Nicole Kidman on working with Baz Luhrmann on Moulin Rouge! and Australia

Last week, Nicole Kidman paid a trip to BAFTA’s London headquarters for their ‘A Life In Pictures’ career retrospective series. She had many movies to delve into, but thankfully she gave time to talk about Moulin Rouge! and Australia, her two collaborations with Baz Luhrmann.

I am a huge fan of Moulin Rouge! so naturally this was the section I found most interesting, so I have transcribed what she said so you can check it out too.

She started by saying the director came to see her in the West End play The Blue Room and “sent me a box of two dozen red roses and a note saying, ‘I think I have a role for you, her name is Satine. I’d like to meet you after the show’ – very Baz.” 

She knew who he was because of Strictly Ballroom so she was excited to work with him until she realised singing was involved.

“I was like, ‘Uh! (excited gasp)’ but then I heard it was a musical and was like, ‘Ooooh nooo, I can’t sing!’ I can sing in the shower, but I’d never sung publicly, I was not confident and I’m still not confident with my voice but when I really go, ‘OK I can do this, I can do this’ and having him believe in me and believe that I could do it, that’s how I was able to sing. And I kind of discovered my voice on that film.”

She also explained what the shooting and rehearsal process was like:

“We were in this big old house Victorian house in Darlinghurst, a suburb of Sydney, and it was very bohemian and we would have parties and dress up and rehearse and then we would have more parties and do some more rehearsing.

“It was a risk to do that film. Chicago hadn’t been done and to be using known songs and reinterpreting them, all of that was new at that time. I was also having to dance, hang from trapezes. I mean, it was fantastic and one of the great memories of my life, and I’ll never forget my father, he’s not here anymore, I was hanging up on a trapeze in the studio in Sydney and I looked over and I saw my dad in the corner. I’d called him up and said we’re shooting this big sequence tonight you might want to watch it and I saw him across there and I just remember his jaw going (dropping) and I was on the trapeze and there were about 150 men all with top hats and tails below me. Fantastic, right?” 


She also recalled how the reaction at its Cannes Film Festival premiere was mixed, but she thought it “was fantastic” and is glad people eventually came around to see that too.

“There have times when I’ve seen films and gone ‘uhhh’ with disappointment, but this one I was really excited. But then we went to the Cannes Film Festival and I remember it got a mixed response initially and then I was like, ‘What?’ My sister was with me at the time and she said, ‘Listen to nobody, the film is fantastic, I love the film, I don’t know what you guys are all worried about’. The film took off, found its audience, made its own path and got nominated for a lot of Academy Awards and has had an extraordinary life.

“Sometimes things come out and they don’t get a response initially that they then get later on. The problem is right now things are disappearing so often before they’re allowed to find their audiences, before they’re allowed to be discovered, which I find very, very sad because films like Bonnie & Clyde, initially those films didn’t connect but slowly they found their way, they made their money, they found their audiences, but it took time. What frustrates me right now is it’s just so quick.” 

She teamed up with Luhrmann again on Australia and admitted that the rehearsal process was very similar, even though it wasn’t a musical.

“Because there wasn’t song and dance in that it was more we working on scenes but always, it’s his nature, he gets everybody there for two-three months prior and you workshop, you learn all the skills required for the film and you all spend a lot of time together. It creates almost that trope feeling, circus, where you’re all in it together.” 

She believes the film is more relevant now than when it came out, adding, “I always say Baz was ahead of his time. He’s just got that brain he’s so well educated and so finely tuned that he as a filmmaker is ahead of his time.” 

You can read my full highlights from Nicole Kidman’s A Life in Pictures here.

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