Risk addiction

Posted by · 1:18 pm · November 30th, 2009

Nicole Kidman in DogvilleAfter some initial resistance, I’m getting chattier on Twitter lately. Yesterday, in a “best of 2000s” frame of mind, an enjoyable back-and-forth with some of you started after I idly asked which actor or actress has had the greatest decade on film.

The suggestions came in thick and fast, some mathematically going by awards stats, others opting for more abstract criteria. Some names came up with particular frequency: it’s hard to argue with the choice of Kate Winslet, though with the peerless exception of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” I wish she had more stone-cold masterworks under her belt.

Johnny Depp was a popular choice, as was Sean Penn. I liked many more outré suggestions, including a shout-out for Patricia Clarkson, though will admit to scratching my head over two people’s advocation of Clint Eastwood. (If we’re counting people who only appeared four films this decade, I’ll stick with Daniel Day-Lewis.)

But I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who plumped for the same name I’d consider for the honor: Nicole Kidman. The actress has been at the receiving end of a lot of media snark lately, be it in a professional or personal capacity, but clearly she still commands respect for her adventurous script choices and rarefied taste in auteurs.

She’s had a couple of indefensible clunkers, of course — though I have little patience for those who dismiss a “Golden Compass” or an “Australia” out of hand. But between the likes of “Dogville,” “Moulin Rouge!,” “The Hours” or “Birth,” I find it difficult to name an actor who has tested themselves more in the last ten years.

Anyway, with last night’s Twitter discussion fresh in my mind, I happened upon an interview with Kidman (not available online, sadly) in this month’s edition of British GQ. It’s a typically fawning profile, though she comes across most engagingly in it, opining that she should have lost her Best Actress Oscar to Renée Zellweger (uh, no), and quipping that the all-star cast of “Nine” is a blessing because “the blame can be spread more evenly.”

But relating to the discussion above, she addresses her sometimes eccentric instincts, and the mixed fortunes of her recent work, with admirable pride and intelligence:

I’m no businesswoman. I’ve never cultivated that side of myself, the business side. I have very avant-garde tastes — that’s just what I’m drawn to. Sometimes that means working on tiny, often unheard-of artistic endeavors, sometimes it means working with the likes of Baz on movies like “Australia” or “Moulin Rouge!,” which make big, bold, epic statements. I was raised on art and literature, and things that were left of center, so where I say success lies is probably very different to a lot of people. I make films that aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, I realize that. I get it. But that’s where I am.

To me, “Birth” was a success. And exactly the sort of film I want to make. If you’re taking risks it isn’t always going to work, and yeah, it hurts sometimes. But I have a career where I have had to weather the storms. It’s become second nature to me. I’m used to my roles and the movies I’m in being criticized. I seek it out. In my life I do not seek out a safe place. I like existing in an uncomfortable place artistically.

Would that more people in the industry felt the same way.

→ 71 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

71 responses so far

  • 1 11-30-2009 at 7:49 pm

    Paul Outlaw said...

    In this decade she’s taken a strange detour but continued to take all kinds of risks in Shaft, Hotel Splendide, Changing Lanes, About a Boy, Dirty Deeds, The Hours, Japanese Story, Connie and Carla, The Last Shot, In Her Shoes, Little Miss Sunshine, The Night Listener, The Dead Girl, Mary and Max…and the United States of Tara. Underrated, underused, BRILLIANT Toni Collette.

    Top of my English-language list.

  • 2 11-30-2009 at 8:14 pm

    JR said...

    There’s so much I can say but will leave it at this. Folks, let me introduce you to Javier Bardem:

    Just within the last decade:

    Before Night Falls
    The Dancer Upstairs (IMHO – an underappreciated film)
    Mar Adentro (one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen; naturally, ignored by the Academy)
    No Country for Old Men
    Vicki Cristina Barcelona

    I’ve long loved Daniel Day-Lewis but Bardem is as fine – or greater. Plus, the man’s barely 40.

  • 3 11-30-2009 at 8:34 pm

    Alex said...

    I agree about Kidman. I think she’s learned her lesson though with big studio pictures.

    From now on she’ll only be starring in films like Birth, Dogville, Margot and the Wedding, punctuated by the occasional Nine.

    Little Bee/The Other Hand could be interesting. I enjoyed the book and think the film could be brilliant in the right hands. I wonder who’ll direct it. Fernando Meirelles is too obvious a choice. My money is on Alfonso Cuaron, Philip Noyce, Jim Sheridan (or a British director). Not that he would but I’d be interested to see someone like Jason Reitman direct a film like Little Bee – maybe prove his versatility in a worldly thriller.

