Nicole Kidman had been answering the same stupid question all day, and the effects were beginning to show in the corners of her endlessly arched smile.
“God, everyone keeps asking me that question,” the typically demure beauty responded like an exasperated high school senior sick of discussing target colleges. “I’d better come up with an answer.”
What Kidman would do if she could summon the powers of witchcraft with the twitch her nose is a question to be expected for someone attempting to take over for Elizabeth Montgomery in a remake of the classic television show “Bewitched.” Mustering up her strength, she promised she’d come up with an answer. But, as the Oscar-winning star is quick to point out, she is not really playing Samantha.
“I play Isabel [Bigelow], who’s actually very much like Samantha,” said Kidman of the somewhat complicated big-screen adaptation written and directed by romantic-comedy queen Nora “Sleepless in Seattle” Ephron. “It’s quite clever, the way they’ve managed to do it, because [Isabel] is what Samantha would be now. … That is why you are so attracted to the series or to the character, particularly as a girl; if you had [witch powers], then everything would be OK, wouldn’t it?”
When Kidman’s Isabel, a real-life witch, is cast in a TV remake of “Bewitched,” her magic wreaks havoc on the set of the sitcom. “The character that I play is desperately just trying to be normal. She doesn’t want to be different than anybody else and certainly doesn’t want to control everything.”
Will Ferrell, who plays Jack Wyatt, a bitter C-list actor who discovers Isabel and takes on the role of Darren, would like to similarly correct all those who heard news of his selection as the male lead and immediately placed him in the shadows of a couple of famous … er … Dicks. “When I was cast, you were saying, ’Not so perfect,’ ” Ferrell admitted, echoing the public’s feelings that he hardly resembles Dick York or Dick Sargent, the original Darrens.
Always the comedian, Ferrell offered that he has a closer resemblance to Jack, the prima donna insistent that film crews refrain from using his personal cappuccino machine. “I have six of them actually,” the former king of cowbell smiled. “That’s me in real life; I am a mess. I am a jerk, number one, extremely arrogant, and I love to bleach my hair out.”
The labyrinthine, Charlie Kaufman-esque twists of this “Bewitched” re-imagining allows it to laugh at the absurdity of remaking a classic, while simultaneously reaping the benefits of doing exactly that. It also helped three Oscar winners and one of Hollywood’s hottest comedians think about their performances, rather than stepping into the skins of yesterday’s stars.
“It’s true,” agreed Hollywood legend Shirley MacLaine, who plays Hollywood legend Iris Smythson, cast as the devilish mother-in-law Endora in the show. “I didn’t have to worry about … playing it as well as … like, Agnes Moorehead.”
Even Michael Caine, somewhat regarded as a half-decent actor himself, appreciated the help of the filter. “People think they are going to see a remake of ’Bewitched,’ but you get fooled when you go in, because Nora is much more clever than that,” he insisted. “It’s a wholly convoluted story, which is very funny, and [it’s] very romantic and very lovely … [people] are worried about the nose twitch and all these things, and can she do it properly.”
“We were lucky that we had Nora Ephron write the script,” Kidman said while reminding everyone that yes, she really can shake her nose. “If you just do a by-the-numbers rendition of a series, than no one is surprised, whereas hopefully this one delivers in terms of people that want to see the series, but also as a movie.
“It’s just about two people who fall in love,” Kidman said, breaking it down. “Which is kinda cute.”
Speaking of cute, Kidman’s nose-twitching sequences can’t help but remind fans of the endearing, eager-to-please charm that Elizabeth Montgomery brought to the role of Samantha. She’s so convincing, in fact, that we’ll push the stupid question on her once again.
“It’s that kind of thing where people say, ’If you have three wishes, what would you wish for?’ ” she said, her lips snapping back into the framework of a perfect smile. “Well, if I could twitch my nose, then I would wish to be able to do magic. I’d really want magic for the rest of my life.”
Some would argue that she already has it; other than that, good luck finding any witchlike qualities here.
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