Here’s my theory about Nicole Kidman: She’s a robot. You know, kind of like Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation. See, Data, played by the inimitable Brent Spiner, looked human enough (except for his deathly pallor), but until the movie Star Trek: Generations, he had no ability to feel or express emotion. Oh sure, he could emulate them enough that others aboard the Enterprise could consider him worth hanging around, but it was all an act. Kind of like Kidman’s claim that she’s, well, human. She acts the part, but is never quite convincing enough to make me give up my suspicion that maybe, just maybe Dr. Noonien Soong built her like he did Data. (Please, forgive the Star Trek references: I’m a dork, and I don’t deny it).
On top of her affinity for characters with emotional instabilities (like The Others, The Hours, or Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus) or that serve as tools of satire or parody (like To Die For, Batman Forever, or The Stepford Wives), Kidman has also proven herself to be wholly unreliable at the box office despite being one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses. In fact, if you stop and look at her resume for a moment, you’ll realize as I have that she’s only had five legitimate hits in her long career: Cold Mountain, The Others, Moulin Rouge!, Batman Forever (a movie that could’ve starred a stuffed gazelle in her role and still been successful), and Days of Thunder. The rest of the time, she’s churning out duds that occasionally find critical acclaim like The Hours or Dogville, but more generally bomb in every possible way like this year’s The Invasion, Bewitched, The Interpreter, The Stepford Wives, and… wow, do I have to go on?
So here’s the question: Kidman is quite possibly a robot (or at least an advanced cyborg) and, way more often than not, stars in movies that nobody with the higher function of their brain intact would want to sit through, so why is it she remains one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood?
Well, guess what, I have a theory about that, too. And no, it isn’t because Kidman was married to Tom Cruise, though that helped (and it is interesting to note the guy is now married to another robot). No, the reason Kidman remains one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood is that she’s easily one of the most daring actresses in Hollywood even though she doesn’t need to be. She’s an A-lister and, as such, has her choice of movies and directors – including budgets that absorb her obscenely unjustified salary – but, rather than turn out one brainless project after another, she instead opts to turn out one brainless project, then one outrageously unexpected project, then one brainless project, and so on and so forth. In other words, for every stupid movie Kidman does, she does something like Fur in which she screws a wolf man or Birth in which she takes a bath with a kid who might be her reincarnated true love. This is the actress who played Virginia Woolf and Grace in Lars Von Trier’s experimental Dogville. This is the actress who, despite having absolutely no confidence in her singing ability, agreed to star in Baz Luhrmann’s wildly over-the-top Moulin Rouge! and then turned in the best performance of her career.
Kidman might have terrible taste in commercial movies and a terrible sense for what independent movies actually stand a chance of finding a real audience, but she’s nevertheless one of the gutsiest A-list actresses in Hollywood. This will be proven this Friday yet again when she stars in Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding, another reason why Nicole Kidman deserves your respect even if, you know, she’s no more human than Data.