  • 4 11-30-2009 at 8:35 pm

    Alex said...

    Actually…Winterbottom seems like an obvious choice.

  • 5 11-30-2009 at 9:30 pm

    Maxim said...

    Blanchett is ten times the actress Winslet is and I’d also take Kidman over Winslet any day.

  • 6 11-30-2009 at 10:18 pm

    Glenn said...

    I believe I was the first to respond to Guy on Twitter with Nicole Kidman. She has six Oscar nomination-worthy performances, with three deserving of the actual trophy (Moulin Rouge, Dogville and the piece de resistance Birth – then there’s Margot at the Wedding, The Hours and The Others).

    The thing that sets her apart are the filmmakers she chooses to work with. Because of her taking on risky films such as Moulin Rouge, Birth and Dogville she will be discussed FOREVER. The Others is a horror film that will last and become like the films of the ’60s with names like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

    And then take someone like Kate Winslet who is fantastic in so many things, but the movies themselves are rarely brilliant. Only “Eternal Sunshine” of her nominated perfs this decade will be seen as a masterpiece.

    Kidman is iconic and the fact that she’s had so many ups and downs and been labelled “box office poison” and won an Oscar and been in controversial films as well as big budget musicals (musicals STICK more than any other genre, I believe) will only help her. And I think she’ll finally be welcomed back to Oscar’s good graces for “The Rabbit Hole” and/or (especially) “The Danish Girl”.

    I think my second place, btw, was Tilda Swinton.

  • 7 12-01-2009 at 4:27 am

    Aleksis said...

    “two films that could not be more different: Margot at the Wedding and Australia”

    They were similar in that they both stank immensely.

    Kidman’s performance in The Hours is beyond brilliant, truly one of the most deserving Oscar wins ever (she blew Julianne Moore out of the water in both films she was nominated for). People blab on about her more “indie” films, but that’s her best of the decade; better than Moulin Rouge!; way better than the irritating, overrated bore that was Dogville.

    It’s good to see people talk about her acting and not just about what her face looks like nowadays.

  • 8 12-01-2009 at 7:34 am

    Adam Smith said...

    Adding to the conversation, IFC just posted an article, naming Matt Damon the Actor of the Aughts. Check it out here:

  • 9 12-01-2009 at 8:05 am

    Ivan said...

    Definetely the Actress of the decade…
    Look at filmamakers she work with
    Lars Von Trier
    Baz Luhrmann
    Stephen Daldry
    Jonathan Glazer
    Alejandro Amenabar
    Noah Baumbach
    Anthony Minghella
    Steven Shainberg
    Rob Marshall
    Robert Benton
    Oliver Hirschbiegel
    Sydney Pollack

    not counting the directors of the 90´s
    (Kubrick, Campion and Van Sant)

  • 10 12-01-2009 at 8:23 am

    Frank said...

    My vote is for PSH all the way, but since no one mentioned him, Viggo Mortensen is worth a shout out. The Lord of the Ring trilogy, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, Appaoloosa (not a great film, but a wonderful performance), Good and The Road–pretty damn impressive from the start to the end of the decade.

    I know his luster has cooled a bit these days, But Christian Bale deserves to be in the conversation, I think. American Psycho, The Machinist, Batman Begins, The New World, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Rescue Dawn, 3:10 to Yuma, I’m Not There, Public Enemies, Harsh Times (haven’t seen this last one, but I hear he gives a very good performance)–that’s a strong lineup.

    A slightly oddball choice: Michael Caine. Leading the pack you’ve got The Quiet American, The Statement, Children of Men, Quills, and, in my opinion, Sleuth (which he killed in). I haven’t seen Harry Brown or Is Anybody There? but I hear they are solid. Then you’ve also got his “mentor to the protagonist” roles in The Dark Knight, The Prestige, The Weather Man, Batman Begins that are basically the same note, but classy and solid nonetheless (Children of Men fits in this mold, but is elevated above it, I think).

    Also, deserving mention, Maggie Gyllenhaal. Not all her films were great, but she made the most of the parts: Crazy Heart, Away We Go, The Dark Knight, Stranger Than Fiction, World Trade Center, Paris, je t’aime, SherryBaby, Trust the Man,
    Criminal, Mona Lisa Smile, Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Secretary, and Donnie Darko.

  • 11 12-01-2009 at 8:57 am

    carlo said...

