• Industry

Nicole Kidman Brings Australian Indie to Sundance

It took a first time director – Kim Farrant – and a psychological family mystery/crime drama for Nicole Kidman to return to her cinematic roots with Strangerland. “It was great to be able to go back to Australia and support the Australian film industry. I haven’t done that for a long time.”, she laughed sitting in front of a fireplace during a cozy roundtable with the HFPA. “And then to do it with a smaller film and a first time female director. That was right up my alley.”
Strangerland is the story of an unstable couple (Kidman and Joseph Fiennes) whose children get lost in the Outback. The film combines police thriller with mystery elements and psychodrama. The couple’s 15 year old, out-of-control teenage daughter, Lily and her younger brother, Tom disappear after the family has moved to a remote small town. As the story unfolds, the reason for this move becomes clear and offers clues to the missing kids as a local detective, played by Hugo Weaving, digs deeper into their family history. The reasons for Kidman to choose this project are obvious. Her character displays a vast amount of often-conflicting emotions that suit the talented actress’ wide range. It was also her first time shooting an Australian indie since Dead Calm, the film that started her career. “Yes, because Moulin Rouge, you can’t really call that an independent movie even though, at that time, it was still considered pretty experimental, and it was a big risk.” She gets lost in thought for a moment: “Yeah, what was also great about Strangerland, I got to spend two months in Australia and be with my dad. And little did I know what was gonna happen … and I could be with him when he was with his grandchildren. So for me now looking back, this film has enormous value no matter what happens with it because it gave me that time with my family.” Her two daughters were in Sydney during the shoot while she was filming in a desert town with a population of no more than 2,000. “I was flying back and forth to see them. And we shot a big portion in Sydney as well, the interiors.”
The Australian landscape lends itself to stories about people gone missing. Not to mention the kind of visuals that get cinematographers excited. In this case it is Irish D.P. PJ Dillon who captures the lonely desert with helicopter shots and moody colors. And then there is a dust storm. “I’ve never experienced a dust storm in Australia but I did in Morocco when I was shooting a movie there. We had two days when we literally couldn’t see past our hands. But when Kim first told me about the dust storm I said, is this real? And then when I actually experienced one, I went ‘wow, this is very scary.” says Kidman. “There’s a magical quality to our country. I am a big lover of that dry arid land, which I know is crazy, but it does something to my spirit and I love it.”
She has no problem braving the cold weather in Park City: “No, no we go up skiing to Canada with the family, about 20 of us, and at Christmas we got snowed in this time, and I mean, it was cold cold up there.” She is no stranger to Sundance having been here last only two years ago with Stoker: “I like festivals that celebrate small movies. I suppose the relevance of festivals is strong, which is why we come. That’s how films that are small get sold, get found, get discovered. And Sundance has its own vibe. I love that Redford started it – an actor. Yay!”
Elisabeth Sereda