Personal detailsName: Nicole Kidman
Born: 20 June 1967 (Age: 47)
Where: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Height: 5' 10"
Awards: 1 Oscar, 1 BAFTA & 3 Golden Globes
All about this star
It's a mark of Australia's cultural strength that they've provided so many of today's top-line cinematic greats. Aside from the obvious Mel Gibson and Cate Blanchett, there's also the less well-known yet hugely talented likes of Judy Davis and Naomi Watts as well as a couple of New Zealanders who made it in Aussie productions. Step forward, Sam Neill and Russell Crowe. And, of course, there's the woman who, Gibson aside, is the hottest of the lot, the ex-Mrs Cruise but a fine actress and Oscar-winner in her own right - Nicole Kidman.
Strangely, given what most people know of her, Nicole is not a fair dinkum Aussie at all, actually being born on Honolulu, Hawaii (on the 20th of June, 1967), and holding dual US and Australian citizenship. Her father, Anthony, a biochemist and clinical psychologist, had moved to the island with his wife Janelle to work on a research project. Almost as soon as Nicole appeared (she'd be closely followed by sister, Antonia), Anthony's work with breast cancer took the family to Washington DC for three years. It was only then that the girl who would be known as one of Australia's prime exports began life on Antipodean soil, when the Kidmans moved back to the posh Longueville district of Sydney (coincidentally, one of Nicole's most renowned relatives was also named Sydney - he was a cattle baron).
Nicole was an active, artistic child, and focused from an absurdly young age. She began taking ballet lessons at 3, moving onto mime at 8 and drama at 10. Her first public role was at 6, as a loud sheep in her elementary school's Christmas pageant. She grew up fast. Janelle was an active feminist and Anthony a labour advocate, both of them discussing the issues of the day with their kids over dinner and having them hand out pamphlets on the street.
When it came to acting, Nicole possessed the same intensity as her future husband. She was always seen as an outsider - she was known as Storky due to her peculiar height (she fast reached a whopping 5' 11") - and, as she approached her teens she departed even further from her peers. While the other girls were down the beach, eyeing up the boys, Nicole spent her weekends at the Philip Street Theatre, watching, learning. She had her sights set on higher things - as you'd expect from someone whose influences include Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave and, above all, Katherine Hepburn - and, indeed, she had her first kiss onstage in Frank Wedekind's Spring Awakening. As the play concerned sexual repression in the late 1800's, it was something of a wild one too, Nicole having to yell "Beat me! Harder! Harder!" each night. More impressive than a clumsy fumble under the pier, eh?
Come the age of 14, things started to move. As a sign of events to come, one night Nicole received a note of congratulations and encouragement from an audience member, a film student who invited Nicole to appear in her examination short. Nicole turned it down, as it conflicted with her own school exams. Shame, for the student was Jane Campion, later to direct The Piano and then the Kidman-starring Portrait Of A Lady.
Then the real roles began to appear. There were a couple of TV parts, and then a sudden success. Kidman's film debut was in Bush Christmas, about a poor family relying on their racehorse to make their fortune in a race on New Year's Day. Unfortunately, the horse is stolen and the kids, with the help of a friendly aborigine, have to track it down. The movie was a big hit, and would become a festive favourite in Oz.
As Nicole continued her education at the Australian Theatre For Young People in Sydney (to which she'd later donate $100,000), and the St Martin's Youth Theatre in Melbourne (her studies concentrated on voice, production and theatre history), the parts kept coming. She appeared as a High School track star learning there's more to life than athletics in the TV series Winners, on film in the amusing romp BMX Bandits, and in a video for Pat Wilson's Bop Girl. Then, at 17, there was a Disney production, the TV serial Five Mile Creek, a family-orientated affair about the wild Aussie West. Shooting five days a week for seven months, this allowed Kidman to gain vital confidence before the camera.
Now there was a blow, as Janelle was diagnosed with cancer. Nicole took time off to take a massage course in order to give her mum physical therapy. Her family's efforts helped bring about Janelle's recovery. Back at work, Nicole scored five parts in quick succession, including Wills & Burke, a lampoon of historical epics, the futuristic Nightmaster, and Windrider, about a kid who builds a hi-tech surfboard in order to snatch the World Championship, then falls in love with Nicole. Tough break. Kidman herself fell in love on Windrider - with actor Tom Burlinson, who she'd see for three years (she'd later date another actor, Marcus Graham).
Next came the breakthrough. Kidman won a meaty role in the miniseries Vietnam as a gawky Sixties schoolgirl protestor who evolves into a freethinking Seventies activist, the series covering the activities of Aussie troops in Vietnam (many of them social and seedy) as well as the public and political furore back home. In the meantime, Kidman found her own flat, cooking and cleaning for herself for the first time. The series was produced by the Kennedy-Miller partnership, who'd broken big with Mad Max, and was written by Terry Hayes, who'd penned Mad Max 2 and 3. Hayes in particular was captivated by Kidman's performance, especially a scene where Kidman is on a radio show, complaining about conscription, when her brother, a returning vet, calls in, causing her to break down.