Jenny Cooney Carrillo
international entertainment and lifestyle journalist
Nicole Kidman has done a lot of things for the sake of her art. She’s studied languages, musical instruments and accents. She’s changed her hair color, her eye color and worn wigs. She’s even worn a prosthetic nose, for her Oscar-winning role as Virginia Woolf in the film The Hours. But in Bewitched, the 38-year-old (at the end of June) Australian actress does something even more extraordinary in her role as a mischievous witch married to a mere mortal - she pulls off the perfect nose wiggle!
“It wasn’t that hard,” the modest star confides nonchalantly as she sits in her director’s chair just off-camera one wintry night in Los Angeles on the Culver Studios backlot where she is shooting the film inspired by the 1960s sitcom starring the late Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha the witch. “What you do is study her in the series and I slowed it down on tape and watched how she did it,” Nicole explains. “It’s a combination of the mouth that then wiggles the nose. If the film works, then I’ll be wiggling it for many years to come!”
Nicole sits close to a heat lamp as she covers her costume with a long overstuffed white winter coat and wears Ugg boots between scenes. She watches as her co-star Will Ferrell is attached by wires to a broomstick above, waiting for her cue to say the lines that will put him there. “I have to say I haven’t had this much fun working before,” Nicole admits later over a cup of hot chocolate during a visit to the sugar-laden craft services table nearby. “Instead of telling everyone they can’t come near me because I’m playing some intense character, I’m like, ‘come by the set and say hello’ to all my friends!”
Five months later, Nicole still smiles as she recalls her experience on this film. This is a woman who has died in a string of heavy dramas including; Moulin Rouge, The Others and The Hours. In Birth, she dealt with a dead husband who may have been reincarnated as a young boy and in The Interpreter, her brother is murdered and her life is in danger. Not surprisingly, Nicole embraced the chance to be happy. “It was my first romantic comedy and I couldn’t have been in better hands than with (You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle director) Nora Ephron and Will (Old School and Elf) Ferrell,” she nods. “Nora always says when you’re doing a comedy, everyone has to feel good, and I agree with that.”
But just who is making the high-profile Nicole feel good these days? Much has been written about her reported relationship with producer Steve Bing but despite what you read, the private but open Nicole insists he is “just a friend.”
“I would love to get married again and have a baby but I’m not engaged and I’m not pregnant so obviously I haven’t moved forward in that arena,” she says a little wistfully. “I read on the cover of a magazine that I was engaged and I was like, ‘oh really? I wish someone had told me!’”
It’s been over four years since her decade-long marriage to Tom Cruise ended abruptly, and while her ex has been steadily dating – first Penelope Cruz and now Katie Holmes – Nicole has been mostly alone, working on back-to-back movies including; The Stepford Wives, Birth, Dogville and The Interpreter and spending what little free time she has with her children Bella, 12 and Connor, 10, who she shares custody of with Tom.
Asked if she’s actively looking for someone to have that baby with, she demurs; “I’m certainly not out there looking but I’m waiting, put it that way.
“I haven’t found someone to have a baby with and I don’t want to have the baby alone,” she continues, breaking into a smile as she leans forward and confides in an almost-whisper; “but I had a dream last night about having the baby – ‘the baby’ is what I’m calling it now like it’s real,” she laughs as she catches herself out loud.
While much has been made of Nicole’s yearnings to become a mum again, the actress herself says it should come as no surprise to those who know her. “I’ve been in that craving since I was 18,” she explains. “I just remember when I was a little girl walking around with five baby dolls with names for all of them and saying to my mother, “I’ve got five children’ and my mother saying, ‘why would you want five children?!’”
Asked how she feels about Tom’s new relationship with 26-year-old Batman Begins star Katie Holmes, she says with all sincerity, “I hope he’s happy, it’s that simple. If he’s happy, our kids are happy. He’s had a few girlfriends now, it’s been years and we’ve moved on, so I would just hope he is very happy.”
When we talk again, the news has just broken that Nicole’s Australian friend Kylie Minogue (who made a brief appearance in Moulin Rouge as a fairy) has been diagnosed with breast cancer at 36 and is undergoing treatment at a Melbourne hospital.
“I just hope they leave her alone and allow her to recover from this in the way she’s meant to,” Nicole says softly, clearly rattled with the news. Like Kylie, Nicole has also been an ardent fundraiser for women’s health issues, especially for breast and ovarian cancer research.  “As women, we have to protect each other and I think there’s far more money available for other issues than there is for a lot of women’s health issues, so that’s why I try to stay focused on that,” she explains passionately.
