BAZ BAMIGBOYE: It’s going to be a bumpy ride for Nicole Kidman in new mini-series The Undoing
Nicole Kidman shuddered at the thought that the man in her life might be keeping deep secrets from her
Nicole Kidman shuddered at the thought that the man in her life might be keeping deep secrets from her.
‘It’s too frightening,’ the actress told me as we discussed her riveting new mini-series The Undoing, in which she plays Grace Fraser, a well-heeled Manhattan therapist specialising in couples counselling who discovers that her husband, Jonathan, a paediatric oncologist played by Hugh Grant, is a grade A-level cheat, liar…and maybe even worse.
She said she loves the scene in the six-hour drama where Grace visits the hospital where Jonathan practises, only to discover he hasn’t worked there for months. ‘Grace is like: whaaat!’ Nicole said, breathlessly.
The Oscar winner maintains that she has been clear-eyed about the men she married.
She split, acrimoniously, from Tom Cruise in 2001; five years later she wed rock star Keith Urban, knowing full well about his drug demons, and prepared to help him fight them.
‘I can’t imagine it,’ she said, firmly, when I asked if she could picture herself in a similar situation to Grace.
‘I think everybody’s nightmare would be to find that the person you’re living with is nothing like you thought they were.’
(Although Kidman thought it unlikely Urban would be fibbing about his work. ‘I don’t think it’s going to be like he’s not a musician, or that he’s never played live,’ she joked.)
In The Undoing (available on Sky Atlantic and Now TV from October 26), Grace has a loving son Henry (played by 15-year-old English actor Noah Jupe) and a protective father (a muscular portrait by Donald Sutherland).
In the show, Kidman sports her tresses in the long, red ringlets she had when we first met more than three decades ago, when she starred in the film Dead Calm, another heart-stopping tale where the heroine faces peril
‘Nothing’s taken her off track,’ Nicole told me. ‘Everything has gone according to her plan, in terms of her marriage — which she thinks is happy. She’s a caring person, but she hasn’t had the hard hits of life. Yet.
‘Suddenly everything comes hurtling towards her,’ she said, as Grace struggles to cope with the torrent of Jonathan’s deceit. ‘She’s incredibly resilient, but inside, incredibly fragile.’
In the show, Kidman sports her tresses in the long, red ringlets she had when we first met more than three decades ago, when she starred in the film Dead Calm, another heart-stopping tale where the heroine faces peril.
The Undoing is based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s so-so novel You Should Have Known.
Susanne Bier, who transformed John Le Carre’s The Night Manager into compulsive television, joined forces with David E. Kelley, who created Big Little Lies (a seminal small screen success for Kidman), and the pair ‘moulded’ it into ‘thrilling escapism’, as she described it.
‘It was like: ‘Hold on, and get ready to come on a ride!’ she laughed.
It helps, too, that it’s packed with great actors, including London-based Olivier-award winner Noma Dumezweni (who created the grown-up Hermione in Harry Potter And The Cursed Child in London and on Broadway) as a lawyer who represents Grace.
‘That voice!’ Kidman said, in awe. ‘She just commands.’
I devoured five episodes in one sitting, back in August; then found myself screaming at my iPad at two in the morning when I realised that HBO had withheld the final episode. I felt less bad when Kidman admitted that HBO had done the same to her…and her production company, Blossom Films, made the programme!
I watched The Undoing a second time last weekend, willing the sixth segment to appear, magically (it didn’t).
But I told Kidman I thought I’d worked out who murdered Elena Alves, the vivacious mother of one of Henry Fraser’s classmates, who was patronised and pitied because she didn’t swim in the same rarefied social pool as Grace.
‘Shhhhh!’ Kidman said, stopping me in my tracks and adding: ‘The great thing is, it could be any of us.’
Our interview is taking place over the phone, in the early hours (for me), with Nicole speaking from Suffolk Park in Byron Bay, New South Wales. where she and her family are huddled in a bubble while she films new TV drama, Nine Perfect Strangers.
Kidman, who is an executive producer on the project, plays an American-educated, Russian ‘wellness instructor’ who runs an exclusive health retreat with an iron diet sheet.
‘It’s very strange,’ she said, affecting a Russian accent, of the drama based on a novel by Liane Moriarty (who also wrote Big Little Lies).
Though the book is set in the countryside north of Sydney, the plan had been to film in the United States, because of the mainly American cast. And then things changed.
‘We thought: if we can just move everything to Australia, and bring out those we need, and then employ huge amounts of Australians… and we did.
‘We just buckled down, moved here and the government was unbelievably supportive,’ she said.
Kidman has been ruthless about ensuring that levels of safety are upheld. ‘We could get shut down tomorrow,’ she said.
‘Any production could; and we all know that. You have to be completely strict and diligent.’
‘It’s too frightening,’ the actress told me as we discussed her riveting new mini-series The Undoing, in which she plays Grace Fraser, a well-heeled Manhattan therapist specialising in couples counselling who discovers that her husband, Jonathan, a paediatric oncologist played by Hugh Grant, is a grade A-level cheat, liar…and maybe even worse
Filming in Australia also gave her, husband Urban and daughters Sunday and Faith, a chance to be reunited with Kidman’s 80-year-old mother Janelle.
‘We were away from her for so many months and we just had to get back to her,’ she said; her voice full of emotion.
‘She’s happy to have her daughters and her grandchildren with her. My sister’s here with her six children — we’re all here. We have to do the careful social distancing thing, and you can’t have more than 20 people.’
In terms of acting, the star told me she would continue to work, as long as it was safe. Next up is The Northman, which red-hot director Robert Eggers will film in Ireland.
She plays a Viking queen, opposite Alexander Skarsgard (her hubby in Big Little Lies), in-demand Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, Claes Bang and Ethan Hawke. She’s also developing a project with Lulu Wang, the filmmaker behind breakthrough smash The Farewell.
As we’re about to wrap up our conversation, she suddenly asked if I’d realised it was her singing the Doris Day hit Dream A Little Dream Of Me over the opening of The Undoing.
‘Stars shining bright above you. Night breezes seem to whisper I love you…’ She gives me a little refrain down the line.
Director Susanne Bier asked her to record the number while she was in lockdown. So she and Urban retreated to his basement studio at home in Nashville.
‘He put some candles out and he recorded me singing,’ she told me.
That must have been a romantic session, I ventured. ‘I have an extraordinary partner, who gives me an enormous amount of care, love and support,’ she said. ‘And also, he just makes me laugh.
‘We can experience great joy together,’ she said, and then I could hear her getting up from her seat. ‘They’re waiting for me on the set.’
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