Nicole Kidman talks about producing and starring in the "Rabbit Hole," originally a Tony Award-winning play for which David Lindsay-Abaire (playwright) won a Pulitzer Prize. It's a story about the months after a couple loses their 4-year-old child. Opens Saturday.
Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire hadn’t yet won the Pulitzer Prize for his play “Rabbit Hole” when Nicole Kidman was reading a New York Times review of it in a coffee shop. Her immediate reaction was, “I’d love to see that.”
But she went a little further with that thought. She got a copy of the play, read it, approached Lindsay-Abaire along with her producing partner and ended up optioning it for a film, and then starring in it. The movie opens Saturday.
The story, though peppered with nicely placed spots of humor, is a gloomy one. It tells of Becca (Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) once living a happy family life, but now reeling from the accidental death of their 4-year-old son.
“Other (stories) have dealt with a week after the loss,” said the lanky, redheaded Kidman. “But this is eight months, and it’s about how do you live each day. It’s not the broad strokes, it’s the minute strokes of choosing to live each day. How do you live together, as a couple, having had the most traumatic loss you’ll probably ever have? And how do you get through each day and each hour?”
Becca and Howie get through it via the unfortunate route of denial, which turns to frustration, which turns to anger. It’s a film filled with raw emotion, eventually involving the teenager who was responsible for the accident, and how his presence adds to the already plentiful angst. Lindsay-Abaire also adapted the play for the screen.
“The emotions were very available because, as David said, it’s the place you most fear to tread,” said Kidman. “As a parent, a mother, it’s the most terrifying place to exist. Life can be very cruel. As beautiful as it can be, there’s the other end of the spectrum. It can be so painful, and I wanted to honor that for people. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a spouse, a child –– it’s not explored that often, and it needs to be.”
Yet one of the things that attracted Kidman to the play was the hard-to-imagine humor.
“David was just able to get the right nuances,” she said. “When you talk about the humor, he knew how to modulate that, then (director) John Cameron Mitchell was able to edit the film so that there were breathing spaces in it. It’s a very emotional, hard film for people, and you need to be able to breathe, and laughter gives you a chance to breathe.”
Like so many actors, Kidman prefers to research her roles before stepping in front of a camera. But part of her plan was scotched this time.
“I tried to go to a grief group,” she said. “But they said no. The emotions are too raw, and you can’t have somebody in the group that hasn’t been through exactly the same thing. I totally respected that, so I read a bit, but then found it from within. It has to be from someplace where you don’t even know where it’s coming from, and it just has to be coaxed out.”
Kidman also found that a lighter side of the project helped the general atmosphere.
“We lived in the house we shot in,” she said. “We rented the house from a family, and they had children. So I had the daughter’s room, and Aaron had the boy’s room. We were all living together, and shared a bathroom, and it’s a great way to make a film.”
Kidman certainly knows a bit about making films, having acted, between movie and television projects, in about 50 of them. “Rabbit Hole” is the second one she’s produced; “In the Cut” was the first. And, though, when growing up in Australia, her parents took her to more plays than movies, the cinema soon grabbed her attention.
“I remember I’d wag school –– that’s an Australian term –– to go and see films that were in the city,” she said. “A lot of art films. When I was 16 or 17, I went to see a Kubrick festival. They showed two films back to back for about three days –– ‘Lolita,’ ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ ‘Barry Lyndon’ –– and I just ate ’em up. He probably had the biggest influence on me as a filmmaker.
"Later, when I started watching European films, Kieslowski had a massive impact, especially his TV series ‘The Decalogue.’ But there were so many films. I watched things like ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ and fell in love with that form of American filmmaking. Many, many different films.”