So you might think, after having seen Nicole Kidman in — count 'em — three movies with ex-hubby Tom Cruise, and knowing she has two new ones with Daniel Craig on the way (including this week's "The Invasion"), that her hunky co-stars have a lot to do with her film choices. Not true, the Aussie actress insisted during a break from her latest project, "Australia." Though she might be the highest-paid actress in Hollywood — while Julia Roberts is on a break, at least — Kidman doesn't place too much importance on who gets to appear alongside her on the big screen.

"I will sign on to a movie, having not read the script, just based on the director," Kidman said. "That's just the way I do it. Obviously, filmmaking is all about the director. That's their medium. And the actor is just one of the tools in the creation of the vision. You're in the hands of that person, so you have to be careful who that is."

That's why, she explained, she's currently shooting the pre-World War II epic "Australia" — not because she couldn't resist the lure of co-star Hugh Jackman (and really, who couldn't?), but because she couldn't resist director Baz Luhrmann. "I did 'Moulin Rouge' with Bazzie," Kidman said, "and we're closer than ever. We've known each other for 15 years, and I love working with him. I adore him and his wife, who does all the costumes and production design. It's a family affair. And he's a genius, Baz. He's inspired and unusual and a complete original."

Plus it probably doesn't hurt that Baz wrote the role — an English aristocrat who inherits a cattle ranch amid terrestrial warfare and bombings — with Kidman in mind. "It's a beautiful way to work," she said.

There's another character that has been written with Kidman in mind: Mrs. Coulter from the "His Dark Materials" fantasy-book series, which is headed to the big screen. Author Philip Pullman has suggested he had Kidman on the brain when he wrote the manipulative character, leading her to laugh: "I don't know if that was an insult or a compliment!"

Kidman will play the character against Craig's Lord Asriel in the film adaptation of "The Golden Compass," the first "His Dark Materials" installment. But before we see them working against each other in the fantasy epic, they'll be onscreen in "The Invasion," the update of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

Kidman says she sees a few parallels between the two projects (and no, not just because she gets to make out with Craig in both of them). "There are these fascinating primal emotions involved when you've got a mother protecting her child," she said, "though in 'Golden Compass,' I'm batting for the other team."

In "The Invasion," the son of Kidman's character seems to be the key to immunity against invaders from another world, while in "Compass," her character's daughter seems to be the key to finding those other worlds to begin with. And in "The Invasion," Kidman is concerned about the people around her becoming increasingly disconnected from each other, while in "Compass," she's concerned about people being disconnected from their own selves — after they get severed from their souls. Never mind that her character is the one responsible for the severing. "There's something running through me at the moment that's choosing to express itself artistically with those themes," Kidman laughed. "Strangely enough."

The two films mark Kidman's entrance into the sci-fi/fantasy field, and she said she's surprised it's taken her so long, since she's a big fan of the genre. "I'm actually a fan of all genre films," she said, "be it thrillers, romantic comedy or science fiction. I just really like it when they can nail the genre, when I can read the script and say, 'OK, this is fascinating.' "

What was especially fascinating to her about "Invasion" is how even though it's been remade several times over the years, it has had something new to say each time.

"I think this time it's about the homogenizing of our culture," she said. "We're trying to devalue our emotions and make ourselves far more of a collective sort of group of people that don't have individual reactions to things. But at the same time, I see the film very much about people reaching out to each other under extraordinary duress, and the power of that, and the need for that.

"But I also have another film coming out ['Margot at the Wedding'] which has nothing to do with the state of the world," she laughed. "It's just about sisters and family, and the intricacies of relationships, so I guess I have erratic taste. 'Invasion' is fun, it's about action. It's big, as is 'Golden Compass.' 'Margot at the Wedding' is small. And being able to do both kinds of films is one of the great gifts you get as an actor, if you get the chance."

So she just wants to do ... everything?

"Bring it on!" she laughed.

Check out everything we've got on "Invasion", "The Golden Compass" and "Australia."

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