The aura surrounding Nicole Kidman as she walks into a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills is one of self-confidence and vulnerability which is complemented by friendliness when she sits down to chat about her latest film Lion. This is a true story of five-year-old Saroo from a tiny village in India who finds himself on a train to Kolkata. All alone and lost, he must survive on the streets of the big city. He is later adopted by an Australian family. On growing up he has a desperate longing to find his biological parents and an older brother he has left behind. The movie chronicles his journey back to India and his reunion with his family. I would be amiss if I did not mention Sunny Pawar who plays the young Saroo – he steals the movie. Kidman plays Sue Brierley, Saroo’s adoptive Australian mother – a role that earned her an Oscar nomination.
Did you know this was a true story when you agreed to do the film?
I didn’t know that it was true. I read the script and was so moved. When I found out that it was a true story, I couldn’t believe what he had accomplished. Then I sat down with the director and he explained what he wanted to do, because it could have been very linear and I suppose not be elevated so poetically.
I had not played an Australian woman for so long. This character is very much like the women I grew up with, she is like so many of my mom’s friends and so it was a way to connect back to my country. And when I signed to do it my dad was still alive, and part of the pull was ‘Oh my gosh, I will be able to be there with my parents’ and then a lot of things happened and it was very good to be there because my mom was suddenly by herself and I was able to be there with my children. It’s funny when the stars align, they really align.
You are an adoptive mother yourself. Can you talk about how his film is a love letter to your children?
Yeah, I wanted to make it for them, because I think the message of the film is from many different perspectives and you see the mothering, the biological mother, the adoptive mother and as Saroo would say himself he has two mothers. But the message is unconditional love. Everyone assumes that the adoptive mother would be threatened by the biological mother, but the character I play in the film tells Saroo, “I can’t wait for her to see you and see how beautiful you are”. You see the love she has for his birth mother and how they are all connected.
As an adoptive mother I know that you think of the birth mother and what all this means and how we all end up sharing our lives and our lives are intertwined in some way, whether the child wishes to find the birth parents or not. But for me, the child needs to know that you are always welcome to find your birth parents and that I will always love them because it is unconditional.
You have been married for 10 years. What have you learned about relationships and marriage?
I know that I would not be able to do anything without him (husband Keith Urban-country singer). Our union is so nourishing, strong and healing. Whenever anything good happens to me, I go, ‘Baby this is ours’ and he does the same thing. I am amazed that we could find each other in this world. He’s a rock.
Even when I’m on location and the family is not with me, I fly home on weekends to be with them and I have such amazing support from them. On the flipside, I wanted to do a play that I had done in London on Broadway. So we sat down and had a family meeting and my kids said no. Sometimes they go, ‘Yeah, this is okay. Can we bring the cat? Which is always a big question’. But they didn’t want to go to New York for four months, so that is when you go, ‘okay my family comes first’.
It was a great play and I would have loved to do it, but I’m not a single girl and I’m not a childless woman and I need to bow down to that and I am grateful to be able to do it to be able to make the choice.
Having lived a childhood in both America and Australia, do you have an identity crisis?
Australia plays a big part in who I am. Both my parents are Australian. I was born in America but raised by Australian parents and then we moved back to Australia. So I am inherently Australian and now I’ve moved back to the states and lived here longer than I have lived in Australia and I’m an unusual mix. If you ask me who I am. I am still confused.
I know that I would not be able to do anything without Keith (Urban). Our union is so nourishing, strong and healing. I am amazed that we could find each other in this world. He’s a rock.
At what place at what place are you now in your life?
Down on my knees, grateful for my life. And I truly mean that. Humble and in a place of absolute gratitude. And in the now. Because I have moments where I jump into the future. That’s part of the thing of being a parent, particularly an older parent. I have got to stay alive and stay in a place of deep gratitude for just the here and now. It is so hard to say and it is the easiest lesson to learn, let alone live.
What kind of parent would you say your are? And what do you do to keep your parents safe?
To the point that my daughter will go, ‘momma enough!’ So I would say I have elements of the helicopter parent which I grapple with because I try not to put my fear or anything into them. Even when they are playing on the monkey bars and I see them, I try not to go, ‘oh, careful’. Any parent will attest to this. There’s an element of trying to protect from a distance so that they can find their way and not feel over-parented and controlled, but still have the balance of I am here whenever you need me and I am actually looking out for you.
That’s a hard balance – sometimes I am too much and that is when they go, ‘Please don’t go ohh when I tell you this’. I hear that a lot. And ‘Please don’t burst into tears’. I try not to because I want them to tell me things. So it’s that tempering of the emotions.
When you married Keith, you moved from Hollywood to Nashville. Do you miss living there?
No, I love it in Nashville. I really do. I am lucky because I have traveled, but in terms of a home base, it’s so good for us. It is so quiet and easy and it is really a lovely way of life. And we have very much been invited into the community. Keith has lived there for 25 years, so when I met him, he said, ‘How do you feel about Nashville?’ And I was like I will absolutely move and I did. But I think that I’m the kind of person that I could pretty much move anywhere if I loved someone. I am not attached to an environment. I am more attached to a person so moving would never be a deal breaker for me.
When I met Keith, he said, ‘How do you feel about Nashville?’ And I was like I will absolutely move and I did. But I think that I’m the kind of person that I could pretty much move anywhere if I loved someone.
What is the biggest treasure in your life?
I have to say raising my little ones Sunny and Faith right now and watching a five-year-old go to school. Just the simplest things are a treasure and I think as you get older, just waking up in the morning and seeing the day begin. There is this one thing that I will tell you, I always wake up in a good mood and my husband always asks, ‘How do you do that?’
You are a hard-working person who wears so many hat. Who does your shopping and where do you get your clothes?
I have a stylist that I work with, but she lives in New York. I will see things and I will go through magazines. Or if I was lucky enough to be invited to a fashion show and I’d see the dresses there, because I would need dresses for several occasions. I will let you into a little secret. Tonight, is the premier of Lion and I still don’t have a dress to wear. The dress that I am supposed to wear does not fit.
I went through a period that I was not interested in fashion. It was when Sunny was born and I was just living on the farm in Nashville. Now I have come back to being interested because I have a six-year old daughter who is totally interested and she always asks what I am wearing and she voices her opinion. She has ignited my love for fashion again.
How do you keep yourself in shape? Do you follow a specific form of training?
No, no form. I encompass all types of training. I like to mix things up – I do yoga, running, and ride my bike and whenever I can. I do spinning with the whole family.
I eat just about everything, but I do it in moderation. I drink a lot of Lipton tea and I love homemade bread and I take a multi-vitamin every day. That’s about it.
What is the most daring thing that you have done?
I have done track car racing at a tremendous speed, I have jumped out of an airplane and I have scuba dived with sharks.