Unrecognisable Nicole Kidman gets dark and disturbed for Destroyer
Actress Nicole Kidman on her gritty role in Destroyer
Nicole Kidman doesn't usually get offered big genre films.
When the script for Destroyer was sent to her, she was intrigued.
The Oscar-winning Australian actress said at our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills: "This was fascinating because it was a female cop who was basically on an odyssey, a mother who is trying to find atonement for what she had done, so it's got those really powerful themes in it."
Also, the crime drama had a woman director, Karyn Kusama (Jennifer's Body, Aeon Flux, Girlfight), so Kidman was in.
The 51-year-old said: "Part of my thrust in this industry right now is supporting women."
Opening here tomorrow, Destroyer centres on a detective ravaged by life and the bad choices she has made, fuelled by rage but trying for redemption.
An unrecognisable Kidman plays the title role in an ugly wig and pancake make-up, but the inner life of a woman and mother in unrelenting pain and riddled by guilt comes searingly across in her Golden Globe-nominated performance as Erin Bell.
Set in Los Angeles, the flashbacks show how she was an undercover cop in a crime syndicate with her FBI partner-lover (Sebastian Stan). Things go awry in a bank robbery. Bell finds herself pregnant, high on cocaine.
Seventeen years later, the past comes back to haunt her and sets her on a path to get revenge against the mob boss (Toby Kebbell) who got away.
This past year, Kidman - who has two daughters aged 10 and eight with husband Keith Urban, and had adopted two children now aged 26 and 23 with ex-husband Tom Cruise - has given three performances of very different mothers, in Aquaman, Boy Erased and now Destroyer.
"As an actor, that is an extraordinary gift, the chance to play such polar-opposite mothers. I have never had this opportunity before and I will probably never have it again. I have walked this very unusual line of making small independent performance-based films and trying my hand at something a bit more light-hearted. And it was definitely necessary to play Queen Atlanna after doing Erin Bell."
She continued with a laugh: "It was like, 'Please!' Because there is a lightness to being that. I need to do that sometimes for my own sanity."
The Destroyer role was gruelling in every way. There was the military weapons training.
Kidman said: "I was able to train with military men who were very tough on me. I did not know how to use the weapons, but now I know how to use all of them.
"The first time I fired the AR-15 (semi-automatic rifle), I was jarred by it and it was really intense. But the way the trainer trained me was that this has to be second nature to you and you have to know how to load and reload every single weapon that you are using. So I did a month of hardcore military training for that."
Then there was the physical transformation.
"There is a way in which you enter the room and move, which I had no access to, because I never had to be like that. And so suddenly I was there. I changed the way I walked and even the way I would think. My stare, everything, just started to change because of all that information and training.
She rarely looked in the mirror as she hardly recognised herself with the make-up on.
"Erin is someone who has grown up in the desert, has not used any sort of sunscreen, has done drugs and is an alcoholic and basically ravaged her body and mind. She doesn't go to the dentist. Even the way I walk, that's carrying the weight of shame and distress and disturbance. I was always trying to find the mother in her and the path through that and the lover, so you see what she is fighting, what she is blocking, and why she is so shut down.
"I was in every frame of this movie, and there is absolutely no faking anything because Karyn holds so many shots where it's just my face, it has to be coming from within. So it was a commitment, but it was one I was willing to make."
To the point that Erin Bell went home with her every night.
"I realised that that's the way in for a role like this, I had to stay in character. I just go, well, there's no performance here, I just have to be. But I am willing to make that commitment because there are certain things where you go, this is going to cost me and my family to do this, but it's the artistic path."
She added: "Keith could not wait for it to end. He is very supportive of my artistic choices, but he did say at one point, 'When is this over?', because it was really like channelling something else."