In my minority opinion: Nicole Kidman's career has been on the slide, with dubious castings in The Human Stain and Cold Mountain, and a misguided pact to become the latest female torture victim, following Breaking the Waves's Emily Watson and Dancing in the Dark's Bjork, of that Danish predator filmmaker, Lars von Trier. How did Nicole Kidman end up in Scandinavia, being bashed about in Trier's controversial Dogville?
"I like to travel, I like to be exposed to lots of cultures and ideas," she explained at the May 2004 Cannes Film Festival press conference, sitting by Trier following Dogville's world premiere screening. "The power of an actress is fleeting, so I want to put my weight behind directors who interest me. I saw Breaking the Waves and responded in such a strong way that in an interview I told a journalist, 'I'd like to work with Lars von Trier.' Would I have played the part in Breaking the Waves? Yes, I would. And Dancing in the Dark I think is a magnificent film.
"I've been to Cannes four times in ten years, coming with all types of films. Now, I'm in a different space psychologically. Before I was able to disassociate myself more. Now every film is very personal. At the time [of shooting] I was raw, willing to give myself to Lars. All I know is that I trusted him. I don't know why, but I did. Lars had a very strong belief in this film working without sets and props. When I saw a sketch of a dog, I said OK, and tried to pet it.
"Obviously with Lars, different people have said many things about him. The first week was tricky. Lars had preconceptions about me and I about him. We went walking in the forest one afternoon for a heart-to-heart and it was pretty difficult for hours, but we came out of it with a commitment to each other."
Trier made a joke about Kidman being tardy for shooting, but his actress was not amused. "I'm incredibly punctual. I can't bear being late to the set," she said.
Trier noted that Dogville is only the first of a projected trilogy, and that he wished to bring back Kidman twice more as the character of Grace. "I would tell the story of Grace in three episodes, in exactly the same style. It's more fun in three episodes." He turned to his actress, and deliberately put her on the spot before the international press. "Nicole, why don't you tell everyone what you told me yesterday?"
Silence from Kidman.
Trier pressed on. "Just say it. Say, 'Lars, I'm, going to star in your three Grace films, no matter what it will cost me.'"
An uncomfortable Kidman gulped: "Lars, you know there's no doubt I will."
Not surprising to me, Kidman dropped out of the project several months later, saying 'No" to a second film, currently entitled Manderlay. Trier replaced her with Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of Ronnie Howard.
(Boston Phoenix, April, 2004)