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The history of cinema is replete with stories of the great lengths actors have gone to in order to nail their performances, from living as characters outside of their scenes to undergoing massive physical transformations and everything in between. Nicole Kidman is as dedicated to her craft as anyone, and in one particular sex scene, she let co-star John Cusack toss her around.
The two costarred in 2012’s The Paperboy, and when director Lee Daniels interviewed Kidman for Interview, he brought up the rough sex scene in question. He said he was worried for her because Cusack was throwing her around "like a mop." In response to his concern, the 48-year-old actor replied:
Actors have to protect each other in a way. The idea of humiliating another actor or being humiliated myself is devastating. So that's why, if he's a little rougher than he knows he's being, the last thing I want to say is, "Oh my gosh, you hurt me."
The next day, Kidman showed up on set brandishing a new array of bruises as a reminder of the previous day’s encounter. But again, she pushed off any injury as in service of a larger goal, of making the movie as good and authentic as they possibly could. She continued:
Most actors are like that. We all go, "No, no. I'm fine. Don't worry about it." Because that's how you release into things and find stuff. If you're tentative and scared that you're hurting someone or that you're overstepping a line or that there's a boundary that you've crossed, it makes everybody too cautious.
So maybe Nicole Kidman wound up with a few extra bumps and scrapes than she could have, had she spoken up, but she had a very good reason. John Cusack could, of course, have dialed back the rigor of her performance, or Lee Daniels could have stepped in to put a stop to a scene that could have gone too far. But Kidman, as a veteran performer of more than 70 roles, knew that it could have hindered the overall movie, and was willing to endure a handful of purple welts in service of the larger goal.
Whether or not it was all worth it remains a matter of opinion, as The Paperboy, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, received mixed reviews at best. However, out of everything, it is Kidman’s performance that has garnered the most praise for her risk taking and playing against her usual type. In the 1960s set film she plays a woman obsessed with a death row inmate, who tries to prove his innocence with the help of two reporters (Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron). It’s a sexually and racially charged film, and Kidman pees on Zac Efron, so there’s that.
We'll see Nicole Kidman on screen next in just a litle bit, as the mystery thriller Secret in Their Eyes opens on November 20.