If Hollywood gave out medals of valor for acting, Nicole Kidman would be one of the most decorated stars in history. More than willing to “go there” for a role because she relishes the challenge, Kidman’s fearlessness hit its apex last year with the jaw dropping, southern fried melodrama “The Paperboy.” With her latest effort, “Stoker,” opening this week, the Aussie-born Oscar winner looks to finally have some serious on-screen competition in the fearlessness sweepstakes: fellow countryperson and co-star Mia Wasikowska. Find out what made “Stoker” encourage them both to “go there” together in this Personalities Interview.
Bad behavior is timeless and Korean-born filmmaker Chan-wook Park has artfully composed a rich looking tale of repression that spills into murder with “Stoker.” Yet, his examination of the concept of nature versus nurture is what makes the film quite a hoot. One of the few premieres that buzzed audiences at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it even had the power to surprise its own cast.
“It was the first time I’d seen the film,” Wasikowska said about her experience at Park City. “Even I was sort of shocked.”
A none-too-subtle experience, “Stoker” is not for the faint of heart. But, it would be too easy to simply offer comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock when it comes to breaking down the film. For one, it revels quite grandly in putting the “fun” back in dysfunction in a way that would make Roman Polanski and Stanley Kubrick proud. And, in the hands of its skilled leading ladies, Kidman and Wasikowska, their combined glacial cool is firing up plenty of other praise-worthy comparisons of their own.
Sitting down together to promote “Stoker” earlier this winter at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, it was striking to witness how the ladies’ warm demeanor towards each other was at total odds with their on-screen chill as mother and daughter. That composed cool is something even Kidman knew was time to send up in other ways outside of complex movie roles. So, the added bonus of watching Wasikowska and Kidman’s girlish squeals over the Oscar winner’s infamous lap dance on Jimmy Kimmel earlier that week going viral was best saved for after the interview.
“Robin Williams did something to Jimmy,” Kidman revealed, “so I thought I would, too. It was completely spur of the moment.”
While the Kimmel video did color the start of the conversation a bit, when it came down to talk about “Stoker” and more, Kidman and Wasikowska restored their composed grace for this Personalities Interview. But, imagine the possibilities! (Jimmy Kimmel, what have you done?)
JORGE CARREON: The theme of family is one that never disappoints, particularly in melodramas. Do you think this age of disconnection continues to inspire such uncomfortable narratives like “Stoker?”
MIA WASIKOWSKA: I think everybody’s quite disconnected which happens in families, periodically or at different stages. It’s almost so normal to be around those people that you forget to actually inquire how people are or what’s going on. It’s such a regular occurrence. People get up. You eat breakfast together, you go to school, and you come home. It’s almost as if there’s like a level of communication that’s not there or something. Almost through spending so much time together, if that makes sense. But yeah, this is a particularly disconnected family at this point.
CARREON: Nicole, what helped you most to inform your choices for your role as Evie?
NICOLE KIDMAN: Director Park. A lot of times the director gives you the jumping off point and he said to me, “Your child in this doesn’t like to be touched by you.” That’s a really strong note as an actor to get from your director because that gave me then the whole character. There’s this very kind of discordant relationship between the two of them. Evie’s starved for love. In the same way that Mia talks, something is simmering. I always try to find what’s the thing that the character really is needing.
CARREON: Mia, given the extremes of these characters arcs, was there any trepidation about taking on such exotic material.
WASIKOWSKA: It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made to do the film. But there’s always a couple of things that you sort of wait for as you’re filming. You anticipate certain scenes, but the excitement outweighed the fear in terms of taking on these characters and this subject matter. And, definitely the excitement of working with Director Park and Nicole and Matthew (Goode) and Jackie (Weaver). I always think characters that have something simmering under the surface are really interesting. Particularly with these three, they all live together but very alone together. You’re waiting to see who is going to crack first in a way, but the dynamic between the three of them is very bizarre.
CARREON: Mia, much of your performance has to be a contained one as India’s true nature is bubbling under the surface of a girl about to explode. Was it hard to fight the instinct to be still?
WASIKOWSKA: Almost. There’s like a fine line between playing someone who’s still and stiff in a way and it was definitely something I was conscious of. It would be easy to, I don’t know, to slip into one or the other. But, she’s still real. She’s not like a porcelain doll. It is a fine line when you’re playing someone who’s very internal and very organized and ordered.
CARREON: Nicole, you have had quite a run being one of the most fearless actors in film today. What tends to stay with you most from projects like “The Paperboy” and “Stoker?”
KIDMAN: I don’t know what stays with me. I kind of have that overview. I loved the process of making this film because it’s very particular. I mean, the director, obviously, he’s such a master at what he does and it’s very different from a lot of other filmmakers. He’s very precise in his shots and his ideas. He obviously doesn’t speak English, so all of those things were very challenging, but at the same time inspiring. I like being truthful, but I also like fulfilling a director’s vision. I feel very much a part of their vision and a lot of times, as an actor, I have to not be obedient. I can easily get into just doing exactly what they want and not f then imbuing it with more that I know I have in me. I have to kind of push through that sometimes.
CARREON: You also had the added luxury of filming “Stoker” near your home in Nashville. Did staying close to home enhance the process for you?
KIDMAN: I think there was timelessness to it. Director Park didn’t want it to be Southern, you know? He wanted just a place that hadn’t been shot that we all go, ”Oh, we know where that is!” Tennessee offers so many different things. People were very happy in the community to have us there and so they were very open to giving us locations and ideas and stuff like that. It was great.
CARREON: You both complete quite a compelling love triangle with your co-star Matthew Goode. How did he help up the game for your performances?
WASIKOWSKA: He’s sort of like a man-child. He easily gets in between the two of our characters by being serious and sort of scary and sinister, but then also quite goofy and playful in a weird way. He’s fantastic.
KIDMAN: Yeah, he is. Relating to each of us. He’s so good in the movie! We were lucky to have him, I think.
CARREON: Are audiences ready for a film like “Stoker?”
WASIKOWSKA: It’s very fun seeing how different everybody interprets it. It is kind of ambiguous in that way, that I feel like some people are going to see “this” in it and some people see “that “in it. It is very modern and very classic, like a strange mix.
KIDMAN: I hope so!
"Stoker" is now playing at select theaters.