Nicole’s own mother successfully overcame breast cancer when the Oscar winner was still a teenager and she hopes that Kylie’s battle will ultimately help save other lives. “I think it’s important that it’s demystified and we all tell our friends to get their mammograms and that even if you get breast cancer, it’s not such a terrible thing,” she adds.
Curing cancer would be high on the list of things Nicole fantasizes she would do if she really had the magical powers of her character Samantha in Bewitched. “If only I could wiggle my nose and everything would change, that’s part of the escapism I loved about Bewitched as a child,” she says. “I think for me to get to live out the fantasy of being this mischievous wife, I loved the simplicity of that; of her wanting to be normal but knowing she could do her hair or do the dishes without having to raise a finger.”
In the movie Bewitched, Nicole plays the two characters of Isabel and Samantha. Isabel is a naïve, good-natured witch who moves to Los Angeles to reinvent herself and disavow her powers to lead a ‘normal’ life. Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell) is an actor trying to get his career back on track by using an updated version of the 1960s sitcom Bewitched as his star vehicle. He runs into Isabel, notices she bears an uncanny resemblance to Elisabeth Montgomery, right down to the nose wiggle, and casts her as Samantha in his TV show. Isabel accepts because she’s fallen for Jack, but when he doesn’t return her affections, she’s tempted to get some supernatural help.
“It’s their journey together and what she teaches him and what he teaches her,” Nicole says excitedly. “Isabel has total control but she wants to be out of control and be crazy in love and crying and feeling heartache. She says she doesn’t want to be in control but I don’t know about that – I’d take it,” she laughs. “Imagine wiggling your nose and having your mum appear from the other side of the world for a roast dinner and then she’s back home in Australia after dessert!”
Also co-starring in the film are Michael Caine, as Isabel’s debonair and disapproving father Nigel Bigelow, and Shirley MacLaine, who plays the indomitable diva Iris, the actress who portrays Endora on the new Bewitched TV series. “We were lucky to have them and I wish they really were my parents,” she said with a giggle. “I think that’s the great thing about being an actress; you get to live vicariously through your roles so you get all these different parents, you get to kiss all these different men and there is no responsibility attached to it, so it’s fun!
“Shirley MacLaine has given some of the performances that I’ve loved the most, from The Apartment to Terms of Endearment,” Nicole adds, “so I’d look at her in awe when we worked together. She said she always had an affinity for me because I had pale skin and red hair. It’s like a little club when you have pale skin and red hair, because it’s a whole different way of living and you recognize other people and know that they understand what it’s like.”
Asked if she learned anything about herself making Bewitched, Nicole pauses then responds; “Everyone says that this role is the most like me.” Does she agree? “Maybe,” she says, “because Isabel has that slightly naïve quality which I think I still have sometimes and wish I didn’t have it but I much prefer to be naïve than to be bitter.”
Although Bewitched will only make Nicole even more famous, the shy movie star tries not to think about that. “I’m not an extrovert,” she insists. “I wasn’t when I was married and I’m still not. There are other people who are far more at home in the limelight or need it or desire it and I tend to keep myself away from it whenever I can.
“I was in Paris recently and went to Versailles and the guy who served me coffee in the café there was like, ‘oh we loved this film and we loved that one’ and I was stunned, because it seems that’s so far away from who you are, yet the world is becoming very small, I guess.”
Nicole recently took a three-month break spent mostly at her Sydney home in Australia after her film Eucalyptus, in which she’d returned to shoot with Russell Crowe, was postponed in February “It was disappointing but for all the reasons it didn’t happen, it probably shouldn’t have happened,” she said. “Baz Luhrmann is putting together a love story at this very moment that Russell and I are interested in doing together so I’d be thrilled if this worked out because it’s important to all of us to put that money back into the economy in Australia.”
In May, Nicole returned to her New York home to make another dark film Fur, co-starring Robert Downey Jr. and directed by Steven (Secretary) Shainberg, in which she plays famous photographer Diane Arbus, who committed suicide. “It’s a very short period of her life and the movie is like an acid trip,” she says almost proudly. After that, she’s hoping Bewitched will bring her more comedies. “I would love it,” she continues. “I saw Will Smith’s movie Hitch and wished I could make a movie like that so maybe Bewitched will open some doors.”
Jenny Cooney Carrillo
Jenny Cooney Carrillo Red cover story interview with Nicole Kidman Jenny Cooney Carrillo interviews star of Bewitched Nicole Kidman