    @ Ivan

    Don’t forget
    John Cameron Mitchell
    and soon Tomas Alfredson

  • 12 12-01-2009 at 10:20 am

    Zodiac said...

    Cate Blanchett all the way as for the actress of the decade award:
    The Gift
    Veronica Guerin
    The Missing
    The Aviator
    Notes on a Scandal
    Little Fish
    Coffee and Cigarettes
    The Good German
    Im not There
    Benjamin Button

    Swinton, Streep maybe

    Depp, Bale or Day Lewis I cannot choose between them

  • 13 12-01-2009 at 11:14 am

    mike said...

    a lot of elitist suggestions from these posts, when the answer is obviously Will Smith.

  • 14 12-01-2009 at 3:06 pm

    John said...

    RJL. Watch more movies with Nicole Kidman. You clearely don’t know her very much, this is a good suggestion to start to love this great actress.
    Botox or not, flops or hits she’s one of the most talent and incredible actress in MOVIES HISTORY. That’s a fact people’s opinions won’t change. She’s a miracle of talent and elegance, her “risk” addiction is something you can’t find easily in every actor nowdays and the reason you don’t put her in your “best of decade” lists is because she’s a huge movie star with a lot of pubblicity stuff around her imagine. But she’s first of all an actress, an artist and she has demostrated many times working with intresting directors. If you think the contrary, you’ll just see what you want not the truth. I’m sorry but I think Blanchett, Winslet, Moore, Linney are very good actresses but not iconic, legendary, great as Nicole is. Her Oscar for The Hours was highly deserved because her perfomance was not her “nose” but her ability to change herself in Virginia Woolf. She didn’t play but she WAS Virginia Woofl, that is what Kidman does with her roles, she doesn’t play or star in a movie, she changes herself in her roles. If people don’t notice is a sign of incredible superficiality. I’m European and I see in Kidman a lot of Ingrid Thulin: same sensibility, ability, courage, elegance. She’s a movie star, but first of all a great great actress of our times. So yes, SHE IS THE BEST OF THE DECADE, and of the future decades.

  • 15 12-01-2009 at 7:42 pm

    SJG said...

    It’s SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO hard to pick just one person on something like this. So I’m going to give six names (three men, three women) that I think could arguably be considered “top actors and actresses of the decade.” But they’re not just “top threes”. The first is someone I consider totally uncontroversial as being a leading actor of the decade. The second is someone I don’t particularly think deserves the title but I could never object to anyone who thought differently. And the third is someone who probably doesn’t really deserve it but I think they’ve done enough great work to merit a mention since they’re generally overlooked.

    So here goes:

    Heath Ledger
    Johnny Depp
    Tom Wilkinson

    Cate Blanchett
    Kate Winslet
    Samantha Morton

  • 16 12-01-2009 at 9:50 pm

    Danny King said...

    I think Winslet’s performances in 2008 guarantee her a spot in this conversation. When pundits all across the Internet are arguing over which of her performances should win Best Actress, you know that she’s had a pretty special year. Personally, I though she was better in Revolutionary Road, but her performance in The Reader was so different that it’s tough to compare the two.

  • 17 12-01-2009 at 10:17 pm

    SJG said...

    Actually I meant to put Johnny Depp as the obvious and uncontroversial actor, and Heath Ledger as the one I can’t see myself disagreeing with but don’t really feel about as strongly as others.

  • 18 12-02-2009 at 3:32 am

    mike said...

    so can we start the “Heath Ledger is overrated” debate cause i want to know how based on 2 performances he is the best actor of the decade?

    you elitists with NY/LA sensibilities really take these discussions somewhere else.

  • 19 12-02-2009 at 3:45 am

    Guy Lodge's said...

    No, nobody needs to take their discussion anywhere else, Mike.

    It’s great that you have a different perspective — it’s what conversations like this are all about. Add yours to the mix rather than denying others.

  • 20 12-02-2009 at 11:55 am

    Magicub said...

    Kidman is the actress of the decade, no matter of botox or box office poison, in 1999 she was just the wife of a famous movie star (yeah To Die For deserves more recognition, and maybe portrait of a Lady) now she is an iconic movie star, AND a great actress (i’m not meaning both are the same thing)

  • 21 12-02-2009 at 2:17 pm

    Monty said...

    Kidman is the actress of the decade, and one of the greates actress in movies history. Dogville, Moulin Rouge, The Hours, The Others, Birth, Cold Mountain, Margot At The Wedding, Fur. Versatile, brave, talented. A REAL actress