DERRIK J. LANG
AP Entertainment Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- With several films set to debut this year, including such disparate turns as a taxidermist villainess, mysterious amnesiac and an actress-turned-princess, Nicole Kidman will again become a familiar face in theaters.
While maintaining a steady presence in Hollywood for more than two decades, the 46-year-old Academy Award winner has been focusing more in recent years on raising her two daughters with husband and country star Keith Urban -- away from the spotlight in Nashville, Tenn.
For her latest role in "The Railway Man," out April 11, the "Moulin Rouge" and "The Hours" star plays a supportive wife to World War II veteran Eric Lomax (Colin Firth). In the autobiographical adaptation, Patti and Eric Lomax confront his past as a prisoner of war in Thailand, where he worked on the "death railway," a 258-mile stretch of treacherous train track running into Burma.
Upcoming this year, Kidman will also play a villainess in "Paddington," amnesiac in "Before I Go to Sleep," leading lady Grace Kelly in "Grace of Monaco" and Middle East pioneer Gertrude Bell in "Queen of the Desert."
In an interview with The Associated Press, Kidman discussed tackling portrayals of realer-than-real women like former nurse Patti Lomax, Gertrude Bell and her highly anticipated role in "Grace of Monaco," which is opening this year's Cannes Film Festival. ("Grace" was delayed from release last year following creative differences between the film's director and distributor.)
AP: You've played so many characters over the years, but how do you approach the ones based on actual people, like Virginia Woolf, Grace Kelly and Patti Lomax?
Kidman: Patti is different because she's still alive and was able to give me information about herself. I didn't meet her until I started filming. Everyone kept saying, "Do you want to meet her?" I was like, "No, I'd really like to be able to watch her in an interview." Actually, the producer sat with her for hours -- he's a very good friend of hers -- and taped her and sent me the tapes. I basically had access to her whole life, stories about her, her mannerisms and behavior, like I was a fly on the wall.
AP: You have three films coming out with Colin Firth ("The Railway Man," ''Before I Go to Sleep," ''Paddington"). What is it about him that compels you to continue to work with him?
Kidman: I just enjoy him. I really enjoy his brain and his talent, but he has a really great sense of humor. Me and millions of other women in the world go, "Wow! Colin Firth!" My mom adores him. My sister adores him. I've just got so many friends who go, "Oh my gosh. Colin Firth." I now know him in a different way, but I have such respect for him as an actor.
AP: Tell me what it was like to play Grace Kelly. Have you seen the film yet?
Kidman: I have not seen the version that's showing at Cannes, but obviously I will. I may be seeing it opening night at Cannes. It was the chance of a lifetime to play her. I really admire her, and I think she has such otherworldly qualities. I think she has an aura about her. I don't know if I'm able to capture that, but I was honored to have the chance to. We'll see. It's only a six-month period of her life that we depict. It's a fairytale. It's not a heavy drama. It's got beautiful costumes. It's sumptuous.
AP: You've had the chance to work with some incredible filmmakers throughout your career. What was it like teaming up recently with director Werner Herzog for "Queen of the Desert"?
Kidman: I call it Werner World. Werner World is just a different realm. It's glorious. I said to him, "Werner, I feel like I've been in a dream with you for the past two-and-a-half months, and now I've got my feet back on earth." I'm at a place where I'm so interested in exploring things and going places that I haven't been. I want my life to be full, so that means all of us -- my family -- up and moving to Morocco and doing this so we can have the experience.
AP: Between your schedule and Keith's schedule, how do you balance everything?
Kidman: Every time when we're not working, we spend together. That's it. It's that simple. We're not off. We have a very simple life but an extraordinary creative life, if that makes sense. I'm lucky that I've got a partner that's totally committed to making it work. We have two little girls that we adore, and we're very blessed, in the sense of having a family. We certainly talk about everything. We make the decisions together.