With Nicole Kidman returning to the Oscars this weekend as a nominee, here's Abstew on a handful of roles for which Oscar did not recognize her...
When I was a child there was an Oscar almanac that I would consult for my Oscar obsession (this was long before the days of the internet). The list of actors with multiple nominations didn't begin unless the actor had 5 nominations or more. Ever since then I've had it in my head that 5 is the magical number when it comes to Oscar; a sign of a better actor, showing that their body of work over the years is worth recognition, rather than the "one and done" that so many actors face. Since Nicole Kidman has always been one of my favorites, I've thought it odd that she's been nominated a relatively low number of times compared to the quality she produces. Certainly she ranks with Kate and Cate, for example, who both have 7 nominations...
With her nomination for Supporting Actress in Lion this past year, she finally scored her 4th nomination. As we noted in the Smackdown podcast, the Academy has repeatedly snubbed her for some of her best star turns. In honor of Kidman's impressive body of work, let's take a look at 5 times she had a legitimate shot (some much closer than others) or just plain deserved to score an Oscar nomination.
Best Actress: To Die For (1995)
Awards and Nominations (*denotes a win): Golden Globe Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy*, BAFTA Award Best Actress in a Leading Role, Boston Society of Film Critics Award Best Actress*, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award Best Actress*, Seattle Internation Film Festival Best Actress*, Southeastern Film Critics Association Award Best Actress*
The Actual Nominees: Susan Sarandon Dead Man Walking*, Elisabeth Shue Leaving Las Vegas, Sharon Stone Casino, Meryl Streep The Bridges of Madison County, Emma Thompson Sense & Sensibility
As weather girl turned murderess, Suzanne Stone, obsessed with television fame, Kidman finally broke free from the shadow of then husband, Tom Cruise, with her first showcase role in Hollywood. She had had her breakthrough with the Aussie thriller Dead Calm (1989) years before and had even scored a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress for 1991's Billy Bathgate, a film remembered (if at all) by Kidman completists and Globe enthusiasts. But To Die For finally made the industry start paying attention to her as an actress. With a Golden Globe win and other major nominations, it looked like her first nomination was all but assured. Unfortunately on nomination morning she did not make the final five. In a solid year of nominees, it's hard to say who Kidman would replace. Sarandon was the easy favorite to win having never won 4 previous times. And Shue and Streepgave career-best performances with their noms. Some would argue she should replace Thompson, but I would go with Stone who has not been in the conversation since and was arguably in a supporting role.
Best (Supporting) Actress: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Awards and Nominations: Satellite Award Best Actress in a Motion Picture nomination, Online Film and Television Association award Best Actress nomination
The Actual Nominees: Best Actress: Annette Bening American Beauty, Janet McTeer Tumbleweeds, Julianne Moore The End of the Affair, Hilary Swank Boys Don't Cry*, Meryl Streep Music of the Heart
Best Supporting Actress: Toni Collette The Sixth Sense, Angelina Jolie Girl, Interrupted*, Catherine Keener Being John Malkovich, Samantha Morton Sweet and Lowdown, Chloë Sevigny Boys Don't Cry
It was a disappointment at the box office and for Kubrick lovers expecting more from what would be the auteur's final film. It has grown in esteem over the years, forming something of a cult following. But at the time the one thing people could agree upon was universal acclaim for Kidman's performance, particularly an extended monologue scene in which, while high, she confesses to having fantasies of infidelity. And having just missed for a nomination for To Die For and high off of rapturous reviews for her multiple roles (and brief nudity) in Broadway's The Blue Room, it seemed that the Academy could make-up for that past oversight with a nomination here. It would've also been a way of honoring Stanley Kubrick's legacy as a filmmaker with at least one nomination for the film. Yet even though she only appears at the beginning and very end of the film, as Cruise goes off to masked orgies, Kidman was campaigned as Lead. She certainly could have replaced Meryl, but if someone else should've been nominated in that category it should've been Reese Witherspoon for Election. It would have made more sense had she actually gone supporting where she very easily could have taken the place of Samantha Morton in Sweet and Lowdown.
