theatre for Young People, which gave her good exposure to the industry.

Her first film role, at 14, was in Bush Christmas, Paul Barron’s first production, followed by BMX Bandits. A series of television roles followed, including a runner in one of the Winners telemovies, and the glue-sniffing schoolgirl in A Country Practice.

Nicole decided to leave school after completing year XI and accepted a role in the Disney production Five Mile Creek, a series made for the United States. She had to spend seven months living alone in Melbourne. Being away from her family was not a new experience. Nicole always had the freedom to make her own decisions, and had been going away on location since she was 14. Her parents were fully supportive of her career even when her role in Five Mile Creek led to an opportunity to work in the US.

“I went to LA, had lunches and talks, but I decided it would be better to stay here, to gain experience and recognition. I like Australia, the way they operate… you don’t have to have a big caravan and you’re just like part of the crew. There’s too much pressure with the star system.”

After a small but significant role in the telemovie Archer, Nicole embarked on her first “adult” role in Barron’s Windrider, to be released nationally before the New Year. She plays a rock singer who has a sizzling romance with a sail-board rider, played by Tom Burlinson of The Man From Snowy River and Phar Lap fame.

Nicole and Tom’s much publicised off-screen romance began when the film was being made. Tom is a big influence on her life, but she says she never wants to be known as “Tom Burlinson’s girlfriend”.

The relationship, however, and the nature of her role in the film, including a few nude scenes, have sparked reports that Nicole is “all grown-up”. She feels that this is patronising. “It’s inevitable that I’ll grow up.” Nicole says with a shrug. “People do still remember me as being 15, but it’s slowly changing. It’s hard for a casting director to know where I fit in – I can play 22, 23, 24, if not physically then mentally. I’m making the transition. After Vietnam, hopefully it will be easier.”

She was attracted to the role of Jade in Windrider because the character was older, but she is critical of her performance. “I haven’t really done anything I think is good,” she says. “If you keep patting yourself on the back you’ll never get anywhere. I know what’s good and bad and so far I don’t think anything’s that good.”

Then she modified her stand. "I think the best thing is Vietnam although I haven’t seen it all.” In Kennedy-Miller’s 10 hour mini series to be televised early next year, Nicole plays a character who ages from 14 to 22. She also has had a chance to work with some of the best in the industry, including the series’ producer and write, Terry Hayes.

Vietnam focuses on a family and how it’s members are affected by the events from 1965 to 1972. Nicole plays Megan, who begins as a 14 year old “brat” and emerges finally a tranquil young woman. The character is pivotal in the series as a study of the period, dealing with the first kisses, the pill, having more than one partner – the whole sexual revolution.

“It’s been my most challenging role,” Nicole said. “I got to do more emotions than just being scared or sweet. It was a real female role, bitter-sweet with different sides.” she says. “I’m more forward – I’d been told I’m a confronting actress… in the fight scenes I really let go. I do tend to get inside my character. She became very real to me. Sometimes it was hard to go home from playing a 14 year old to being 19. And then, when I played her as 22, I became calmer, mature. The character has to be real to me, or otherwise you’re just playing.”

Nicole was always aware of the issues with the Vietnam era. “But what I learned about the 60s from Vietnam was the immense strength and determination the youth had, to band together to change the world. In the 80s people are individually trying to achieve success. It’s a different thing.”

Veronica Lang plays Nicole’s mother in the series and compares her to a young Katharine Hepburn. She also says Nicole was intelligent and business-minded.

“She used to say to me, ‘Veronica, we should start up a business of some kind – you’ve got to have something else to fall back on.’

“We were talking about setting up a shop selling antique lace and linen – we both like that sort of thing.”

This practical attitude to her life and her work is why Nicole is constantly striving to better herself. She still takes occasional acting classes. “After doing the film I like doing lots of classes; it brings me back to earth when I see how many other good actors there are.” She also takes voice classes and wants to learn accents.

Nicole also attends Workers Educational Association evening classes, one in play-reading and another in international current affairs. She firmly believes in being aware of what is happening around her, and she is always reading the papers. She wants to do her HSC and eventually go to university.

She has other projects in mind. She would like to write a script, and she has formed a singing group with some girlfriends doing 60s and 70s songs. There will be a lot of choreography and theatrics, and they hope to perform in Sydney clubs during the summer. “It’ll be good, don’t you think?” she asks enthusiastically.

After she finishes filming Watch the Shadows Dance she will be promoting Windrider and Vietnam. Then she intends to take a long break. “When you’re constantly in work it’s easy to take it for granted. I see actors who’ve been out of work for five or six months, and it jolts me. I think if I get away, take a break, it’ll bring me back down to earth and make me appreciate it more.”

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