Best Actress: The Others (2001)
Awards and Nominations: Golden Globe Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama nomination, BAFTA Award Best Actress in a Leading Role nomination, Satellite Award Best Actress in a Motion Picture nomination, Online Film Critics Society Award Best Actress nomination, Hollywood Film Awards Best Actress of the Year* (also for her work in Moulin Rouge! and Birthday Girl), Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award Best Actress*, Phoenix Film Critics Society Award Best Actress in a Leading Role nomination
The Actual Nominees: Halle Berry Monster's Ball*, Judi Dench Iris, Nicole Kidman Moulin Rouge!, Sissy Spacek In the Bedroom, Renée Zellweger Bridget Jones's Diary
I already know what you're going to say, she couldn't be nominated for The Others because she was already nominated that year for Moulin Roge! and Academy rules don't allow a performer to have multiple nominations in the same category. And I'm not saying her work here should've necessarily been nominated over her work as Satine, although I do think it's stronger. Satine is a movie star performance and arguably her most well-known film, but Grace is a more complex, nuanced performance. And why does this rule exist at all? If you give two (or more) of the best performances in the same year, why shouldn't you be rewarded for it? And that rule doesn't apply to any of the other categories. Films can receive multiple noms in the Best Song category and just the year before Steven Soderbergh was nominated twice for Best Director. If the Oscars truly honor the year's best, why are you limiting who can be honored? Kidman probably would have taken Zellweger's place had she been allowed multiple noms. But looking back at the nominees, I would have her replace Spacek or Berry (who were, coincidentally, the frontrunners that year)
Best Actress: Birth (2004)
Awards and Nominations: Golden Globe Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama nomination, International Cinephile Society Award Best Actress nomination, London Critics Circle Film Award Actress of the Year Nomination
The Actual Nominees: Annette Bening Being Julia, Catalina Sandino Moreno Maria Full of Grace, Imelda Staunton Vera Drake, Hilary Swank Million Dollar Baby*, Kate Winslet Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Perhaps my all-time favorite Kidman performance. Birth not being recognized as the masterpiece it was at the time of its release really stings. With the double-header of Moulin Rogue! and The Others and her win for The Hours the following year, Kidman's career was white-hot. And instead of starring in easily accessible Oscar bait or CGI-heavy blockbusters (okay, she definitely dipped her toe in both...), she started picking projects with celebrated directors that really challenged both her and audiences. Her work in Dogville this same year could've also been a contender. But people were turned off without even seeing the film after hearing she takes a bath with a young boy. But it's so much more than that. Think of that lingering shot at the Opera, her face a mix of emotions. Think of her Mia Farrow wig and baby doll voice - a little girl lost, still believing in fairy tales and desperate to cling to that happiness she once had. Kidman's work here very easily replaces Swank for a nomination for me, a performance that hasn't quite held up after the flurry of awards season.
Best Supporting Actress: The Paperboy (2012)
Awards and Nominations: Golden Globe Best Supporting Actress nomination, Screen Actors Guild Award Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role nomination
The Actual Nominees: Amy Adams The Master, Sally Field Lincoln, Anne Hathaway Les Misérables*, Helen Hunt The Sessions, Jacki Weaver Silver Linings Playbook
With 2 major nominations from the Golden Globes and SAG, it seemed pretty likely that Kidman was receiving her 4th nomination for her go-for-broke performance in Lee Daniels' southern fried potboiler. The film as a whole divided most, but you couldn't deny the power of Kidman's memorable portrayal. How many other A-List actors would be willing to simulate sex in a chair or pee on a former Disney star? Kidman is fearless in the film and unlike anything we'd seen her in before. But unadulterated love for David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook allowed fellow Aussie actress Jacki Weaver to sneak in, making Playbook the first film since Reds (1981) to receive nominations in all 4 acting categories. It's a shame that Kidman wasn't able to be nominated, but with her nomination for Lion perhaps this is the start of another wave of future nominations for the deserving star.
How many nods would you have given Kidman over the years?